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Oil or Acrylic Exercise: "Winter Barn"

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and may not be copied, printed, downloaded, distributed or altered in any manner without

the express written permission of William F. Powell


"Old Winter Barn"

This painting of an old barn in the snow was in my first book, "Understanding Color" which was published in 1976. It was one of the most popular exercises and I saw it painted at numerous art shows and in many classes.

It is a simple little painting if we take the steps and do not rush. I have been told that my method of painting old barns is a bit different than most since I like to paint the entire barn in the dark shadow color before applying any boards or details.


Stretched Cotton Canvas: The original is on an 18" x 24" on stretched cotton canvas but please feel free to use any size you wish. I like to practice brush strokes, such as painting boards, on small scraps of canvas before making them on the final canvas.

Brushes: This little painting can be created using only two brushes. They should be soft, natural hair which holds a good amount of color. Some synthetic brushes work well with oil but I prefer natural hair brushes. One flat styled brush about 1/2" wide and one round with a good point will do the trick for this little exercise.

Colors needed for this exercise are:

Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre,Alizarin Crimson, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue,Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Light,Titanium White.

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Step 1.

Sketch the subject and place the elements. Do this by making a thin wash of ultramarine blue and thinner on your palette and use the pointed round brush to sketch directly on the canvas. Don't worry if you make a mistake, simply wipe it off with a little thinner on a cloth and re-draw.

Place the barn and indicate where the door, windows and loft will be, Then, loosely indicate where the distant tree line will be with a few simple up and down lines. Sketch in the hill and bushes on the lower right. Finally, place the two trees on the left side. Draw them so they go right on out of the canvas.

Step 2.

Mix white and a speck of prussian blue (prussian blue is intensely strong) and paint in the sky on the upper right side.

Next, add a little ultramarine blue and white to the mix and paint in the middle portion of the sky.

Then, add a speck of alizarin crimson and a bit more ultramarine blue to this mix and paint in the sky on the upper left.

Use white and a tiny speck of cadmium orange and block-in the light cloud area

Keep your strokes loose as this is just the under painting of color to establish the mood of the sky.


Step 3.

Soften the sky with a bit of white and cadmium orange and create the right, front edge of the cloud form, Then begin blending the other colors together for a soft merging.

Next, use burnt umber and burnt sienna and block in the mass of the background trees. Once these shapes are in, give them depth and form by using a little cadmium orange and yellow ochre to create some lighter, warm foliage forms.

Next, mix white, a speck of prussian blue and paint in the snow in the upper back left.

Then use the same purplish color you placed in the left sky and paint in the shadow areas. Add a speck of burnt sienna and prussian blue to this color and create the gray patch in the lower left.


Step 4.

Add a bit more color to the back trees and bushes using a bit of yellow ochre + cadmium orange and a speck of white.

Mix a light value of white and cerulean blue and paint in the lighter blue areas of the snow. The shadow areas are painted in using the same purplish color as the previous step.

Begin painting in snow highlights using white and a speck of cadmium orange. Create textures in the snow using combinations of the light cerulean blue and the light cadmium orange mixes.

Begin the under painting on the trunks using burnt umber, burnt sienna and white, yellow ochre and a speck of cadmium orange. Paint in the bushes on the top, left edge and bottom of the hill.


Step 5.

Paint in smaller details in the bushes, tree trunks and add branches using the point of the round brush. The light is coming from the right so make the trunks and bush forms lighter on the right side. Add a bit of dark burnt umber in the bush on the lower right since it is basically in shadow. Brighten up the background bushes where needed.

Next, paint a very thin layer of burnt umber over the entire barn. Leave a few small guidelines for edges and windows, doors, etc. When we drag our board colors into this dark under color, some blending will occur giving the boards an appearance of warping and age.



Step 6.

Now we paint the boards on the face of the barn using a flat brush and mixes of yellow ochre, white, cadmium orange and cadmium yellow light. Try to make the board strokes using a single up or down dragging stroke. Leave a small space between the boards and allow the board colors to blend into the dark umber base. Add lighter color to the boards where seen to add variation and personality to the boards and barn. Add a little alizarin crimson to the board colors on the shadow side of the barn and keep them darker than the boards on the face. Leave the areas of the door, windows and loft open. Place a little highlight on the edge of the door, window and loft.

Create the final depth and patterns in the snow using mixes of white + cerulean blue, white + speck of cadmium orange, White and a speck of ultramarine blue and white + a speck of cadmium yellow light in the brightest parts of the snow.

Use the light blue and orange mixes to paint in the snow on the roof and drag some down to form icicles.

Add a bit more depth to the foliage and grasses using a variation of the previous mixes.

That's it! I hope you have enjoyed this little barn painting!

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