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Most of us were hit by several rounds of snow last week and over the week end.  One was a blizzard.  Tonight and tomorrow night are going to hit sub zero temperatures. We are going into a deep freeze.  I found the above image about a year ago on wet canvas and set it aside as it looked a little too difficult for me at the time. The inclusion of so many small white areas boggle my mind unless they are snowflakes that I can spatter in.  I have used liquid frisket more this year, so decided to give this scene a go to correspond with our weather we have been having.

I drew the scene in, lightly in pencil (just the tree line and a few sloping lines of drifts). I then masked out everything that was small and white that I saw in the reference.

With a mixture of permanent rose, magnesium blue and a touch of halloween orange to gray the wash a little, I painted the sky in a large wet wash. Where you see light areas, I used clear water into the already gray wash and tilted my board from side to side as well as up and down. This created the granulated wash for the sky. I lifted the wash in the area of the clouds by dabbing with a kleenex (non-lotion kleenex). I repeated the wash on the sky a second time after the first wash dried. For the foreground, I wet the entire area, first. I then took the same gray color and streaked in the long shadows behing the drifts. Around the shadows, I fed in very light washes of manganese blue and permanent rose to give the snow more than a bland white look. Again, I tilted my board.  I did not paint where I wanted it to look lighter and just allowed pigment to run where it wanted.  I also had to soften edges on the long shadows as I worked with a “thirsty” brush (one that is wet and wiped dry with a scott towel or kleenex). This softening has to be done while the wash is still wet or you lose the effect. Fast and furious is the motto with these washes.

I used earthen green, olive green and quin. gold to paint my trees. I allowed them to freely mix together on my paper as I painted them in, color next to color.  I took this step as far as I could without removing the frisket.

This is what it looked like when the frisket was removed. I know! Hard edges and ugly!!!! On some papers, where the pigment is laying on the surface, you can take a damp brush and gently soften the edges and pull some of the pigments into the white areas to shadow and shade them. I had used Arches 140 coldpress paper and the edges remained. I then mixed the same variations of colors and went about shading my drifts, darkening the long shadows, touching up background trees and bringing the scene together. This phase was, by far, the longest phase of the painting. I still think my skills with frisket need some work, but am pleased with my first use of frisket in this manner.

   finished painting

The above was the result.


  1. Leslie, this painting captures one of my favourite times in life as a child – standing with the perfectly untouched beauty of nature. I’d out-wait the silence – allowing myself to carry on once I heard one good “plop” as a clump of snow escaped a bending branch.

    Splendid. Thank you.

    • Wasn’t that something? I know I was young when I first learned how loud that silence was. It can stop anyone in their tracks. I love it that hearing a noise meant you could move! You were sensitive from the “get-go”! Thank-you, Amy.

  2. Leslie,
    You have so much patience – I am so impressed how you are able to patiently paint layers to deepen the colors, and come out with such a lovely painting. My current painting teacher wants me to try watercolors to slow myself down and gain patience. I’m working on that. Thanks again for always sharing your process and beautiful products.


    • Hi Jackie,
      Thank-you for speaking of patience. I think that increases with acquisition of technique as I explore and acquire new skills. I feel a little more free to attempt more as I go. Some things that used to take hours and end poorly come off the brush with a little more ease, now. It used to be that I could not leave a painting undone for a week. Now? I can set one aside and work on something else while I decide the next step. I have learned so much from all of you other artists and my students that I hope, by sharing, others might be able to reap benefits from what I do. Thank-you!

  3. This looks much like my yard after the first driven snow. Such a beautiful site, and so quiet.
    Your artwork will never cease to amaze me. Beautiful work, Leslie!

    • Your yard? How beautiful. I love the sound of pine trees in the wind. It is like nature’s music. When I was young we lived on a lake and many a summer night I fell asleep listening to the pine trees sing. Thank-you, Debbie.

    • Sandrine Pelissier
    • Posted February 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Great painting!! Yes it often looks ugly when you remove the liquid frisket but you did an amazing job at softening edges and lightly coloring the white.
    Are you using a brush to put on the frisket? I still didn’t find a very convenient tool for this.

