Out in the cold

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Richard Woods of Sparks, Nevada wrote, “I’m just heading out painting at a location where snow is a good possibility. The forecast calls for a high of 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Painting in cold weather is a pain for me. I see pictures of you working while sitting in snow banks and at high elevations with snow coming down. How do you do it?”

Forms and patterns that cannot be passed up.

Thanks, Richard. With forethought. The main problems are wind, precipitation, and the temperature of things. Wind: You may need to sacrifice a really good view to put your back to the wind. I often paint in a folding chair, so an extra chunk of foam on the chair-back is useful. Also, one of those fur-lined helmets with the flaps helps prevent an early loss of ears. Parkas or hoodies tend to interfere with head movements and the business of looking over your shoulder for bears. Fur-lined hiking boots are a must. “There is no bad weather for painting en plein air,” says Barbara Jablonski, “only bad painting clothes.” Teach yourself to paint using leather or wool gloves. I used to cut the fingertips off, but it’s only necessary if you’re doing finicky work. Regular gloves or even mitts can help make your stroke broader and fresher. Precipitation: Whether straight down or sideways, snow, sleet or rain are fun-spoilers. Wet snow falling and puddling on acrylic or watercolour has only limited creative value. Oil and water, of course, don’t mix. Best Brellas are simply brilliant on calm, sunny days — but in a gale they can move you and your work a mile down the valley. Warmth: “Scottish antifreeze” from a small flask is best. Cocoa from a thermos works but is less fun. Some ladies of my acquaintance put chemical warmers called Heatmax Hot Hands and Heatmax Toasti Toes into needy areas. I like to point out that Scotch taken orally in moderation warms all over. Some painters report the main benefit of sub-zero painting is the achievement of speed. But there’s also a wonderful feeling of smugness that slips over you like a soft woollen blanket. Whether an island unto yourself or together with a gaggle of good companions, you’re adrift and apart from a madding world and in soft communion with wonder. Best regards, Robert PS: “Working outdoors puts you in direct contact with the life force, not just the light and the landscape, but also the vitality of the world.” (George Carlson) Esoterica: Acrylics and watercolours freeze easily and take on an unpleasant granular texture which stays on after they thaw. Keep all your paints, including oils, in a warm part of the car and don’t leave them in a car overnight. Liquids like acrylic medium and linseed oil should be near to room temperature for best viscosity. The Russians have pioneered thinning watercolours with vodka. When ice begins to form on the palette it may seem like the time to reconsider chartered accountancy, but really it’s just time for the lodge. Tomorrow will be another day.   Vodka in watercolours by Colin Bell, Calgary, AB, Canada  

Moraine Lake Splendour
oil painting, 22 x 28 inches
by Colin Bell

In cold weather watercolours and vodka really works. I’ve painted in -10 degree C weather using a diluted 50% solution of vodka. I was able to paint, but noted ice crystallization occurring on the paper until the moisture had dried. Pure rubbing alcohol does not dissolve the paint, and so is useless. For sub-zero temperatures, I would recommend an undiluted vodka application.   There are 7 comments for Vodka in watercolours by Colin Bell
From: Gulley Jimson — Dec 20, 2011

I must protest this outrageous mistreatment of the sacrament of vodka!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Dec 20, 2011

my comment is directed to Gully Jimson’s comment…ha ha!

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Dec 20, 2011

hahahaha Gulley!!

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Dec 20, 2011

hahahaha Gulley!!

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Dec 20, 2011

hahahaha Gulley!!

From: Bev — Dec 20, 2011

Sorry for the 3 hahaha comments … my internet connection “blipped out” on me … and I hit the enter key 3 times! Lovely painting Colin … has a nice mood to it.

From: Jim Oberst — Dec 20, 2011

3 identical haha comments… obviously, too much vodka.

