Winter Magic: Paintings of Montreal in the Snow

The creative discoveries that come with paying attention

Montreal is so beautiful under its blanket of snow. I have been savouring every minute of our last winter here in the Plateau neighbourhood. You learn so much when paying close attention to something and then making work about what you’ve seen.

This winter love affair began with the first snowfall – as I looked out my studio window with childlike wonder at the magic of new-falling snow. Our third-floor view is of row houses and rooftops with Mont-Royal silhouetted in the background (below). It’s always nice to see the mountain’s characteristic hump again once the trees have lost their leaves for winter.

There’s nothing better than watching swirling snowflakes as they fall. When I was younger, we had a couch with its back to a window and you could tilt your head back and watch as they fell down toward you. Lazy flakes falling gently. Mesmerizing. They fall in a rhythm and, yet, each snowflake seems to glide through the air in a way unique to it.

Have you noticed that snowflakes look white when seen against buildings and landscape, but they look grey when against a luminously cloudy sky?

In painting the winter that surrounds me, I am becoming familiar with the colours of snow. On bright sunny days, trees cast long blue shadows, incredibly rich, and stunning in their variety. Snow that is in shade, but not in strongly cast shadow, has such a stunning glow to it. (See the first painting in the gallery, below!) The colours are amazingly pure mixes created with magenta or cyan – two colours I rarely use on my palette, but find myself needing often as I paint snow scenes.

I now also know that hazy days cast soft grey shadows. I find myself able to tell what the sun is doing without even looking at it – just by looking at the shadows before me. It reminds me that as you create, you also expand in your capacity to enjoy and experience the world around you.

I love painting the way snow sticks to tree trunks and rests on branches… and houses, too, wearing their fresh coats of snow. It’s been a joy to uncover each little detail, each nuance, and a such a pleasure to paint my way through these discoveries.

I share paintings and the stories and inspiration behind them regularly on Instagram – I’d love to see you there. If email is more your style, I also have a Monthly Letter in which I share new work and gentle reflections on the creative process and making. You can sign up at the bottom of this page.