Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Drawing Snow in the Winter Landscape, part 1

I am going to talk about doing winter landscapes from black and white photos. Most of the time, we do draw from photographs. Too often they are not our own. This leads to certain problems. We are not really familiar with the settings. This does not happen when you draw from life or even your own reference photos. Here, I am going to do several sketches from the reference gallery on about.coms/ drawing/sketching site, in their snow scenes folder. On the forum, there is a bunch of us using these photographs for winter landscape drawings.

Often we tend to draw single objects but seldom give thought to doing a complete work of art.

If you would like to join in, the reference photos are here:Snow Scenes These photos are here precisely for artists. Most photographs on the web are not available for artwork, which is called derivative works. Read the small print! But these have been posted just for artists to use to create new works of art. Nice.


In art, the artist, creator, ea. You are always making choices. This is what makes it art. This is what makes it unique. This is what makes it original. You. Your choices.

This is why simply coping a photo or following the directions of an instruction disqualifies artwork from most competitions. They are trying to judge your originally, your understanding of art and art principles, your uniqueness. Simply reproducing the photograph slavishly does not do this.

First choice in this case, is simply which photo to use for inspiration. When you begin drawing, the simple goal is to try and reproduce as closely and accurately as possible the reference drawing. This is a fine goal. It is a step in the learning process and an admiral goal. This will help you learn to get exactly what you are going for.

So, for this, we will deal with two different goals.

1. to closely reproduce the photo reference, and

2. to do a creative drawing inspired by the photo, but diverging from it.

In both cases you will be able to see the original photo in the resulting work. For this, I am not going to do a completely diverging piece, but it would be fun!

First choice, which photo do I choose.

The photographs for this project are located on the main drawing/sketching site in the reference gallery:


All are good choices.

The one I am going to be using is this one:


The 3 trees details cropped from the larger photo. I like the way the cropping of this photo appears to simplify it. It doesn’t, it simply changes the configuration of the photo. Changing it from landscape to portrait. It narrow the focus of the parent photo and zooms in on the 3 upright trees, removing the importance of the creek, which is a major element in the parent photo. It also makes the resulting photo less “busy”. It eliminates so much of the information that much of the simplification necessary to translate the photo into art.

Now other major decisions need to be made. What surface will you use for this work of art? Ea, what paper, support or otherwise will you use. Since we are talking about drawing, white paper is assumed. While most drawing will take place on relatively white paper, this is not necessarily so. There are many other perfectly good things to draw on that the assumption of regular paper is not always to be made. A walk through any art supply store will open your eyes to the wide range of papers now available to artists. The come in a wide range of whites, along with colored, tinted and filled papers. There are hot press, cold press, rough, medium and smooth textured, hand-made and mass-produced papers. Everything from thin, fragile mulberry and rice papers so thin you can see the veins of your hands through it to thick, stiff watercolor papers almost like thin boards. There are also a number of actual boards you can use. Masonnite surfaces are increasing in popularity for artwork, and take both graphite and inks well. Thin plywood, with a ground of gesso can also be used for graphite, charcoal and colored pencils and inks.

Drawing Paper

Which bring up another subject, what will you draw with? For this project, I will be sticking to graphite for one, but using charcoal of a sort for the other. As for the papers, I will be doing both on paper, not board.

I, personally, like working on the slightly thicker drawing papers and charcoal paper, rather than on sketchbook paper, which is thinner. I always carry a sketchbook with me for drawing on the spot, but for something I am going to devote a considerable effort to, and will most likely keep around or mat and frame. I like something a bit thicker, more durable. Also, for work you intend to have hanging around for a while, a good archival, acid free paper is a must. While copy paper is fine for learning and other exercises, it is not for work you devote a great deal of effort to. For regular drawing, I find the texture of many inexpensive watercolor papers a bit too patterned for my taste. But that is only personal taste, not some kind of rule or law. I like a surface that is a bit smoother than most watercolor papers.

I find charcoal or pastel papers have enough tooth to work with, without having a dominant pattern I have to deal with. Finding good charcoal paper has been more of a problem than using it. So much of the paper I find has a definite ridge paper from the rollers that it interferes with the development of the artwork.

On to the drawing

After selecting the paper to use, I generally layout the drawing area for the scene I am doing. I will talk about this next week, in part 2 of Drawing Snow in the Winter Landscape.


  1. Star,
    Great blog! I enjoyed the information on materials very much!

  2. Thanks, Tina. I was going to write more, but I have a cold, and the rest will just have to wait along with the view of the winter drawing.


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