  Painting in horrid conditions by John A. Scott, Traverse City, MI, USA   I remember doing some small watercolor paintings in the Gallatin Canyon of Montana and in Yellowstone in sub freezing weather. I worked fast but the freezing crystals in the washes made for some unusual results. I worked standing up since there was no place to sit that would not have been an ass-freezing experience. Working small was a good idea, but see Tony Foster’s work — he paints huge watercolours in the most horrid conditions with great aplomb. His book Painting at the Edge of the World is stunning.   Important to be uncomfortable by Brent Lynch, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“New Worlds”
oil painting, 24 x 36 inches
by Brent Lynch

Yep, Amen to all that! I just wanted to add that, to me, a big part of outdoor painting is to be uncomfortable. What I mean is that the experience gets us out of our comfort zone. That’s where things become interesting. Winter is the ultimate ‘comfort zone removal experience.’ Preparing for it is serious business. The artist is now beyond painting… and has the opportunity to enter or re-enter the very slip stream that birthed us. It’s good for the ego. There is 1 comment for Important to be uncomfortable by Brent Lynch
From: Anonymous — Dec 20, 2011

Nice Painting!!! such a feeling of sailing along, both in motion and emotional momentum…ahhhhh well done! As for the cold winter painting; I’m so far painting inside the warmth of the car, looking out of the window. Still it is not in the studio but a venture outside the doors of familiarity. Thanks!

  Mountain memories by Laurel McBrine, Toronto, ON, Canada  

oil painting
by Laurel McBrine

This post immediately teleported me back to our Bugaboo mountain adventure. At one point I was painting in a wet snowstorm while holding an umbrella with one hand and my brush with the other. It is very amusing to admit the odd and fleeting thought of smug superiority over all those wimpy artists ensconced in their cozy studios, engendering a rare sense of rugged outdoorsmanship. Having said that, I haven’t painted in such inclement weather since, although the sun, bugs, wind and sand have played their part. After reading your poetic description of the pleasures of being “adrift and apart from a madding world and in soft communion with wonder” I just may venture out this winter using some of your wardrobe advice! (RG note) Thanks, Laurel. Laurel was with us last year when the weather was indeed a bit of a challenge. This last September we had perfect weather and even at very high altitudes it was not that cold. We’re going once more to Heli-paint the Bugaboos in September 2012. If you’re interested in talking about the possibility of joining us, you might give me a call at 604 538 9197. Dennis Fairbairn, who has been with us on both previous ventures, says, “After Heli-painting, what is there?”   Go south young man by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France  

“The Bridge”
oil painting, 38 x 51 inches
by Jeffrey Hessing

This certainly brings back some bad old memories; when I was a budding landscape painter in the Boston area I tried everything. I had clothes suitable for the Antarctic. I tried those chemical warmers and even bought electric socks. Nothing really worked for me. I never got used to painting with gloves, fingertips or not. Opening the tubes was a particular problem and I ended up with as much paint on the gloves and consequently my polar jacket as on the canvas. I am a profound lover of whiskey and almost any excuse will do. I would never want to disparage the beneficial qualities of a good shot but, I am afraid that when painting in subfreezing conditions it brings temporary relief but eventually thins the blood and makes you even colder. My solution: I moved to the South of France. I occasionally go to Chamonix to paint the snow, the mountains, Mont Blanc. The best spot is from a big picture window near a roaring fire. I wish the very best to those who are hardier than I. There is 1 comment for Go south young man by Jeffrey Hessing
From: Sue Bayley — Dec 19, 2011

I totally agree with you Jeffrey! After years of painting in British Columbia I now count Maui as my winter home and also the Nice area for much of the rest of the year. Now I just have the challenge of heat, sand and still wind but not cold.

