This oil painting is inspired by a 12″ x 12″ plein air painting I did last winter. We have had almost no snow this winter here in southern Indiana so I have not done even one, new, plein air, snow painting! Anyway, my field notes on the back of this plein air piece reads, “COLD, mid-20 degrees, some sun, thin clouds, 3-6 p.m.” I absolutely love this plein air painting and wanted to work it up into a large painting. Here’s the painting I did on location, a good mile back in the forest, hiking through deep snow:
“Twilight in the Forest, January 21, 2016”, plein air oil on panel, 12″ x 12″, c. 2016, by Charlene Marsh
I edited a photo of the painting in Photoshop to change the dimensions to a rectangular format that would have the same proportions as a 24″ x 36″ painting. Here’s the “stretched” version I used as a reference when laying out the new painting.
I set up my panel with an “inspiration board” to the right where I have posted some past paintings for reference.
I start with a tinted panel and sketch out the “bones” of the painting using a brush dipped in cold pressed linseed oil and magenta and cerulean blue pigment.
I went back and forth adjusting the hills in the background to get the right height and layers.
Finally satisfied, I mix a deep black using lots of Ultramarine Blue with Cadmium Red Medium. Cadmium Red is a very strong, intense color so a little goes a long way. The creek is like a black ribbon in the snow.
Once I paint in the darkest values, I mix dark blues and violets for the shadow areas in the snow. I mix the violets with varying combinations of Primary Red-Magenta, Ultramarine Blue, and Cerulean Blue. I mix small amounts at a time and pop the color in all over the painting.
Knowing I want to go with a golden twilight color in the sky and reflections, I lean the violets more towards red than blue so I can avoid turning the snow green as the painting progresses. I mix a neutral for the background hills from Magenta, Ultramarine Blue, and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Light.
I mix a delicate golden color for the late afternoon sun warming the sky using lots of Titanium White and a hair touch of Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Red Light and/or Primary Red-Magenta. I mix the orange, secondary color first and then add tiny amounts of the yellow-orange to white. The same sky color is added to the black creek for the reflection and to the one hill where the waning sunlight hits.
I mix Cerulean Blue with ample amounts of white for the sky and then gradually mix the sky blue with the salmon twilight to get a wonderful neutral color. The cerulean blue sky color is painted at the top of the painting and the neutral mix is used in the middle, transition space.
Finally, once satisfied with the “muscles” of the painting, I start adding the “skin” with elements and details like the trees, branches, and leaves.
Branches and trees are added in with lots of frenetic knife work.
The pale salmon leaves from the ash trees that cling all winter are added.
Tree branches and trunks are pulled forward and then pushed back. Some of the sky color is added back in, too. I use both a palette knife and a rubber tipped tool to add the squiggles of branches. The closest trees and branches are pulled out to sit in front. I felt like the leaves were taking over and pushed them back by pulling out some trees in the front space of the painting.
And, finally, the finished painting!
“Late Afternoon in the Forest”, oil on panel, 24″ x 36″, c. 2017, by Charlene Marsh.
This painting is finished with a gorgeous, 4″ wide, silver, Omega, plein air style frame. A dark wood, plein air style frame would also look great on the painting.
Thanks for following along!