    • I use a brush. I select a size that is a little smaller than the shapes I need to render because the frisket clumps a little larger. I wet some solid brush soap (mild soap can use a bar of ivory for this stored in a traveling soap container) and slide my wet brush over that before dipping it in the frisket. The soap helps to easily wash the frisket off if you don’t allow it to dry on the brush. Sometimes I have to dip the brush in water when the frisket clumps. I then re-soap it and re-dip in the frisket. This way I have been able to prevent damage to my brush. I read that in some watercolor book. I also switched to a liquid frisket called Pebeo drawing gum. It is a little thinner than the others I have tried and a lot less frustrating! Worth working with. Splatters nicely, also. Thank-you, Sandrine, for the comment about my softening and coloring the white. This is something I am still working on. Oh…I am still in awe of that mixed media on your recent post! 🙂

  4. What an absolutely amazing painting! I can see how that is so intimidating, you did a wonderful job. I’m still learning about colors and mixing; I never would have thought to use all those colors in that way. You are such an inspiration.

    • Thank-you, Littlelynx! Be patient with your colors. Try them all and find the ones you like and just dive in for awhile. Much of what I try with color has just come from personal preference and having made mistakes with them, previously, or found mixes that I like. I read about just the basic color combinations such as primary triad, secondary triad, complementary colors, monochromatic and analagous and try to stick with one of those throughout. Many art books include discussions on them. I know you can do it!

  5. I’m glad I found your blog, I love seeing others processes and your a good teacher. I am mostly self taught and just recently can I focus more time on my art and writing.

    • I’m glad you let me know you are there, Louise. I will be visiting you! Thank-you for your kind comment. I, now, have had time to spend on painting and drawing, also.

  6. This is awesome! Love the long blue shadows! The lakefront park that I can see from my window looks exactly like this. It is beautiful when you look out on it from a cozy apartment while waiting for your cup of hot chocolate to cool off a little… 😀

    • Thanks, Alex! Oh yes, I’d rather look out than tramp through this, especially tonight when we are dipping to -3 degrees. You are getting this, also, I heard.

  7. Fabulous! Another potential Christmas card I think 🙂 You have used some unusual colours that really work (like gold in the trees) and I also love the subtle colours in the sky too. Am I right in thinking that frisket is like masking fluid?

    • This was so cold, Lynda that I wanted to warm it up a bit. The reference had warm red tones in the trees, but I tried the gold to see if I could enhance the light of it a bit and still add that very slight touch of warmth to nature. Liguid frisket is masking fluid. I don’t know if there is any differentiation between the two and that is why there are two names for something that serves the same purpose. There are varying brand names. Thank-you, as always, for your visit and comments! 🙂

  8. I’m not certain, but I think this is the first snow scene of yours I’ve seen. I like it. I like the early drawing with masking–hinting at the painting to come. I find myself drawn to black and white lately. Maybe because my life is to riotous to be so clear cut. Thanks for sharing this lovely scene.

  9. Beautiful capture of a tranquil scene. Unlike the reality you’ve described… burr!! Your painting looks warm and inviting. It almost looks like the place we were at couple of weeks ago.

    Thank you for sharing the details and techniques Leslie. I enjoy learning about water color painting from your posts. 🙂

    • That’s right…you were just up in the mountains and let the dogs romp in this “stuff”. Thanks, Emily! 🙂

  10. Wow. I love the one where you took the frisket off and there was all these big white shapes. And then the next one where you shaded, blended and worked the colors so that everything finally worked. A beautiful painting. Thanks for showing us your steps. You are truly a great teacher and painter.

    • Ha! I still remember the first time I used frisket in this manner. It was in 2004 and I was so excited, just having read about it and what it would do. I worked so hard on that painting! It came time to remove the frisket and it looked just like the one above. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do with it, then. The book didn’t tell me how to try and soften an edge with a thirsty brush or mix the same colors and go in and work that mixture in to create shadows or softer edges but said something like they had “touched up” the edges. They didn’t post the “uglies” stage. Oh what a mess I made. I truly think we take classes to learn the techniques that help us to know how to handle our vision when faced with times such as these. Needless to say, that painting found its way to the trash and only fueled me to keep on trucking. I hope I get better at this “frisket thing” because there are subjects that would be incredible done this way. Thank-you for such a thoughtful comment! 🙂

  11. Thank you for enabling me to enjoy the cold vibes from the snow, sitting right in hot Mumbai:-)Needless to say the work is remarkable!