  Sub zero tips by Helen Opie, Granville Ferry, NS, Canada  

“Beaver harbour”
oil painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Helen Opie

Amen to needing the proper garments and lined boots as you mention when going out to paint in winter, and learning to paint with full finger and warmly lined gloves! I treasure a pair of rabbit skin gloves with the fur side in, found at the Salvation Army for 50 cents because they had broken seam threads, easily mended; soft and supple. In addition, I recommend working standing up, because you move around more and keep your blood flowing better — especially if you keep warm by dancing back and forward to look at your work from a distance, dancing forward for sword-like brush-thrusts, and then back again to check their effect and determine where to make the next plunges. I stand on a piece of insulating board while in front of my easel, so I am standing on a surface that does not suck the heat from my feet. My first one was made of Ten-Test; my current one is Homosote board, that grey stuff that looks like it’s made of paper maché. If it is very wet, I use a piece of wafer board as Homosote would probably disintegrate — but usually cold means frozen ground. It probably helps to work in dry cold, but that wasn’t what the man expected. There are 2 comments for Sub zero tips by Helen Opie
From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Dec 20, 2011

Buy an off-cut of polystyrene sheet about two inches thick, or even thicker if you can get it, and as large otherwise as is practical for your particular use. It’s not only a brilliant insulator, it repels damp. And it weighs virtually nothing. But it will blow away in a wind, so you’d need to weight it down somehow!

From: Helen Opie — Jan 08, 2012

Can someone tell me more about this thick polystyrene sheeting? Or do you mean thick rigid foam board? I’ve used that sitting on my car roof, and imagine it wold be good underfoot, although its 24″ width is a bit narrow for my active feet. P.S. I have never lived in Bridgewater NS. I do live in Granville Ferry NS.

  Built-in gas heater in a VW Bus by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada  

“Making Time”
watercolour painting
by Bob Rennie

With regard to winter painting, I have a 1985 VW Westfalia camper. It won’t get you everywhere, but often to a good enough location and with plenty of room inside to paint. Besides it also has a gas powered heater that keeps you warm without running the motor. You really can find lots to paint on location without being outside. And you certainly can combine outside painting with doing some work in the van.   There is 1 comment for Built-in gas heater in a VW Bus by Bob Rennie
From: Patsy, Antrim — Dec 20, 2011

Gorgeous painting. I love the boat. I love the water. The mountains. The sky. I love it all. ;-)

  Won’t do it, don’t want to by Sheila Psaledas, ME, USA  

“High Meadow I”
oil painting, 16 x 16 inches
by Sheila Psaledas

I must be a total “wuss,” because I don’t paint in cold weather outside. Well, I sort of do, but it’s in the comfort of my Yukon SUV. I get to a location, set up an easel with a seat in the back of my vehicle so that I can sit while painting. The windows have a tint that can change colors, but I poke my head out of the back to adjust here and there. The car heater keeps me warm so I turn off the engine and use the available heat for about 1/2 hour at a time, and then restart it when the temperature is uncomfortable for me. I know this is perhaps viewed by some as not really plein air, but I’m still on location and painting. I do take photos of my subject when I arrive and often make adjustments at the studio. There are 2 comments for Won’t do it, don’t want to by Sheila Psaledas
From: Patsy — Dec 20, 2011

I love this too. Oh, the colours!!! Just gorgeous.

From: Suzette Fram — Dec 20, 2011

Wow, what gorgeous colours, Sheila. Beautiful.

  Awesome experience by Pamela Simpson Lussier, Willington, CT, USA  

“Pomfret Brook 2”
oil painting
by Pamela Simpson Lussier

Painting outside in winter is awesome. You get all dressed up like you did as a little kid to go sledding. For me it has that same little kid excitement. It’s important not to let your feet get cold. My husband, David Lussier, and I use mukluks. We can put many layers of socks in them but have never needed more than 2 layers — one of the layers being a ski-type sock. I use neoprene diving gloves. They are great as long as you don’t get snow in them. David likes his painting hand gloveless but puts a warmer in his pocket. Long underwear is a must. David has a nice Carhart one-piece snow suit and I prefer layers with a large down jacket that goes almost to my knees. And hats, sometimes I have 3 hats, whatever it takes. One of them is a mask to go over my face. The white oil paint gets a little gummy in the cold but you can add a few drops of kerosene to it; that usually works. Also, sometimes it is good to bring a mat or cardboard to go under you. This can keep you warmer and helps your easel to not sink into the soft snow. There is 1 comment for Awesome experience by Pamela Simpson Lussier
From: Linda Teddlie Minton — Dec 20, 2011

Pamela, your snowscape is lovely. Makes me cold just looking at it.

