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November 12, 2021
Christmas day is approaching and some of us are dreaming of fluffy-topped trees and snow-laden gardens. So much of our cultural imagery in the UK is associated with a glistening carpet of pure white snow as the ultimate Christmas scene and so many artists throughout history have wanted to capture the landscape which is magically transformed overnight.
In England white Christmases were more common during the 1550s-1850s, during the Little Ice Age. We have now become more accustomed to warmer, wetter winters and gone are the days when Winter Frost Fairs were an annual event on the frozen River Thames as in the 17th-19th centuries. Since 1967 England has experienced a white Christmas 25 times, although people may not have seen a single snowflake in some of those years.
The idyllic image of a white, snow covered landscape was popularised by Charles Dickens in 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The Pickwick Papers' creating this idealised notion of the perfect Christmas. This image alongside listening to the Bing Crosby song, 'White Christmas' has become a favourite around the world in hot and cooler climates, becoming the best-selling single of all time!
Buds and grasses in lemon and grey by Sarah Knight £175
Commission a portrait to capture your own favourite snow moment!
Can you remember a white Christmas I asked my friend and fellow artist Stella Tooth? She said she remembered the joy of her son John-Paul (now 31) experiencing snow for the first time when he was 18 months old and equipped with a pair of frog wellingtons to crunch through it. Capturing that moment in a drawing was the very first portrait she ever drew. And now that's how she makes her living! To commission her to capture your own special snow portrait, click here.
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?
If you're dreaming of a white Christmas you may want to check out the weather forecast nearer the day as snowfall is one of the hardest predictions for a meteorologist.
For many of us the crunchy feel and sound of snow under our feet, the warm cosy feeling of snuggling up 'Hygge'-style, watching snow falling outside and relaxing in front of a warm fire is the very epitome of a nostalgic Christmas. Echoed by all the Christmas adverts on tv the reality is becoming increasingly rare.
An 'official' white Christmas is defined by the Met Office as "one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK", however formerly the snow had to be observed at the Met Office building in London.
A bicycle made for two by Helen Trevisiol Duff £75
Yet the chance of snow-covered ground on this special day is now less common, occurring on average every six years. The last widespread white Christmas in the UK was in 2010 with snow on the ground at 83% of the Met stations. They say that 2015 was also technically a white Christmas with 10% of weather stations recording snowfall. Although most places in the UK do tend to see some snow in the winter, it generally falls in January and February.
The effect of global warming
As global temperatures rise will the white Christmas become a bit of Yuletide lore? Snowdays in the UK are becoming rare. The impact of climate change on how much precipitation falls and where is a complicated matter. Climate science cannot predict whether there will be snow accurately on Christmas Day in 30 years' time, but there are some general trends that scientists expect to see.
Global warming is tipping the odds away from the snowy weather we once knew. Festive playing in the snow, sledging and snowball fights on Christmas Day are becoming less and less likely. The impact of climate change on our lives is very real.
Snow can be a very localised phenomenon where one town may be completely covered and the next one only has a few sprinkles. Wind patterns come into play and snow has more constraints than rain, as it only materialises when temperatures fall below freezing point.
In a warmer future we will be experiencing more temperatures above that mark meaning less snow and more rain. Increases in greenhouse gases, destruction of marine ecosystems, deforestation have all contributed to global warming. In places in the north where temperatures do stay below freezing there will be even more snow fall because the warmer air holds more moisture. There is already evidence to support both of these trends with northern places recording more snow than in previous years. So the south is getting warmer and the north has colder but shorter winters, or so it seems!
Denham Grasses in stone and Hague blue by Sarah Knight £130
Although snow will become less common, extreme localised snowfall will become more likely especially near lakes. Global warming may also boost and alter the timing of snowfall.
Areas where lake-effect snow is common will see more snow as a result of global warming. There is a trend in snowfall later but with spring warming it won't last for as long. We will see more snow storms some of which will coincide with Christmas and we will see some extreme but short winters.
Why do artists love snow and white?
The purity of working with white is very exciting. Texture comes into its own and shadows are so important. Describing a form in white can be a sophisticated way of working and very challenging. Using white, the absence of colour, can accentuate composition and texture.
Inner strength by Gill Hickman £200
In a landscape, a heavy covering of snow changes our perception of nature as we pick out a simplified image of our world. The colours in the shadows, the light in the sky and the stark contrasts are often inspiring. We see new colours reflected from the sky on the ground, in the shadows - and the contrasts are somehow heightened. White is never bland but subtle and refined.
At Skylark Galleries many of our artists work with white from sculptures to paper to oil and watercolour.
Wobbly inside by Gill Hickman £1,500
So enjoy this blog peppered with examples of artworks highlighting the diversity of white, from the beautiful cool porcelain work by Richard Dickson, the textile work by Dianne McKinnon and the embossed paper artwork by Gill Hickman alongside others.
So let's still keep dreaming of a white Christmas! By adding a white artwork to your home you will have something beautiful and uplifting to look at on those cold winter days.
Fly guy by Amanda Gosse £50
A flutter on a flurry this year is a little hopeful, but with a sprinkle of Christmas magic you never know !
November 18, 2021
A really interesting article, thank you!
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