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Painting in Winter

Posted by Gayle Levee, 09 December 2011 · 965 views

As the days shorten and the cold creeps around the door frames, many people snuggle in and spend more timewith the TV, the PC, or a book. We artists can find ourselves tempted to join the rest of the world in front of the TV, but when we do that, our brushes have a distressing way of forgetting how to paint. Have you noticed that?

Those brushes need constant remindersor they just languish. Through the years, I have found various ways to keep my painting skills honed in the winter, and in fact have developed new ways of painting during those winter months.

I've lived in the Rocky Mountain West,in New England, and in the American South. Those different climates have presented different challenges, and your climate will present challenges of its own. I found that in the dry air of the Rockies, I could paint outside at any season. At any week in the winter, I could certainly at least go out and sketch. I painted many snowy mountain pictures while I lived there.

In New England, I almost stopped painting during the winter. Winter there is not bitterly cold, but there is so much precipitation, in the form of "wintry mix", and it starts in November and keeps on until April. Just try painting or sketching outside during "wintry mix!" I painted from photographs at first. My paintings got very tight, very controlled,and very ... well, photographic. Then when spring arrived I went outside to paint -- and found that I had forgotten how to paint from life. It took weeks to loosen up again.

So, I started painting still lives just to keep my eyes and mind trained. Much to my delight, I found that still life painting is a great joy because the artist has complete freedom to create any kind of setup he or she likes: colorful, monochromatic, flowers or bare branches. That challenge of coping with the dark New England winters resulted in an entirely new body of work for me, and many years of success as an artist.

Your climate probably has periods of good weather, and periods of not-so-good weather. I've shared with you the trials and solutions that have come my way. Perhaps sharing my experiences might give you some ideas of how to deal with bad weather in your area. In whatever way you choose to keep your painting skills sharp, I strongly recommend you avoid painting exclusively from photos as you await the return of fair weather. Photographic reference is an important tool, but relying upon photographs too much can be limiting. Your brushes just might forget how to paint from life if you don't give them lots of practice all year long!

And here is the special thing about continuing to practice, no matter theweather...

Every painting leads to another when you never stop practicing. Every painting builds a legacy of how you were able to experience the beauty of the world!




Hi Gayle, It was so nice to find a message about art today and you are quite right about the brush forgetting what to do if you leave it alone too long. After a long mystery illness and not having the energy or inclination to pick up a brush (just watched demonstrations on YouTube), not only does my brush forget how to work but I have become afraid to pick it up. I intend to start this week and your comments have helped me to see that if things are a bit awkward at first then it is only because of lack of practice, and it happens to the very experienced artists as well. Thank you for the boost. I haven't seen any of your paintings on the forum for a long time now, is that because of the winter or is it some link I must be missing.
Warmly, Clarky. :whistling:
I too have found myself unable to paint or draw for the last few month. I wish there was a way to keep painting when you find yourself so busy, stressout and with no time to even dream about it. It frustrate me to think that even when I will be able to, I will be rusty and clumpsy with my brushes.

Hector:tiredwarrior: :tiredwarrior: :sadwarrior: :unsure: :crywarrior: :shockwarrior:
Inspiring! :biggrin1:

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