  Applying the KISS principle by Darrell Baschak, Manitou Beach, SK, Canada  

“Shimmering water”
oil painting
by Darrell Baschak

I cannot say enough about plein air painting. Sometimes I feel that working in the studio is kind of stale because I just am not stimulated the same as when I work out-of-doors. I know I am going to have to get over that but it really is hard to beat. Plein air painting has taught me a lot of lessons, in matters of painting and proper gear. For me the KISS principle works best, I try to really minimize the painting gear I take with me and almost always paint with a knife and a limited palette. I seem to have more time in the winter to paint so I dress very warmly in an insulated jacket and coveralls with a good pair of Ski-doo boots. I have a beaver skin hat that works great to keep the block heater toasty. I like the idea of Scotch; it also fits with the upcoming Xmas season, good cheer and all. If it is quite cold (I won’t venture out if it is lower than 20 degrees C) I keep my oil paints inside my jacket. I kind of like how the paints get a bit stiffer in the cold and I am very fond of the immediacy of working out-of-doors. It is kind of like a sickness but I love it! There are 2 comments for Applying the KISS principle by Darrell Baschak
From: Anonymous — Dec 20, 2011

20 degress C is room temperature.

From: Darrell Baschak — Dec 23, 2011

My apology’s, that should have read -20 Celcius.

  It’s all about work by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands  

“Island, Wadden Sea” (Holland)
oil painting
by Robin Shillcock

There’s so much that can be said as to outdoor wear and your desire to paint in situ in wintertime. I’ve worked on Svalbard in April during a polar bear filming expedition, only a hop, skip & jump away from the North Pole. Also, in winter in Murmansk, Russia and in northern Sweden and Norway. Sometimes I had the luxury of a nearby car or cabin, or a café within hiking distance. Once, while painting the snowy coast on the Dutch north coast I escaped into a church during service to get out of a winter squall. Simply getting out of the wind can feel like entering the pearly gates of Heaven! Some comfort is indeed necessary — depending on whom you are, your stamina and blood circulation. The winter wind is the killer. Do what you can to keep out of the wind. A good Canadian coat (I got one in Newfoundland last year) and wool cap or soviet-style fur-lined cap are great. Hoods in April on Svalbard were out of the question because of polar bears roaming on padded feet, but may well serve to keep the wind out of your ears. I prefer to be on my feet when painting. It’s better for your circulation, you can step away from the easel, do a jig to warm your feet or escape to hide from the wind behind a tree trunk or pill-box (as I once did during plein air work in a WW II battleground). I used to take my skates when painting near a frozen lake, and do a round or two to warm up during or after painting sessions. My dog hated it, but scrabbled after me on the ice. I have often used my van as a studio, but being cooped up and in a cramped position isn’t always good for working, because I need to move around, look at both subject and painting from different angles. On a calm winter day I might paint from the roof of my van if I feel I need a higher vantage point. Sketching in oils can be a drag if it’s minus 30-35º centigrade. Oils get somewhat “short’ and more difficult to manipulate. Watercolour is a no-no in sub-zero conditions. (Acrylics always a no-no because I don’t like the way they dry on canvas.) I prefer to do simple: pencil on paper, rush inside if possible to dab on some watercolour, but if really taken I’ll get out my oils. Hogshair brushes, of course, a few drops of medium mixed with white spirits, and I’m off! Somehow, it’s intensely gratifying to succeed at a drawing or painting (mind, I’m not suggesting doing Great Art) under difficult conditions. It has much to do with being out in the open, and managing against all odds, and fighting the feeling you’ll never grab that what inspires, never enough at any rate. Also, it is at such moments that painting comes closest to what I consider Work — because how can sitting in a heated studio in a comfy chair, with hot cocoa by your elbow, good music on the stereo and photographs to work from be considered work?    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Out in the cold

From: Morag Stokes — Dec 15, 2011

I am in awe of you and all others who brave the elements to paint when taking a photo and retreating to the comfort of the studio is such an easy option. I have tried and given up, and never quite experienced that particular “soft communion with wonder”!

From: Chris Everest — Dec 16, 2011

I can see the headlines now if I tried it “Paralytic Painter in Mountain Rescue Drama”. He had his foam, his gloves, his brella, his chair and a HUGE flask. Rescuers figured a dog helped him carry the flask. All he could say was Bob said it was okay ! Happy Holidays

From: David — Dec 16, 2011

Grizzly bears prefer oils to acrylic, and they simply love Scotch-flavored artists, yum!

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Dec 16, 2011

I’m cold just reading this. Here in Florida when it gets in the 50s I get grumpy and head for a warm place!

From: Elizabeth Gaye MacDonald — Dec 16, 2011
From: Dwight — Dec 16, 2011

Enough of all this “serious” stuff. Frozen watercolor can be quite beautiful. Several years ago I was painting in the wilds of Idaho (no, Idaho is not ALL wild) and since I tend to paint flat the crystals began to do things no painter could do on purpose. All was gorgeous. I decided to leave it alone and take it in. When I picked it up by an edge the wonderful texture of crystal slid off onto the snow. I tried again hoping to take it inside flat. Nothing that great ever happened again.

From: Chris Page — Dec 16, 2011

You’re my hero; flat out; just thought you should know. I had a Spanish girlfriend/painter who subscribes to your newsletter, and thought I’d like it. Alas, the relationship didn’t work out, but I am forever indebted to her for turning me on to your email. Your advice, anecdotes, experience, and all the rest are an absolute inspiration to me. I could cite specific examples, but I get something from every letter; So, thanks for the encouragement, thanks for the support, thanks for the wisdom, esoterica, and for sometimes making me laugh out loud, and keep it up, okay?

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Dec 16, 2011

I always carry my paints in my interior pockets…and use a sock with a hole in the end for covering hands!

From: Raynald Murphy — Dec 16, 2011

Your suggestions are excellent. As an avid outdoor painter, especially in the city, may I add a few ideas: If possible find a sunny spot where to sit or stand but only if you wear sun glasses. Otherwise the glare from canvas, paper and palette will be unbearable. It’s amazing how a little sunshine on one’s back will create the feel either real or imagined of warmth. What I sometimes do when painting in cold weather in the city is to get a start on the work and put down the bones of the drawing. I may add a few color indications or written notes. Then I head for the warmth of the nearest coffee house to complete it from memory with a small painting kit. Also, I work small. Finally, the most important element of plein air painting is the remembered feel of nature one comes away with. The level of success of the painting is secondary to the moment experienced outdoors which you will carry back into the studio.

From: Corinna Taylor — Dec 16, 2011

Alcoholic beverages are not a good idea for keeping warm. They may cause a sensation of warmth but they actually cause your body to lose heat.

From: Susan Marx — Dec 16, 2011

Cezanne died from pneumonia caused by painting outside in cold rainy weather and Monet used a brazier (a small gas stove).Try to do that today and you will wind up in prison. Ahhh, for a world that was more understanding to its plein air painters.

From: Diane Overmyer — Dec 16, 2011

This has got to be my favorite of all of your letters that I have read! I chuckled all the way through it! I love your recommendation of vodka and how it can warm every part of the body! In my case, (only a moderate, once in a while drinker), I am sure it would also help to loosen up my brush strokes!! Two other items that I have found that help are a warm blanket for my lap, (if I can sit) and a thick matt to put my feet on. Also I learned the hard way, that working where the sun is hitting sure beats working in the shade!

From: George Perdue — Dec 16, 2011

There is nothing better than painting outside in the winter. You are so close to it and away from everything else. When we get sheltered from the wind we find that the French easel provides great protection from the falling snow. If you tilt the canvas towards you snow doesn’t go there and the palette is at least partially protected as well.

