Snow-covered mountains present a variety of shapes and patterns to compose beautiful winter landscapes. I can see part of the Catskill Mountains from my studio window, and when I look at the skyline, I see a line of trees silhouetted against the sky that, to me, resembles the stubble of a beard (Sketch A). Mountain ridges with trees offer many opportunities for creating interesting shapes and designs, but be careful not to make ridges parallel to each other or make trees all alike. Vary your angles and shapes to create more interest.
On a trip to Yellowstone National Park, I sketched this mountain range (Sketch B), which was different from my mountains back home. It had these beautiful snowy peaks with thousands and thousands of trees breaking through the snow. Notice how the tree shapes were used to create designs across the mountain range.
In the close-up view of Hunter Mountain in New York state (Sketch C), I darkened the tree line on the left, gradually lightening it as it moves to the right. As I work to the foreground, shapes get larger and darker, creating a sense of depth and perspective.
In all three of these sketches, the sky was first shaded, then stomped. I used an HB graphite pencil on a sheet of Strathmore sketching paper. All were executed with the same pencil, demonstrating what you can accomplish with one pencil, varying the pressure as you work.
The trees were indicated with short lines at the peaks and upper parts of the mountains. The tree-lengths were varied throughout the picture. A few identifiable pine shapes are spotted throughout, creating the illusion of a mountain range covered with snow and pines.
It is not necessary to include every limb of the trees; the vertical lines spotted around give the appearance of many trees on a snow-covered mountain.
The way you portray snow on trees will tell the viewer if it was a heavy snow, a driving storm or just flurries. A driving storm would show more snow covering the trunk and vertical wood of a tree; a light snow would show much less.
You can also tell a story with your winter sky. In the drawing below, we see a pine tree in a field after a snowstorm. The gray sky, with a little white showing, tells us the storm is over and the sky might be clearing. I wanted to capture the mood created when the sky and the land take on a warm gray appearance after a storm. Except for the large pine, all the elements have a soft look accompanied by the kind of quiet found in fields and woods.
This locust tree was sketched with an aquamedia pencil. Then I went over parts of the tree with a wet brush, blending the pencil marks into soft gray tones. When the paper dried, I went over the drawing again with the pencil, accenting the darks and adding more character to the wood. The paper was 100 percent rag, 4-ply museum board.
To portray a pine covered with heavy snow, find the pattern created by the snow on the limbs and the dark separations between them. The snow is the white of the paper, and a B graphite pencil was used for the darks of the tree. Notice the spaces left between the trees in the background woods, giving the feel of a heavy snow. An HB pencil was used for the background woods, as well as the weeds under the tree and sticking out of the snow.
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