The Colors of Winter
Essay by Douglas Smith
Think of winter and the colors that come to mind are white, gray, brown, and more gray. Trees bare of foliage, gardens stripped of brightly colored flowers, and lawns gone dormant certainly do limit the wide range of colors associated with the other seasons, but with the addition of sunlight on the land and water, the seemingly drab colors of winter suddenly take on a subtle richness.
A walk along the shore on a sunny winter day at Ash Point Preserve in Owl’s Head provides a chance to see the ocean’s color, a bright cerulean blue, and because the sun is so low on the horizon during its arc across the sky, there is often a dazzling gleam on the surface of the rippling sea. Look into the forest and notice that light is more apparent on tree trunks due to both the low angle of the sun and the absence of undergrowth foliage. On the forest floor the mosses retain their luminescent green hues lit more intensely from unfiltered sunlight.
The many ponds and lakes in the Georges River watershed have another array of colors very different from the colors on salt water. Look carefully in the early morning or close to sunset and you can see lavenders, rosy grays, and pale warm colors reflecting like faceted gems on the gelid surfaces. Once the sun nears the western horizon it casts a warm glow of orange and gold upon exposed branches and hills to the east. And if snow blankets the land, there will be a myriad of warm and cool whites depending on the angle and strength of the sunlight.
So much of the beauty in nature is illuminated by the sun’s energy and the brighter the light the greater the intensity of colors, including the long, cool shadows of winter. Winter’s palette of colors may not be as intense as the colors of the other seasons but there is a richness of subtle hues to enjoy while hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
Douglas Smith is an artist who works in a variety of media, including watercolor, oil, pastel, pencil, color pencil and ink. Smith studied at Lyme Academy of Fine Art in Connecticut, where he received the first John Stobart Fellowship for Outdoor Painting in 1989. Smith is a long-time volunteer for the Land Trust, and has worked to restore many of the sculptures at the Langlais Sculpture Preserve. Smith lives in Rockland.