After our recent move, we were in the mountains approximately one week when we woke up to our first snow. I had just unpacked my watercolor supplies, so I sat down to sketch the wintery landscape outside.
And hmmm, how does one paint white? Because my snow, which I left as white paper, just looked kind of like... white paper. You can see those first attempts here.
I quickly figured out that painting "snow" wasn't what I was really after. Instead, the goal is to paint shadows and sunlight that (hopefully) mimic the appearance of snow. If you look at a broad patch of snow, you'll see that snow shadows vary widely in color, mainly a lot of violets and blues but also tinges of pinks, greens, grays, and even yellows.
One thing all the colors of "snow" seem to have in common is that they are typically cool, clear, transparent colors.
A lot of my remodeled 12-color palette choices were based upon my practices with painting snow. Like in the example below, I can paint snow with Ultramarine blue, which was my go-to coastal blue, but it has to be highly balanced with a cool color like Phthalo green or Quin Rose (or both). Even then, ultra is a bit too heavy to truly capture the translucent yet reflective quality of snow. You can see more examples of snowy landscapes using ultramarine here.
I've had success using Phthalo blue RS for snowy landscapes. However, all three of my final blue choices in my current palette— Cerulean, Cobalt, and Indanthrone— work extremely well when mimicking snow and its shadows.
At least for me. I won't profess to be an expert, but practice has made better! We received a couple of inches of snow last week, but our snowy season is coming to an end, so it may be several winters until I really feel comfortable capturing snowy landscapes.
Quin rose and Phthalo green are also excellent at showing off shadows in a snowy landscape. Raw Umber mixed with any of the blues produces smoky, cool grays that can be transparent enough to display frosty shadows. And cool, clear Hansa works to capture sunlight reflecting off of ice and snow.
I'll see how well my 12-color palette works as we travel into spring, but according to the locals, we may still have snowy days ahead. Our last frost date here doesn't occur until the end of April. So here's to snow and more snowy paintings!
P.S. As you can see in the lead photo, I'm still trying my best to learn how to sketch and paint barns. I think I'm slowly getting better, and thankfully, I have all year long to practice those!