Quiet Drama In A Winter Landscape

A Value Sketch Provides A Roadmap For A Potent Visual Effect

In this easy watercolor painting lesson we paint a quiet winter scene with trees, woods, some snow cover and a slow-running winter stream.  It’s a simple color scheme and a simple composition based on a few large shapes.

Visual Power In A Simple Scene

It is easy to underestimate the power of simplicity.

This painting is based on a simplified drawing of the scene and the individual elements that make it up. The simple drawing was overlaid with the simplest of value arrangements. The simple values were translated into color using a limited palette of cool analogous colors with a hint of complementary warm.

From Value To Color

We’ll work from a simple value composition in which we divided our picture space into three areas – foreground, middle ground, and background. We then applied a different value over each space, joining some of our separate objective elements into the larger value areas.

The biggest difficulty in working from a value sketch is that there is a tendency to abandon our well designed value composition in favor of those internal impulses that want us to paint individual elements separately.

And A Perfect Primary Triad

We’ll also be using a set of primary colors – Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, and Raw Sienna – as the basis for our painting. This particular set of colors works very well for winter landscape paintings  of all kinds.  The winter landscape is filled with color, but these colors are nearly always low-intensity, neutralized colors. Both Qinacridone Burnt Scarlet and Raw Sienna are low-intensity colors. Their presence alone or in mixtures really insures that the color scheme and the painting exhibit the low-intensity look that we expect to see in the winter landscape.


What You’ll Need:

  • Value Sketch – use the one from the earlier video
  • Value Scale – any that you have will do or make one with this lesson – Five Step Value Scale
  • Brushes – 1 1/2″ Flat, 1/4″ Flat, Medium and Small Rounds, Rigger
  • Paint – Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue
  • Watercolor paper – preferably Arches 140lb Cold Press cut to about 7″ x 11″ or so


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Value Sketch Process

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Small Value Composition Sketches – also called Value Sketches or simply “thumbnails” are invaluable in helping the artist compose a compelling painting.

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