Living in a northern climate with a healthy dose of winter (usually with snow on the ground for 4 or 5 months, each year), I have to ask myself why I have so few landscape paintings with snow. I do like to take photos of snowy landscapes, often with the good intent of using them for painting references but so far there are not a lot of paintings.
Last night I was reading Deviant Spirits by Ross King and ran across this passage (on page 166) that got me thinking:
Although Quebec painters such as Gagnon, Cullen and Suzor-Coté had tackled snow and ice before, landscapists in English Canada generally steered clear. They recognized , as one critic observed, that to paint a Canadian landscape under snow was “unpatriotic, untactful and unwise.” Canada’s cold climate and deep snow had been a sore point at least since Voltaire mocked the country as “a few acres of snow.” As Jefferys put it “Our climate, winter especially, was regarded as sort of a family skeleton.”
So that’s the story I’ll stick with for now – to paint snow would be to perpetuate an embarrassing Canadian stereotype. Seriously though, I love snowy landscapes and have spent some time studying the more successful ones. Particularly, I have paid attention to the value range of successful paintings – how the values of snow in shadows compares to that in sunlight. I will no doubt be tackling the Canadian landscape in snow in the months and years to come.
One of my few successful snowy landscapes to date was my 2009 oil painting Winter Sunrise on the Rails . This painting was inspired by a photo I took in December of 2008 as I traveled by train from Toronto, home to Edmonton. The scene was from the back of The Canadian somewhere around the Ontario-Manitoba border, probably about an our east of Winnipeg. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and glimmering along the rails behind us.
I recently had a print of this painting made at RedBubble and I’m pretty thrilled by the way it looks framed up with a black mat.
Prints of this image, Winter Sunrise on the Rails are available for purchase at RedBubble as cards and prints of various sizes, matted or framed, if desired. The original painting is also still available for purchase.
Here is one of my earlier winter landscapes done back in 1993. This scene depicts the Moose River in Northern Ontario
There is a bit of a story behind this painting, but I’ll leave that for another day.