Thirty minutes of rain and snow

A few weeks ago a friend recommended that I try a field sketching technique from painter Edward Norton Ward. Instead of using sketchbooks, Ward tapes down a number of quarter sheets of watercolour paper onto a support board. When one sketch is finished, he removes the tape and under that he has a new sheet of paper. I was curious about this painter whose work I had never seen so I ordered his book “First Impressions: Sketching Nature in Watercolor”. He paints in a wonderfully loose way and many of the sketches in the book are painted in less than thirty minutes. What??? Less than thirty minutes. Sounds like a challenge if ever there was one. So armed with my taped quarter sheets, and knowing that I had to be at school in less than two hours, I set out on this rainy, slushy and snowy day to find a place to paint. The sketch below is what I managed to do (in my car) in that amount of time. No lines added after, no work done at home, and mostly painted with a 1″ flat brush. It’s a great exercise that forces you to look at the big shapes and also to try to get the values right the first time. And as the name of the book suggests, it really is about capturing that first impression. It’s something I will definitely be trying again.


56 Comments on “Thirty minutes of rain and snow”

  1. Robin says:

    Love it! The colors are clean and it has a great feel. Really amazing for 30 minutes, too.


  2. Carole Dysart says:

    Great painting….great exercise!


  3. Miz Dee says:

    That wet street is out of this world!! Awesome. That’s how I want to paint….


  4. Angie Macleod says:

    I think the challenge worked very well!


  5. Excellent watercolor !


  6. anne farmer says:

    Terrific. Why do we ever bother fiddling with detail?


  7. george smith says:

    Whoa, another Aha moment looking at this watercolor. Great color, just enough left out to engage the viewers mind. Your efforts never go unappreciated by those who are trying to follow your lessons. Thank you again.


  8. Linda says:

    I also love that wet street! I can feel the dampness/cold and hear those “sloshy” sounds.


  9. sue says:

    I love Edward Norton Ward’s book! It wad one of the first watercolor books I bought. I am so intrigued with his work still 20 years later.


  10. John Lillyman says:

    Thanks Shari for this insight. How we grow through sharing ideas and experimentation!


  11. Yrs Ago Started with a 1 inch flat… and have never ever gone back.. Only WIDER! Big color shapes under 30 minutes are my recipe too.. GREAT Capture. Love this one


  12. Janice Kelly says:

    Every time I see one of your works I long to be included in your Montreal summer workshop.


  13. Lee Kline says:

    You really catch the feeling of that damp street. I am going to study this. I wish I could take a course with you. Will you be having a workshop anywhere near Florida one day? Thanks.


  14. TonyU says:

    Hi Shari. I have this book too (1990 edition) and love it. Some lovely fresh paintings, expressive brush marks and lots of reserved whites … all of which still look good good nearly 25 years on. And your painting captures so much of the same – as well as the feel of the day. Best, Tony


  15. Crazy good !!! The reflections in the pavement are awesome. U R Amazing. Jacques


  16. Joe Fidler says:

    Love the reflections in the wet road.


  17. kari says:

    Exceptional capture of wetness. The reflective surface of the street is fantastic.


  18. Les says:

    I have a few questions Shari.
    1) What was the sketch size? Was 1/2 hour or more?
    2) Looks like you did a bit of pencil work first? How much of the time was drawing and how much painting?
    3) How did you feel while doing this so fast? Any anxiety or feelings of being too rushed?

    I keep thinking I would like to do faster work (like speed reading) but don’t quite get around to it.

    Very nice painting!!! Looks like plenty of detail to me.


    • Les, the paper is 15″ x 11″. It was really just 30 minutes with a few minutes of pencil but if you notice there are very few pencil lines. For me, far fewer than I am used to drawing. Most of the detail on the building is brushwork only. The only real lines are the roofs and the poles. No anxiety while working at all except for the first moments when I say to myself “Are you about to ruin some good Arches paper because you don’t really have enough time to paint a quarter-sheet?” And then I talk myself out of that and get to work.


  19. tmikeporter says:

    In your explanation I am hearing themes that Tom Hoffman espouses.


  20. tmikeporter says:

    The book is readily available on Amazon. I can’t resist!


  21. amomentseen says:

    Captures the quality of light spot on.


  22. When I was reading snow and rain
    I imagined a Dirty drawing. But what a surprise when i saw it! Soooo nice colofull and clean!!


  23. Getting the book! Thanks Shari!


  24. Your sketch seems to capture exactly the feel of dripping wet as a heavy snowfall thaws!


  25. Andrea says:

    Ok so the fact that this was your first attempt at a new style of painting and it looks like this is truly amazing to me!! Wow, the first time I try anything it is usually headed for the garbage:).


  26. carolyn says:

    You blow my mind! I can spend hours trying to achieve what you just did – and NEVER succeeding. The premise that quicker you paint the better it is, is proven true!


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