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Shadows on Snow
In this demonstration pulled from the re-released Zoltan Szabo’s 70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques, we’ll explore how to create shadows on snow. Pre-order this book to explore how to create sunlight on snow and 68 other techniques for watercolor painting.
This technique is very sensitive to the brands of paper you use and the brand and choice of color. It works best on a well-sized surface with artists’ quality nonstaining watercolor.
For the dry shadow, use a small bristle brush loaded with clean water to remove the color and show patches of sunlight. To make the blurry edges, move the brush faster and for a shorter time, blotting off the floating pigments immediately.
I painted the snow surface as if all of it were in shade using Manganese Blue with a touch of Cobalt Violet on the dry paper surface. After the color dried completely, I treated the shadows as negative shapes and removed the sunlight shapes by loosening the dry paint with a very wet, small oil painting brush and blotting it off with a bunched-up dry paper tissue. This is the wet-and-blot technique. Note that the light patches are islands of white and the shadows were left untouched from the original wash.
To lift the sunlight off the snow, I used my little bristle scrubber filled with clean water and loosened the pigment in just a small area at a time. I started at the top of the hill where the light is the strongest. I made sure that the shadows stayed intact, lifting out only the islands of light. The edges of the shadows closest to the trees remain sharp, while the shadows extending into the foreground have softer edges and less contrast. Note that all the shadows taper toward the imaginary location of the sun.
For more on watercolor painting, check out these fine North Light titles:
- Painting Watercolor Flowers That Glow by Jan Kunz
- Realistic Watercolor Portraits by Suzanna Winton
- Watercolor For the Absolute Beginner With Mark Willenbrink (DVD)