From: Paula Timpson — Dec 16, 2011

Plein air Art is forever new perspectives, moment by moment~ challenges run deep Light creates stars on seas Rainbows hurl pastel dreams beyond~ moons cycles circle and embrace Life!~

From: John Fitzsimmons — Dec 16, 2011

A number of years ago I thought I would do some bleak winter scenes looking out across a lake on a cold windy day in January in Syracuse. I set up behind my van and tried to paint for a while but it was so windy and cold I gave up after 20 minutes. Only later did I discover a spray pattern on the van from the wind blowing paint off the palette!

From: Frances Vettergreen — Dec 16, 2011

Out here in Alberta if you are sitting in a snowbank to paint, you don’t have to worry about grizzlies, even if they do like scotch as much as I do. Cougars, now, they don’t hibernate. I’ve been painting in the foothills of the Rockies this winter and am struggling with gouache freezing on palette and paper. Next time I’m going to try sitting my palette on a hot-water bottle, said hot water to travel in a thermos until needed. As for warmth: if I can, I swing the vehicle around so I can sit cross-legged in the open hatch out of the wind. Otherwise a hunk of closed-cell foam under bottom and feet makes a huge difference; ditto a neck gaiter like skiers wear. And, oh, I like those heated seats on the way home… Since I have to drive to access the views, my thermos contains spicy cashew-ginger soup. Yum.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 17, 2011

I respect and appreciate the dedication of plein air painters who brave the elements to perform their craft. We all know the magnificant outdoors is best perceived and painted in live experience … however, there are some of us that have become studio painters out of real necessity. It is far more than mere discomfort — it is health threatening. Ten minutes in direct sun or simply getting chilled is a risk I can’t afford to take anymore. So hat’s off to you stalwart plein air painters! I truly enjoy seeing your work if I can’t do it myself.

From: Eileen — Dec 17, 2011

Noble Conan [“The Vegetarian”], my late German Shepherd, came along with me into the woods on a cold, snowy afternoon. He lay in the snow with his impervious coat, surveying the woods while I painted. I had made great progress and felt smug, still warm from the hike in. Looked up and there were five deer no more than 15 feet away, across the creek. They, Conan and I all looked at each other incredulously for a moment, then he lunged straight for them– right between the legs of my easel. Everything went flying, but the canvas landed face up and no harm was done. I put it all back together and kept on. Definitely my favorite memory of painting with Conan.

From: Sheila Robinson — Dec 17, 2011

I’ve bought several pairs of the cheaper stretchy knit gloves at a discount store (like WalMart, KMart, etc.) that I can just toss if they get too messy. I’ve asked for one of those ugly but funky fur-lined bombadier hats with earflaps for Xmas so I’ll be better prepared when it gets really cold. I’m thinking of trying the hand and toe warmer packets. I’ll be ready. Love some of the other ideas. Thanx!

From: Kathy Hirsh — Dec 17, 2011

I love painting in the snow- short days and long shadows. I’m heading to Telluride, Colorado to paint next week. The sun comes up over the valley around 9am and sets behind the mountain at about 2. And when the sun goes down you better be ready to pack it in and head inside. I recommend standing on a piece of thick cardboard, lots of layers and at least 2 pairs of sox (dress like you’re going skiing then don’t), hot drinks, and a brimmed cap under your warm ear flaps, the sun can be fierce -if you’re lucky. When I paint in pastel I use vodka in my createx underpaintings, in oil I find Gamblin Radiant White to be nice and juicy in the cold.

From: Ellie Boyd — Dec 17, 2011

Thanks you got me “out”! 44° and wind, but I sat in my car and happily painted. As there was no designated driver, and it was warm and toasty in the car, no Scottish Antifreeze was needed! Will keep in mind for future trips, especially if I like the company.

From: Nina Rupp — Dec 17, 2011

Barbara Jablonski forwarded your e-news to her painting friends and that is why I signed up to receive it. I paint with Barbara as often as possible. She has gone to the art groups in the Rochester, NY area and done a demo on proper cold weather painting clothes. It is a fun demo to watch! We have not had cold weather or snow yet but I am looking forward to painting out this winter.

