Post Polar Vortext: Painting on Thick Ice

It was so great to paint outside today. Earlier this week, temperatures were so cool that I didn’t leave the house. I worked from home for a few days so it was great to get some fresh air.

Everyone had the same idea today. I headed out to Lake Minnetonka (MN) to check out some of the ice houses since they were something that I’ve not painted before. I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t know if anyone would mind. Unfortunately, I forgot PBR’s (that seems like a typical fishing brew?) just in case I needed to get on someone’s good side. I can’t say that I know the fishing etiquette, but it turns out that people were curious and no one minded that I was there. 

Abbey Fitzgerald Outdoor Painting at Lake Minnetonka

Today was so warm today that fishermen and fisherwomen did not need to be in their ice houses. Many people were out fishing, biking, or walking today. There was a lot of activity on the lake, which was really fun. Everyone needed to get outside today in this 20-degree (Fahrenheit) heatwave, considering it was -25 degrees a few days ago.

I got to the lake around 10am and the sun was out. I was so happy because there is nothing more beautiful than light and shadow on snow. It took some time to find the perfect spot. Today was so warm that houses were getting moved around and it was important that the house stayed in the same place for an hour or two. A truck could have come and hauled the house away at any point which helped me paint quickly and stay motivated. 

Abbey Fitzgerald Painting on Location

Before getting out there, I had a vision of strong contrast. In my mind, I pictured both light and shadow on one side of the dwelling. However, I was finding all in light, or all in shadow. The sun may have been too high or maybe I'd have to wait until the afternoon (it became cloudy around noon, so that wouldn't have worked). It wasn’t a lost cause. I noticed a nice, shiny house in the distance. 

The timing was right because the sun was so bright and shining off the roof of this gray ice house. The was a strong blue shadow on the ground below it, which really helped anchor it. I wanted to try something different. It’s not too often that conditions are perfect in the winter. There were so many tire tracks and footprints in the snow, giving it a nice texture. I wanted to play around with leading lines. In reality, the lines had a zig-zag to them. I did intentionally simplify so the lines would lead the viewer to the house and keep the attention there. 

Abbey Fitzgerald Ice House Painting at Lake Minnetonka

Sunglasses were a must! It was so bright. However, because it was so bright everywhere, I needed to prioritize where the lightest highlight was. On the roof of course! That’s what drew me there in the first place. Knowing that, I had to dull the snow down just a bit to keep the attention on the roof. In reality, the snow was probably just as bright. When I took my glasses off, I thought so, but I have sensitive eyes so I’m not sure if that’s one hundred percent accurate. 

Abbey Fitzgerald Winter Plein Air Painting

This really is a case of "you really needed to be there". This time, I remembered my “good camera”. I bracketed my reference photos but the will never capture the subtle colors and other nuances. Days like this are why I really enjoy plein air painting. As much as I like being warm, there’s just no substitute for being on location.