    • Guess what the temperature is this morning, Padmaja? It is minus eleven degrees F and that is not the windchill reading but the actual temp. Brrr.
      I don’t do extreme heat well, either… Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  12. Beautiful, I love the painting, but getting really tired of our Indiana winter right now. But I love the Painting!

    • Tell me about it. The low was -13F last night and the high today was only 9F today up here. I’d rather look at this scene out the window than trudge through it. Thank-you, Ryan! 🙂 Warmer days coming, now, they say.

  13. The finished painting really looks amazing. I can imagine how challenging it would be to paint snow and yet here you can see so much form… it looks soft and tangible. I love seeing your process too as always.

    • The first time I tried to paint snow, it looked more like a sandy beach. The second time, it looked too cold with blue streaks in it. Maybe I’m catching on? Thank-you, Amber. I hope, by showing my process, it helps others to know what to do when they get in a “pickle”. 🙂

  14. wow, from the standard picture size this looks very realistic.
    Of course once i full screen it the brush strokes become more obvious.
    It must have something to do with all that white being worked so smoothly.
    Excellent painting

    • Yep. Brushstrokes are there. The smoother applications come from working on wet paper before it dries. I have to have my washes ready in advance and work quickly for it to work without backruns, but it is fun once you get the hang of it. Thank-you, so much, Richard! 🙂

  15. Leslie, I think your painting is excellent and far more beautiful than the photo. Wonderful!

    • I take it you have seen this photo in winter landscapes on wet canvas. That photo talked to me for a year until I finally tried it. Thank-you for this comment, Linda.

  16. I love the way you explane everything you do and you don’t leave out any of the steps. And then after all that you come up with a beautiful painting! Well done again.

    • Thank-you, Jan. 🙂
      I know that much of what I share does not help digital artists, but am in hopes that those trying to learn watercolor might be helped by the steps and seeing what some of them look like. I surely can’t stop and do this with every painting but try to include some of it as I go.

      • I think it is wonderful what you do Leslie! You can always write a book. Enjoy your weekend.

      • Oh my! Such a difficult task! 🙂

  17. dear leslie,

    this painting came across to me as a beautiful winter memory, for such, i have never yet experience it in my life. i didn’t have quite a chance to travel north to see it for myself. your painting in a way transported me to that place as real as it can be. thank you.

    i have just finished watching kevin costner’s film “dances with wolves” and i think your painting fits one of the beautiful scene when sioux indians are retreating to the woods in one winter morning. what a pure coincidence and i love the images they have left behind in my mind. fascinating!

    • You know, Marvin, there are many people who would say, “You are so lucky to never have had to deal with snow!” I think they are also the people who are complaining about the heat and you do have plenty of that. I’ll take snow over HEAT anyday. 🙂
      Now. “Dances with Wolves” is one of my all-time favorite “pull it off the shelf and watch it again” kind of movie. I’m transported by the music as well as the story.
      Thank-you for these comments to my work, Marvin!

  18. Leslie, you have caught the drifting, clingy white ‘stuff’ (as I call it) to perfection…Lovely, crisp and clear scene, which makes you feel you could pick up some snow and have it melt in your hand…(Here in Britain it has been and gone…We complained and it decided it’d outstayed it’s welcome 😉 )
    Glad you enjoyed my Gargoyle storyline…I loved writing it.. xPenx

    • Oh we have complained but it still kept coming. Warming trend this week so it’s going to be muddy shortly. 🙂 Thank-you for the comment especially the crisp part. It does look crisp.
      Gargoyle? I identified with that Gargoyle so much. I could see him moving!

  19. The finished painting looks really beautiful!

  20. This just blows me away, Leslie! I have always loved your trees and the colors on the snow are truly amazing!!! You almost make me like winter… almost. 🙂

    • Oh no! Not now!!!! This is the time to look back on that beautiful last storm that turned our plans and schedules inside out and made us grumble and laugh a little at ourselves for how much we take for granted in our everyday lives. You of all people who spent days in a motel just so you could get to work through blizzard after blizzard. It is time to be done with it. Had to try this, though, and probably a few more winter scenes, maybe even in the summer weather. Ha! Thank-you, Beth. 🙂 I searched for what warm colors to include in this cold cold scene.

      • You crack me up, Leslie! Yes, do paint more… in the middle of the summer’s blistering heat, to cool us off! 😀

      • Great idea, Beth!!!!! Maybe I will do just that! 🙂

  21. Another nice demo Leslie! Glad you decided not to give up on this painting since it turned out so nicely. It definitely feels like winter!

    • It is so hard to give up, anymore. I usually work it into the trash barrel. In otherwords there is “no hope” just a blob on paper. Ha! I think about you asking me about plein-air the other day. I did not paint this outside. 🙂 Thanks, Al!

  22. Oh, Leslie. I love how you work the white! Gorgeous scene and beautifully done!

    • Thank-you, Kate! 🙂 So tedious, but it at least illustrates how really not white snow is if we are going to give it forma and view it in a landscape with other colors of trees and sky playing off of its surface.

  23. beautiful scene – it came out nice! You did well with the masking fluid! I don’t like it much, like you said, it just leaves these harsh edges you spend all this time correcting. It doesn’t show in this piece. Well done!!

    • Hi Frank,

      I know, I know….. I don’t mind it so much now that I am learning to handle it a little better. I really like splattering with it and I can’t beat saving the white highlight in an eye with it. Thank-you! 🙂

  24. Now this I love! I don’t know how you get the light to work so well and believe me, I’ve studied this particular piece of work for a while. The shadows in your snow are stunning, I’m inspired to try something similar. Fabulous as always. I want to be able to paint like you. 🙂

    • You are so kind to me, Keith. I did this over three nights. If you look at the second frame, The light was actually captured in those beginning washes. I wet the sky, first and fed in those washes, QUICKLY, and picked up my board and turned it up and down allowing the colors to run together. Where the sky is lighter, at the top, I added more water to the wash. Where the clouds are, I dabbed with a kleenex and played with it, “quickly” dabbing up areas. When the shine left the paper, I dried it with a hair dryer. In the bottom foreground washes? I wet the entire area but left long swoops of white in. I turned the board up and down again to get the wash to run away from the streaks I applied. Because the streaks weren’t an overall wash, they didn’t run into the whites completely. That gave the effect of the light you see. As I created the rest of the painting, I protected those areas and did not paint into them again. I hope that helps. The frisket just had to be included because I did not believe I could save all the white blobs of snow on the trees. I think you could do this on Strathmore but it would have a little different look. Each paper handles these techniques a little differently. Believe me. When you remove the frisket, It looks just like above. I had to take a deep breath and face the fact that I had to blend and shadow for several more hours. I believe you can do it! Patience is the key at the end. Working the washes at the beginning is fast work before the paper starts to dry. Have fun!!!! 🙂 Thanks again!

  25. Lovely. Trying to figure out what you mean by “wet canvas.” I see there are a number of things online, but one is a chat room that also has other info, so I’m guessing that’s it.

    Have a great day. Thanks for all you fab works of art.


    • Thank-you for asking. Wet canvas is a site that artists can sign up to use for many different things. I have signed up, primarily, for the purpose of using the photo reference library. We are allowed to use the images to create art from. That is my understanding, anyway, without having to worry about plagiarism. They have forums and tutorials and artists share their work and discoveries, there, like I do on the blog.

      Thank-you for the comment and the inquiry about wet canvas, Jamie! I love hugs! Returning such!

  26. Wow, stunning snow scene. Wish i were there to experience it. The scene is so realistic i can almost touch the snow. Great work Leslie.

    • Thank-you, Francis. This scene is the first time I have ever had that frisket come together like this when I shadowed the white shapes. I wonder how deep those drifts are? 🙂

  27. Wow! Leslie, I love this. Thanks for the step by step explanation. I really need to do a watercolor painting so.

    • You and I have shared a lot of step-by-step, haven’t we? I like that about one artist inspiring another. I also have enjoyed seeing you stretch yourself into trying some colored pencil work. Very challenging! Thank-you, Raji! 🙂

  28. I want to snow shoe there. Sparkling. Beautiful.

  29. Wow. Beautiful painting.

    • Thank-you, Adam! You were hit by these storms, too, I think. It has been a couple weeks since then. Perhaps our rainy season isn’t far off. I hope…..but spare me the floods!

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