A couple weeks ago, Tom decided to take a video of the Stillwater Prairie boardwalk. I decided not to walk as far as the prairie and stopped at a bench overlooking the Stillwater River. The spots of sunshine on the gravel made an interesting pattern in front of me. Though it is not visible in this photo, there is a path between the trees that leads down to the river's edge.
I wasn't sure how long I had to sketch before Tom returned so I elected to start with a Micron pen sketch. He wasn't back by the time I had finished a general sketch so I put a few watercolor washes on the sketch.
Now I wish I had left it as it was, perhaps only accenting the ink shadows in front of me. But I didn't. Here is what I did, in five more steps. Two and three are below. Probably, you can view both of them at the same time so it is easier to compare the two and see what I added or changed.
In Stage 2, I added more detail with the micron pen, defining the foreground shadows, the Virginia Creeper on the foreground trees and the rocks. I started defining the path which is not visible in the photo. I also added more pen lines to the tree trunk with the overhanging branch and added scribbly foliage for the "weeds".
You will notice that the sketch I drew is different from the photo at the top of the page. I moved the trees in the background. The mid distant tree was in the middle as I sat on the bench and I didn't want it to be the focal point. I moved it to the right.
I painted that mid distant tree grayer and was immediately sorry. In Stage 3, I lightened the mid distant tree, and brightened the two nearest trees. I brightened the Virginia Creeper and added more foliage to the distant tree with the overhanging bough.
Below are steps four and five. Again, you should be able to view both at the same time and notice the changes. I started thinking about the yellowish river at this point. I did a lot of experimenting, lightening areas, darkening areas, adding yellows, and greens, taking out yellows and greens, adding Micron pen lines, taking them out. I plan to paint this river a lot more. Its color this time of year, an olive green, and its brightness at the same time, are challenging.
I also continued brightening here and there. Some day I hope to learn to keep the whites to begin with. I added a little Chinese white to the closest rock and to the Virginia Creeper. I worked on the contrast between the far shore plants and the tree with the overhanging bough.
I thought I was finished so I signed it. But I wasn't. I lightened and reddened the mid distant tree even more. I continued to experiment with the river trying to get a glassier look. I have done paintings I like better but I learned a lot by painting this one.