Creating “A Bitterly Cold Morning”

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It all began when the Illume Gallery of Fine Art put out a request to its artists to create two winter themed paintings for its Christmas Miniature Show. I have always been drawn to my neighbor’s property and its interesting variety and arrangement of buildings. As we all know as artists, the same scene may on some days be less appealing than on others…but when the lighting is just right, it can turn the mundane into something very special. This I felt was one such day. Bitterly cold, with only the sound of snow crunching beneath my boots, photos were taken and filed, only now to be resurrected for use. The scene is particularly nostalgic because none of this continues to exist…all sold off and removed for “more important things”. (Click¬† images to enlarge)

Photo reference


The Masonite surface was prepared with three coats of acrylic gesso. When dry, vine charcoal was used to accurately draw each structure in correct proportion and relationship to one another. Vine charcoal is very soft and easily removed so corrections can be made.

Creating an effective value structure (light and dark patterns) for a painting is at the heart of establishing a painting’s mood. Working in black and white will greatly aid in learning to create any desired mood. If you can depict the mood of the subject monochromatically, chances for a successful painting when color is added are greatly increased.

With all the structures accurately placed, careful attention is given to clearly defining the value relationships between each, and their relationship to the tree and sky values.

The scene is fully resolved monochromatically. Details were saved till the end. The painting could easily stand alone as a completed work. More importantly, it is critically analyzed, answering the question: “Does it accurately capture the mood I wanted?”

I thought it would make for a very unique painting if only a section of the painting was masked off, and color only added to that section; it would clearly demonstrate that it’s value that establishes the mood of a painting…not color. Color only enhances it.

Using a palette of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light, and White, careful attention was given to matching the established values.

“A Bitterly Cold Morning” – 7″ x 14″ – Oil…The resulting work is unique, surprising, subtle, and appealing.


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