I'm never totally positive when it's time to stop, and I confess, I always find it hard to let go. Plus I'm a slow painter. I like the easy pace of the contemplative process, the analysis, those adjustments, big and small, and I especially enjoy it when I can get into the bowels of a painting during its later stages. It's like reading a good book. I regret turning that last page, leaving behind a world that's given me so much pleasure.
Here are five images with accompanying descriptions describing some of my thinking at various stages during the making of this painting, and where it's led me. Keep in mind though that lots of time, thinking and painting has gone on between each stage.
1. In this version, a mid-point in the odyssey (check my last blog for the beginning images), the trees in the background are beginning to take shape. But I'm still struggling with how to make them distinct yet not overpower my main focus, the central character in my drama, that foreground tree. Should I make them darker, less distinct? How much detail should I include? They're the chorus, after all. They need to be heard, yet remain background voices. The color of the water and the sky is in flux here too. I've added a cloudy area, but I wonder, should the blue be lighter, darker, more robust?
2. The background trees are darker, closer in value left to right. I've also worked more on the filigree of branches that make up the foreground tree. I love those branches, one of the things that originally attracted me to this scene. I've also spent some more time developing the reflections in the water, and I've put a few more distinct clouds in the sky as well. The marsh grass still seems to be sitting well, so at this stage I've let that area be.
5. This is the final version. Lots has happened between stages 4 and 5. For one thing, the foreground center tree has changed quite a bit. I reorganized and edited it, and in the process the tree's basic color morphed from being a predominantly burnt orange to a mellow yellow-green. I wanted to emphasize the tree's structure and energy, to make it lusher, fuller and more dynamic. The background trees were also repainted again, bringing them more into focus and lusher, while the marsh grass was softened into a mellower yellow. I also worked to develop the reflection of the tree in the water more distinctly, adding more color, ripples and transparency to the foliage so it would be more in keeping with the reconfigured tree above.
For me the challenge of this painting has been one of balance: finding that place where both shadow and light can work together, where the competing colors of rich, dark greens, intense bright yellows and clear blues can find comfortable relationships, and where both water and land can reflect each other's reality.
You can see a larger, more detailed image of this completed painting on my website.