From: Cynthia Rey — Dec 17, 2011

You people are so great! It is a pleasure (for so many of us) to sit for a moment and read your letters. Today I was laughing out loud, thinking about how crazy us painters are…. And I agree with you on the Scotch.

From: Louise Francke — Dec 17, 2011

I have gone plein air painting with a wet suit under my clothes to keep warm on brisk windy and cold days. While others were freezing I was steaming and taking off my hat to cool down a bit. I like to take along hot cider for warming up — at the end of the day I might add a little Calvados to it. Guess I’m a little eccentric.

From: Alfred Muma — Dec 18, 2011

I miss painting on location in sub zero temperatures living on the warmish Sunshine Coast. So when I awake early and the temperature is zero or less I quickly set up my watercolour kit on my studio deck and paint from my sketches hoping frozen watercolours can happen. So far this winter the humidity has been too high when it’s been cold enough for water to freeze. In order for sublimation to happen (a solid state going directly into a gaseous state) two factors are required, freezing temperature and low humidity. The effects of watercolour pigment freezing in layers on top of each other, the pooling of pigment at the edges of brush strokes and frost patterns all remain in the painting if sublimation can take place. Lots of fun…cold but very rewarding. And of course one has to dress for the occasion.

From: Mary Pyche — Dec 18, 2011

I attended a few plein air demos with a local popular artist–being a spectator is possibly harder in freezing weather–but this guy wears insulated mechanic’s overalls (It’s a one-piece affair) and the snoopy headgear with the flaps. Well, I met him at his solo show recently and was very surprised that he was so thin in his regular clothes!

From: Carol Morrison — Dec 18, 2011

In my case I wore a Skidoo suit and boots that I got when my children were young, and I got very cold helping them to toboggan down a hill. The only problem with this was that on a sunny day it sometimes became too warm! Also, I paint standing, and sometimes found myself sinking into a puddle.

From: Gerald Mayfield — Dec 18, 2011

Aw!! eat your hearts out, the only snow we get here is on the top of Mauna Kea a dormant volcano over 10,000 feet above sea level. Temperature here is 72 degrees with a gentle trade wind blowing the smell of fresh flowers over the island. Paint every day with the only problem most of the scenes are green and blue/turquoise of forest and ocean. Come to Hawaii and bask in the sun in the middle of winter. Honolulu, HI

From: Helia Sousa — Dec 18, 2011

Thank you for the many emails and all wonderful information that I so appreciate. Also, my gratitude for all your valuable time and experience shared. I can’t find the right words to express my heartfelt thank you. Wishing you and loved ones happy holidays and the best for the new year.

From: Scott Kahn — Dec 18, 2011

I used to paint from life, outdoors, but the vicissitudes you cite drove me to the studio. Ultimately, it was best for my work because I began to rely on my memory and imagination, rather than direct observation. My work became more poetic and less illustrative. Art springs from life but it doesn’t mean we have to be tyrannized by it.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 19, 2011

In all honesty, many artists no longer suffer bad weather any more but just can’t fess up to taking photos and painting indoors. It’s time to be honest so the rest of us can go outdoors just for research, smell the air and high tail it for warmer surroundings. Come in artists — own up! Yyou all don’t sit in the rain to paint a rainy day. You know who you are. Stand up…

From: Richard Mazzarino — Dec 19, 2011

Even some great Landscaper painted of the past in thier studios. This is a known fact. Need I name names???

From: Richard Mazzarino — Dec 19, 2011

Even great painters painted in thier studios. Last comment skewed due to cold weather. :)

From: Martha Bredwell — Dec 19, 2011

I have always tried to avoid painting in the cold, but have done it many times when the scenery was too wonderful,. In “sunny” California we have fog in the summer and wind in the Spring & Fall. I have retreated to my car when the cold really would not let me stay out any longer, but it’s just not the same. In college, I’ve sketched and did pen and ink drawings in the snow, but we don’t get snow in the San Francisco Bay area. When the weather is foggy and cold, I find that my watercolors don’t dry, and so I try to work on two paintings simultaneously. Wind is a real problem with a light- weight easel. A lot of times I will paint on my lap. Tony Van Hasselt used to recommend mittens when painting outdoors in his Fall workshops. I like to seek areas that offer protection from wind & cold. Bicycle gloves work well for me along with heavy socks (2pr) and heavy hiking boots. I love painting outdoors, but find as I grow older that I like the conditions to be not so extreme as to detract me from the job at hand.

