Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Painting landscapes is often left until Summer, for sun-kissed scenes, or Autumn, for a gorgeous plentiful colour palette. Standing in freezing forests or surrounded by snow is hardly an appealing place to spend your time painting a landscape. However, winter landscapes can create some of the best compositions, with sun glinting off snow banks and tree branches heavy with snowfall. Winter can be a great time to set up your easel outside and bring the outside in with your paintbrush. We are here to give you our top tips and some inspiration for winter painting ideas.

Warm It Up

As we gaze out of our gloomy windows, it’s easy to forget that winter isn’t all dark and cold. The trick to creating a stunning winter painting is to add warmth – this can be finding a gorgeous Winter sunrise or sunset if you’re lucky, or simply adding a warm glow to your winter landscape. An orange tinge to your treeline, a brightly-dressed figure – however you do it, warmer colours will bring your winter scene out of the darkness.

Not Everything is White and White

It can be easy to look at a snow-covered landscape and be intimidated. You might think that everything is simply white and be baffled as to how to create nuances and shadow, as all effective landscapes should have. Take inspiration from real life – take pictures of snow, if you have any, and the shadows cast over blankets of snow and you will notice that other colours begin to emerge. Blues and greys, oranges and pinks all appear in the light and the shadows as the sun rises and sets over the land. The ground is rarely lighter than the sky in a winter landscape, so bare this in mind when getting started.

Pure White

In addition to looking closely at your snowy scene, you should also be very sparing with your white. Pure white paint, whether watercolour, acrylic, or oil, should be used to highlight where the sun is bouncing off the snow-covered areas of your scene. If there is pure white everywhere, this will have less of an effect when used for this purpose. Use your pure white only when absolutely necessary to avoid creating a wishy-washy landscape.

Winter Landscape Painting Artist Inspiration

Now the tips are out of the way, here are some of the best winter landscape paintings to leave you inspired and raring to get started on your own winter painting ideas.

The Magpie by Claude Monet

The Magpie is one of the most infamous winter paintings in history. Notice that while pure white is only used in certain areas, the whole painting doesn’t lose it’s snow-covered atmosphere. Another thing to note about this painting is the simple colour palette – effective landscapes draw from a handful of colours to give the landscape a real theme and a sense of realism.

Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Famous for his landscapes, Pieter Bruegel the Elder was an expert creator of landscapes featuring people, particularly peasant scenes. While this is undoubtedly a scene full of snow, the whole scene has a warm glow, not just created by the warm-coloured houses surrounding the frozen lake. 

A Village Street in Winter by Alfred Sisley

If you prefer painting nature landscapes in better weather, a more built up landscape can be perfect for winter scenes. In this winter painting by Alfred Sisley, his brushwork is scattered and uneven, giving the impression of texture, not just in the snow but on the buildings too. His warm palette creates a winter scene that is likely close to sunrise or sunset.

Winter Scene by Louis Remy Mignot

This winter painting shows an excellent understanding of light. While the snow and sky remains in white and blue shades, the orange tinge on the plants and trees growing through the snow suggest that the sun is rising or setting over the snow-covered hills. Understanding how light works, particularly on snow, is essential for executing your winter painting ideas.

If you’re still stuck for inspiration, it could be a great idea for the new year to visit some of the best art galleries in the UK to see the great masterpieces in person.

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