Painting winter trees, mist, frost, stream in landscape - Amber Valley, Derbyshire

"Rising Mist", Amber Valley, Derbyshire.
Oil. Alistair Butt © 2007.

A short walk on a very cold frosty day allowed me to come across this view of the river as it winds it way down the Amber Valley in Derbyshire. A wonderful combination of the low winter sun and mist transformed this view in something a little bit different. What really attracted me was the way the light passes through the mist as it enveloped the trees along the river banks and then ended in a pool of sunlight on the water surface.

Not the quickest of oil paintings to produce, not in painting time, but just waiting for sections to be dry enough to then over paint. After a quick under painting to establish the main areas, the background for this painting, in this case the far bank of trees on the right, were painted first before progressing left to complete the bank of trees above the skyline.

The sky from white to pale yellow, which doesn't show to well on the above picture, was then painted around all the branches and twigs. Moving down the areas of mist was then painted along with some details for the left hand bank.

To allow some time for the above to dry, the foreground had some additional mid tone painting done, the water with mist and reflections were completed before adding some mid tone work to the right hand bank.

The background was just dry enough for the three main foreground trees to be painted and these were a joy to paint, the left hand one of the three has some mist being caught by sunlight on either side of it.

Having completed all the darker foreground trees, along with their branches, the foreground could be completed. This entailed painting (adding detail) the left foreground bank vegetation which was covered by frost, repeated in areas on the right hand bank, followed by more branches and vegetation on this bank where sections were catching some light.

Step by step demonstration... Winter trees and snow - Froggatt Edge, Derbyshire

"Silver Birch on Froggatt Edge" Froggatt Edge, Derbyshire.
Oil. Alistair Butt © 2007.
A simple painting of some Silver Birch trees made much more interesting by a covering of snow and helped by some lovely shadows created by a low afternoon sun.

Stage One:
The top picture shows the end of stage one, the under painting. The objective was to establish the sky, the distant background hills, the main areas of light and shadow on the snow. Also indicated, but loosely, are the positions of the main tree trunks and some of the denser areas of twigs, loosely brushed over the sky, along the lines of dry brushing.

Stage Two:
This started with the distant trees and hills. Mainly indicating the trucks plus main branches of the trees and bringing back or re-establishing some sky colour.
Next was the painting of the foreground line of trees, painting the main trucks and branches first before moving onto the smaller ones. Additional colours were then added to the bracken and heather that hadn't been covered by snow, being under the trees, before moving on to the snow.
Beginning with the band of snow behind the foreground trees, as the shadow snow colour was already established only the areas being caught by the sunlight needed to be painted, along with one or two dark patches where the bracken was showing through.

Moving to the foreground snow. The shadows from the trees were established first, using either shadow and/or highlight colours. As can be seen in the top picture, there's some indication of where the sun is catching the snow and this was used as a guide when painting in all the lit parts of snow, some hard edges, some soft. All the dark patches of bracken etc were then painted before adding a range of lighter, darker or colour variations over possibly two thirds of the snow that was in shadow. Lastly some details like tall grasses etc were added.