From: Diana Rutherford — Dec 19, 2011

Thank you, Robert. This SO appeals to me — to paint in the snow. I live in Florida, but now I have a motor home. I’m not sure how well it will withstand freezing weather; the water pipes might burst, etc. and I will definitely have to find some good second hand clothing on my way North, but I’m going to try to find a way……I’m totally inspired!

From: Rena — Dec 20, 2011


From: Julia — Dec 20, 2011

I love to paint outdoors! No, no alcohol or anything like that at all! Summer is for painting outdoors, winter is for the studio or painting close to the rented cabin!

From: Angela Lynch — Dec 20, 2011

I dunno. There is something pretty magical about packing up the car, driving out somewhere, coffee in hand, music on, soaking in the hues, etc, arriving at a spot that screams “ha hah”! This year I’ve painted in blistering heat & sun to bone chilling cold. Each has it’s own individual issues. Kinda crazy but when else could I/would I wear those sexy thermals and snowmobile boots. Alcohol? Yup.

From: Rae Smith — Dec 20, 2011

Pastels is the way to go , don’t freeze.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 21, 2011

This is why God created — the model and the still life. he,he,he

From: Keith Thirgood — Dec 22, 2011

The coldest I’ve painted in here in Ontario was minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 F). Like others have mentioned, I dress in layers. An inner wicking layer, an insulating layer and an outer windbreak layer. Along with snowmobile boots I’m perfectly warm. The secret to warm hands is to use woolen socks over your hands, rather than mitts or gloves. I cut a pair of small holes in one of the socks and pass the paint brush in one hole and out the other. That way I get to grip the brush in my bare hand, and the sock keeps me warmer than any mitt or glove ever can. To keep my feet warm, I carry a square (3’x3′) of rubber-backed carpet, which I roll out and stand on. It insulates me from the snow below. I also limit my exposure to 20 minutes. After that, no matter how I feel, it’s back to the car for a coffee. I warm up there until I’m ready for my next foray outside. This way I can keep painting all day in sub-zero weather.

From: Marsten Alan Phelps — Dec 29, 2011

Canadians must be a hearty breed. I, on the other hand, am a delicate flower. Living on the southern shore of the Great Lakes in what is affectationally known as the Rusty Snow Belt, I find that my best piece of equipment for winter survival is my ambien bottle. I recommend sleeping through the winter. It’s a well known natural process used by bears as well as delicate flowers. The painting larder is somewhat bare in the spring, but replenishing it is that much more enjoyable. (It is a very good thing I don’t depend on my painting for a living, else I should starve.)

From: ellen — Jan 25, 2013

How do people work with oil paint when it’s below 30 degrees faranheit? Thanks!

    Featured Workshop: Jerry Markham
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Calm Before the Storm

acrylic painting, 20 x 24 inches by Patricia MacDonald, Canada

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Suszanne Droney of Huntington Beach, CA, USA, who, among others, asked, “What’s your favorite brand of Scotch that you would recommend? We have friends we would like to impress with the good stuff, but don’t have the slightest clue which brand to choose. Since I so appreciate receiving your Twice-Weekly letters with your wonderfully written insights, etc., I’m counting on you for a recommendation on the Scotch thing. I have little doubt that you would give poor advice.” (RG note) Thanks, Suszanne. I’m not an expert, but Aberdour is a fine, reliable single malt, hot, cold or neat. I’m also flirting with Glenmorangie from Tain in the Highlands. Also Bowmore from Islay is an excellent dark single finished off in Sherry casks giving it nice legs and a cute little skirt. Incidentally, several authoritative figures wrote to say that drinking anything alcoholic to fight the cold is not a good idea.