Why I Used a Value Study to Paint Snow


Snow is a digital watercolour painting challenge that I have tackled every year for the last 4-5 years. Have tried to improve every year, but I sort of forget what I've learned from one year to the next. Have to paint some in July. Somebody remind me!
Snow has so many gradations in colour, most of them subtle over a field,  the deep shadow in sharp contrast in a foreground snowbank in bright sun. Growing up in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, which had snow often from November until well into April, I became familiar with snow in all it's seasons.
I recall huge snow banks, (everyone says I'm not very tall and that they probably seemed bigger, but they really were very tall at times.) No snowblowers either!
My Dad drove a snowplow for the Department of Highways (that's what it was called back then), and we were always aware of snow storms. He was often called out to plow in the middle of the night. Remember the flashing blue light!
As children we lived our lives outdoors much more than most children do now. My childhood fascination for snow and the beauty of it's pure clean colours hasn't abated much. I still love painting snowmen (excuse me...snowpeople!) on Christmas Cards. Brings me right back to grade four lol! 
Reasons for doing a Value Study;
In this case it was to work out the many different values of painting snow and distant trees and foreground trees. As usual I went to far and have too much detail, but it looks really cool in a sepia colour. I also may use what I call the 'Preserve Transparency Method', using the Value Sketch Layer as as the Underlying Layer.
  • First step was to make a pencil sketch on a new layer. This took quite awhile because I was composing from my imagination. I decided to use birch trees because I seem to paint them every year!   
  Winter Birch - Copyright Joan A Hamilton
I also tried to remember all the stuff I've been reading about composition lately (and have probably made some glaring errors), but this is what I came up with and I'm going to go for it!
  • I stared with 4 grey values and made a colour set of soft greys and lavender.
  • Using small digital watercolour brushes ie: Fine Tip Water , my DWC W into W Blender, the Digital Watercolour Flat Grainy Stump (which allows diffusion settings.... a very useful and easy brush to make), I painted the scene on a new Gel layer expanding my value range until I had a good balance of light and dark and could see the variations in values in the snow.
  • I'll post a Sepia version too, that I thought looked cool.
  Winter Birch - Copyright Joan A Hamilton
  Winter Birch Sepia Value Study - Copyright Joan A Hamilton
 To Be Continued...that's as far as I got today!
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Great looking Joan. I can't wait to see how you finish this.

skip Skip Allen
Check out part two ...it's still going! Not sure how it's going to work out. Still experimenting really. Maybe I 'll get some splashy stuff in there?

Joan Joan

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