Winter Landscape

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Especially when painting landscapes, I try to keep the composition principle “Rule of Thirds” in mind. This prevents major spaces from visually dividing a composition in half. I give sky space either 1/3 or 2/3 of the composition space, and land or sea the rest. Sky is 2/3 of the composition in the piece above.

After loading a large, wet brush with blue and a smaller, drier brush with brown, I add clear water to the bottom half of the sky, right up to the line for the snow covered field. This helps pigment appear paler there. I also add water to dry paper at top to allow for some clouds, then quickly paint the blue sky into dry paper and let the paint bleed into wet areas.

Before the sky shape dries, I quickly tap in, dry-on-wet, the distant tree line in various colors and value: brown, gold, red, even blue, leaving some light and bright, others very dark. Critical is that the top of this tree line is a soft edge. While still damp, light tree trunks are scraped out and a few strokes with a fan brush complete the mass.

A dry brush with gold and greenish pigment is dragged across the field to suggest its contour and melting snow. (Gray spots across the sky are cast shadows from a nearby window.)

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

With a wide, relatively dry brush that’s heavily loaded with pigment, bushes growing in the ravine are suggested. Pressure is applied at their base (where there’s a distinct line), and then the brush is swept up quickly to create their fine, thin branches. It’s a twist of the wrist. These are enhanced with some twiggy branches made with a script brush.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

The fine branches at the tops of deciduous trees in winter are created with fine, quick marks made by a fan brush in a relatively pale wash. The application method involves much twisting of the brush to create short, light strokes from the top of the crown toward the center of the arc. I barely touch the paper with the brush. Color is derived from brown mixed into Cerulean. Once these marks are acceptable, I use a script brush to suggest larger branches that act as radii connecting crown twigs to trunk.

The cast tree shadow on the field at left was an afterthought. Normally it’s added early, before the darker shapes, and from the tree (or object) casting it. To avoid dragging dark color into it, it’s been painted in the reverse direction.

What Grows in the Ravine, Watercolor, 12×16″ ©Bivenne Staiger 2021

Rich darks, added wet- and dry-on-dry, complete the painting.

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