Top 5 Tips for Sketching Through the Winter

Outdoors is where the action is when you are a nature sketcher. Yet when the last leaves drop and cold weather sets in, even the best outdoor sketching habits can begin to wane. In years past, my sketchbook often went untouched for weeks in winter. But for the last several years, I have resolved to sketch both inside and out all winter long, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m hoping my top tips will help you keep your sketching habit alive all winter long, too.

Simple subjects are perfect when sketching in cold weather.

1. Over dress, under pack.
It is possible, even fun, to sketch outside in winter. Wearing extra warm layers will give you extra time while sketching. But there is no point in taking a full sketch kit. Pare down to your sketchbook and your favorite pencil or pen.

2. Sketch outside, paint inside.
Even if you only spend 10 or 20 minutes outdoors, being outside will add freshness to your sketches and help you notice what’s happening in nature throughout the year. Snap a photo for color reference or make color notes on your page and paint when you return home. Working this way will help you simplify when painting and will also improve your color memory.

3. Don’t rule out the small stuff.
I used to think I should only paint important subjects or nature subjects or meaningful subjects. But once I gave up that notion, all sorts of possibilities presented themselves. There’s real value in sketching ordinary objects. Not only will this keep you going, but you’ll practice different textures and techniques without the pressure of trying to make a masterpiece. 

4. Seek shelter.
Use your car as a mobile studio. You’ll be able to go father to seek out new subjects, and you may even be able to add some color. Just refer to Tip 1 before heading out. Cars are cramped and still get cold. You can also sketch what’s outside your windows. Bird feeders, trees, shadows on snow, and skies make fine subjects.

5. Treat yourself.
No matter how disciplined your sketching practice, if you’re at all like me, you’ll get tired of sketching in the cold. Plan a trip to a local botanical garden, greenhouse, or museum in February. Buy flowers in March (or sooner, if needed).

Try setting a goal for yourself for sketching throughout the winter. Maybe it’s getting outside once a month or once when the temperature dips below 50-degrees (or 40 or 30!). Or consider just completing one sketch each month, or each week. Enjoy what you discover…It will be spring before you know it.

Thanks to everyone who came to my class on Sketching Through the Winter at Winslow Art Center!

Here are a few favorites from the winter archives.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

17 Comments on “Top 5 Tips for Sketching Through the Winter

  1. I very much enjoyed the Sketching Through the Winter class. There is an app called Seek by Inatural that allows you to photograph any plant and get an identification. The site includes all forms of the plant, including its dried winter form. Very useful.


  2. Thank-you, Jean, for always making time to not just share your beautiful work on instagram but to write such generous blog posts and to give free demos as you did with Winslow. Your Art Chat with them was great, too. I feel as if I’ve actually met you now, thanks to Zoom. 🙂

  3. Sketching Through the Winter was an amazing class! I highly recommend registering for the replay to anyone who missed it live. Happy Holidays, Jean. I’m so glad we were able to “meet” through Zoom after all these years.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed your Winslow Art Center session. So generous of you to share your time during this busy season. Even more generous of you to share your talent and skills.

  5. I join in with all others who appreciate your tips for painting through winter. The slide show is an extra special bonus. I watched it over and over! Thanks always for your encouragement.
    Merry Christmas blessings to you.

  6. Thank you Jean. And looking forward to the Sketchbook Layout class.

  7. Hi Jean, I really enjoyed your “Sketching Through the Winter” class, and was so inspired by your lovely journal page created during the demonstration. Just WOW! I created a page inspired by your gorgeous work, and wanted to share it with you. Not quite sure how to do that though. I posted it on The NOVA Nature Journal Club, but not on Jack Laws Facebook site yet. I want to make sure you’re ok with it.

      • Hi Jean, thank you sooooo much for getting back to me. I added attribution to the nature journal page itself in addition to the remarks in the post. Looking so forward to your layout and lettering class!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: