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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Cordova

The Art of Not Painting Snow...

Please note, in this piece, I’m specifically talking about watercolor on paper. Acrylic on canvas and wood is a completely different experience.

Sometimes painting is about what you don’t paint. Watercolor artists talk about the concept, save the paper. It is the developed skill of leaving the paper blank white where light hits the subject. I teach my students to think ahead in deciding where to, save the paper, to give their paintings a generous amount of light coming through the translucent layers of watercolor paint.

I also teach my students about positive and negative space. That’s the, also developed skill, of looking at the subject in terms of both positive space, the subject itself, as well as all of the space around the subject, the negative space. If you only look at the subject and don't also look at the shapes and space around the subject, you are only looking at half of the image, and cutting yourself out of valuable sketching and painting tools.

Watercolor on Paper, Snow Covered Central Park
Watercolor on Paper, Snow Covered Central Park

This leads me to the Art of Not Painting Snow. Snow painted on paper is all about not painting snow at all. Instead, the artist paints around the white of the paper where the shadows and recesses live. It's the experience of painting the contours the snow creates rather than the snow itself. A soft edge of blue with black and maybe some dark brown, tints the paper in layers to create the illusion of a thick swath of white snow. The snow is only present because against the contrast of this painted edge, the paper is left untouched by color. As a rule, if you want something to look dark, put something light next to it. If you want something the look brighter, put something dark next to it.

Now maybe there is a larger metaphor here like you have to experience the darkness to appreciate the light, or something? I don’t really know, but what I do know is the Art of Not Painting Snow is a great fine art technique to open the artist’s eye, and awaken the creative mind.

Thank you for reading.


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