In the bleak midwinter

Deer in snow, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas. This was not painted en plein air and it shows. Not just in the deer, but in the heightened shadows, which are next to impossible here in mid-winter.
These days I will go outside to paint in the winter, but only if one of my pals really wants to. I think I’ve done my penance freezing in the bleak midwinter.
Highland Park snow squall, pastel, by Carol L. Douglas
About 15 years ago, I decided that I would paint outdoors every day (which for me meant six days a week).  I did this for one calendar year. Of course it seemed like that was the coldest winter we’d ever had, but in truth every winter is the coldest we’ve ever had.
Vineyard in snow, pastel, by Carol L. Douglas
Rochester doesn’t get the body-numbing cold of other northern areas because we have the tempering effect of Lake Ontario. However, we get an almost constant deep cloud cover from moisture picked up over that same lake. A damp 20° F. with no sun feels colder than 10° F. on a bright day. Add a snow squall raging in from the lake and you have a situation of indescribable unpleasantness.
Snowy road in Rush, pastel, by Carol L. Douglas
That heavy overcast also makes for grey, indirect lighting without shadows. It’s just not that exciting to paint, and one reason I quit painting in winter was that most of what I painted bored me. But my brief foray in Maine last month reminded me of how beautiful winter can be when the sun actually comes out.
Skating rink, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas
A few years ago, I did another painting-a-day cycle with small still lives. When you insist on finishing a painting every day, you develop a specific working rhythm. You take work to a certain point and no further. Both times I finished doing them, I was happy to start working on more intentional, longer works. But my painting style has changed a lot in fifteen years, and I’m thinking that another cycle of painting-a-day might be in my immediate future.
Just not this week. It’s too cold out there.
Painting in Piseco, New York in February.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

Surprise, it’s snowing!

Wharf Scene in Winter, c. 1910, Charles Salis Kaelin
We woke up to yet another grey, snow-covered day with a temperature of 12° F. and all-day snow on the forecast. It’s a good thing snow is beautiful, and ever so paintable. Here are three snow scenes from American masters.
Charles Salis Kaelin was one of the earliest American exponents of Divisionism (or Chromoluminarism). This is the style invented by Georges Suerat, where colors are separated into individual dots or patches which interact optically.
 Kaelin was a respected member of the art colony at Rockport, Massachusetts. 
Snow scene by Emile Albert GruppĂ© . He painted many variations on this theme—mountains, stream, snow.
Emile Albert GruppĂ© was born in Rochester, NY, but spent his formative years in the Netherlands. He was the son of painter Charles P. GruppĂ©. The family returned permanently to the United States in 1913 as the political situation in Europe deteriorated. GruppĂ© was one of the most famous of the Cape Ann painters, establishing himself in Gloucester, MA.
Winter Rocky Landscape, William Partridge Burpee. There’s a hint of Spring in there.
William Partridge Burpee was born in Rockland, ME. He studied with marine painter William Bradford in the late 1870s and began painting in the luminist marine style of Fitz Hugh Lane. He began showing in Boston in the 1880s but did not take up pastel until after a Grand Tour to Europe in 1897, where he became more familiar with impressionism. In 1914, he returned to his birthplace, where he died in 1940.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!