Frozen Toes and Winter Paintings


One of the few outdoor activities I enjoy in the winter is painting. In Canada, many plein air artists stick to the warmer seasons; I am the oddball. I do require a few ‘extras’ to help make it more bearable though. I’ve frostbitten a few toes, so now I use heated insoles. I also keep heated handwarmers in my pockets; I can only use thin gloves so I can grip my brush better. Finally, I make sure to have a hot thermos of coffee at the ready. Winter painting is challenging, but there’s a big advantage – no bears! Still, I’ve tried to convince friends to join me often, but with little luck. Granted, on the colder, windier days sometimes I wimp out and just paint in my car!

This winter, I added a new pochade box to my collection! For my non-artist friends, a ‘pochade’ is a special palette and easel designed to sit on a camera tripod. Most artists have a few, as each box usually has a limited number of painting sizes for which they’re suited. I have two, on which I can paint smaller pieces. I wanted to start working much larger though, so required a pochade with a larger space for mixing my paint. I asked my my uber-talented artist friend, Hermann Brandt if he could help. Hermann lives in Cochrane AB, and is not only a painter, but also a sculptor and woodworker too. Hermann’s answer was a palette that sits on the legs of my tripod. I then have a separate piece that sits on top of the tripod and holds my painting. I’d been looking for a similar style, but they were all too heavy and cumbersome. Hermann’s palette has worked like a dream, and I was able to support a fellow artist and our local economy. Win-win-win! Plus, it’s pure maple wood (how Canadian can you get!?) – look how beautiful…


If you’re interested in having Hermann build you something similar, contact him at: or by phone: 403-604-2394.

Here’s a few of the winter painting excursions that kept me busy this year.

A cold day at the beginning of January. Here I’m painting with my ‘Guerilla’ pochade box. It was such a windy day; hiding beside a grove of trees. But I had to paint that day because the hoar frost covered trees were irresistible.

These two images are from my new palette’s inaugural painting days! For most of our winter, we enjoyed unusually warm and sunny weather. This location is west of Calgary, just off Coalmine Road. My new palette worked like a dream. Highly recommended!

And then there’s the days where you forget your tripod – d’oh! Luckily my car has a hatch, so I was able to set my pochade in my lap and still get some work done.


A blustery day that was threatening snow. And within an hour or two of finishing this sketch, the snowstorm hit. It ‘grounded’ my plein air excursions for the following week or two; was glad I got out to paint when I did.

And then the end of February finally came and I was off to Mexico!!

From Left to Right: 1) Painting at the beautiful Casa Buena Art Retreat – just a couple hours north of Puerto Vallarta in the Riviera Nayarit. Owner Jane Romanishko hosts many workshops all winter long for frozen Canadian artists to enjoy. Thanks Jane!! Highly recommended. 2) Painting boats near San Blas; afterwards we were enjoying cervesas and lunch at Casa Manana restaurant… I have such a rough job! 3) First rule of plein air… never ever leave your easel unattended! Here I am, caught red-handed defacing a fellow artists canvas. Of course he hadn’t started painting on it yet – I do have *some* professional standards. And we both paint in oil, so it was easily wiped off. 🙂

Since I’ve been back home from Mexico, we’ve been enjoying an early spring. Hopefully my next months of plein air will be filled with greenery, flowers and warm weather. Thanks for reading; until next time,

Cheryl Peddie

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