|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.|