We all have different tolerance levels for painting in cold weather. I do not like being cold, so I am forced to cut back on painting outdoors during the winter months. However, that does not mean I have to run and hide in my studio with a stack of reference photos, there are still ways to keep working from life even when it is too cold to actually go outside and paint. Here are a few ideas:
1. Get a sketchbook and some pens. A sketchbook is a perfect way to do quick studies that you can finish before you get too cold to concentrate. Working fast teaches you how to key in on the important shapes early on and ignore the detail. Most people have difficulty ignoring detail, it is a great skill to develop. Once your structure is in place, you can add as much detail as you want, but not before, and you might even find it isn’t necessary to cover up that structure.
2. Look out the window. What better way to paint the outdoors when it’s cold out! Your window is the perfect place to settle in with a cup of coffee (gotta have coffee!) and your favorite medium. You can practice things like atmospheric or linear perspective, capturing changing light and all the other things you do outside, all from the comfort of your home. Try it in different rooms with different views!
3. Paint a still life. Even if you prefer landscapes, working from a still life teaches you the same skills as working outdoors, except you have more control. You control what to include in your set up, how it’s arranged and the lighting. Try to think of it as a miniature landscape when working out your composition, it’s great practice and so much better for you than practicing from photos.
4. Draw your hand or foot. Every artist needs to practice anatomy, be your own model and try sketching your hand or foot in charcoal or any other medium that you prefer. It’s challenging and a great way to learn about proportion and simplifying forms.
5. Do a self-portrait. Take the concept of being your own model a step further by painting yourself–from a mirror or use your web cam–but don’t use a static image. Get used to the idea of painting a LIVE model that moves. It will help you get more life and gesture into your figures.
Each of these exercised can help you to get through the winter months if you’re not into painting in cold weather. So grab your coffee and your favorite medium and get busy indoors!