Tree, house, car

As a reward to myself for finishing classes yesterday, I decided to paint a snow scene before attacking the pile of student projects that need to be graded. With several storms hitting Montreal in quick succession yesterday and today, it was probably a prudent idea to stay at home and capture a view from my window.


I haven’t had much time to do any planning before I paint these days so I thought it might be a good idea to do a value sketch first. It didn’t take much work to figure out the placement of the whites and the darks. The big tree out my window provided all the contrast.


The next step was the pencil drawing. Nothing too complicated, just the big shapes on a quarter sheet of Fabriano Artistico. No need to add all the details like the texture in the trees. That will be done with a brush later on.


The big darks of the trees were the first shapes that I painted, all with a two-inch flat. In this step I was thinking about edge quality — hard edge on the right and textured on the left where the snow overlaps the tree. I wanted to put those down first so I would know how dark to make the midtones.


The second step was the big mid tone shapes.


The last step: a bit more texture in the bark, and then the wall of trees behind the house.

And now to the grading…

44 Comments on “Tree, house, car”

  1. TR Duncan says:

    thank you for sharing the progression… this is so helpful to me. : )


  2. Myra says:

    I so enjoy your daily posts and wanted to say thank you and Happy Holidays!


  3. Lee Kline says:

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this, my friend. Merry Christmas to you and your family.


  4. Janice Kelly says:

    It was helpful seeing the value study that you did and then the process. Really enjoy your style and admire your output. We should all paint more. Perhaps you’ll inspire this.


    • I don’t do the value studies often Janice but when I have time I really find them helpful. My teacher Ed Whitney used to say “Plan like a turtle, paint like a rabbit” and using the value sketch really helps with that because you know where you are going when you pick up the brush.


  5. julesmae says:

    This is lovely Shari. 🙂


  6. Je me joins aux autres pour te dire mon appréciation pour la générosité de tes commentaires. J’adore ce que tu fais.


  7. I love the way you outline so clearly your steps. Thanks so much for that, it’s super helpful. Great sketch!


  8. Janice Victory says:

    Thank you for outlining your steps. I love your work.


  9. Melanie F Lewis says:

    I really like the value study, too. I like to see the steps you took to finish the painting. I really would like to see a video of you painting!! I enjoy your blog.


    • I am often asked to post videos, but as you can see from my post, I have a job that keeps me really busy. I suppose if I painted full time I would have time to do videos but for the moment, I am just happy to squeeze in some time to paint and offer the occasional workshop.


  10. Sue says:

    I love it when you give us a little painting lesson, but me thinks you are procrastinating! All the same, I loved it all – the explanations and the final result. And you started with a two inch flat! Hmmm… I only have a 1 1/2 inch. Maybe that’s my problem.
    Hope those papers don’t take too long.


  11. Fleet Woodley says:

    Oh man! Dat’s NICE!! Love the pull between the tree and the background.



  12. Jeff Gold says:

    Beautiful image. You’re always the teacher…and it’s always appreciated! Nice to see the painting size in proportion to the brushes, etc. Altogether very instructive. Thank you, once again.


  13. Nathalie says:

    Great post and sketch. Thanks Shari.


  14. Vicky Porter says:

    Thanks for the clear and concise lesson. That is a lovely, dramatic painting!


  15. Ross says:

    Now that was interesting! I enjoyed watching the painting develop.
    But… always a but… aren’t you breaking the rules a little here? In the how-to books they seem to say that, with watercolour, you start with the lights and finish with the darks, which is the opposite to what you did here. Was that intentional? Is that the way you normally work? [Sorry, that was a serious observation and question from me… I hope you can cope.]


    • I don’t know if I can answer a serious question from you Ross, but I will try.
      It’s true, most books and most watercolour painters work from light to dark. And I do usually as well. But occasionally I have tried doing the reverse when it’s really clear to me what that dark shape will be and how dark I want it to get. I painted the darks first on this one as well:

      I find that if I am trying to darken an already painted-on area, sometimes the darks get muddy if I layer them. If I am adding the darks to clean, white paper, I can mix up a big, dark wash and it is more lively than glazing over a previously painted section of paper. In this painting I used only three colours — a dark blue, a dark green and a burnt orange. You can see bits of that pure orange added into the dark blues of the tree. I don’t know if I would be able to get that in a glaze. Every painting is a learning process.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. CharlieAmra says:

    Brilliant, simply brilliant! And as always, I really appreciate the “Behind the Scenes” step by step of your process, including a peak at value sketch you did in pencil. I learn so much from your posts. Thanks again for sharing.


  17. ctregan says:

    Awesome, makes me want to take up water colors!


  18. Miú says:

    Dear Shari,
    This is stunningly beautiful. I was going to say that your technique is amazing, but it is actually your talent that amazes me… There is a mixture of realism and a dream-like quality in your paintings. There are hardly any details, and yet we can figure them all out. The full painting looks like a poem to me.
    I also love the way your show how you “go at” the painting, from the drawing stage up till the end. (I also like doing it myself!).
    Best wishes from far-away Portugal and from your new follower,


  19. Gabriella says:

    This is both beautiful and very informative.


  20. love that you showed how you built this up, such a bold piece, Shari. and a good reminder to do a value sketch when possible.


  21. Sandi says:

    Hi Shari, Thanks for your beautiful blog. This demonstration is inspiring, and so fresh looking. I am wondering how you did the background please. I can see you have put a wash over the tree sketch. In what order did you do the rest? I love that messy look along with the controlled lines of the tree trunks. I think most tree trunks went in before the later washes while just a few, especially at the left, were put on last. Thankyou. Sandi


    • Hi Sandi,
      It has been a busy weekend so sorry for the delay in responding to your questions. The background was put in as one shape over the initial blue wash. And then I added some individual trunks with a finer brush. I hope that helps. It was really quite a simple layering process.


      • Sandi says:

        Hi Shari,
        As my message hadn’t appeared I thought maybe I hadn’t completed my post. And then when I sent the second one I realised the messages await moderation. My apologies.

        Yes the layering is simple but very effective. I am a beginner in watercolour and want to make up some exercises to practice this layering technique. I have seen layering used to form the background hills against the sky which makes smooth outlines. But in your painting the background consists of a plain wash then other colours added to give an haphazard effect. The tree trunks add another visual effect using line and denoting distance.
        I can also see how fresh your paintings are. So many times I read, or watch film where the artist says not to fiddle with watercolour; just to lay it down and leave it so it doesn’t muddy. Your paintings attest to the success of this process.
        Thankyou for your help. Sandi.


  22. barbaragruen says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your steps! I just discovered your work and love it!


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