The first thing I did was to locate and place the “sky-holes.” These are the places where the sky peeks through the canopy. Without them, the forest would be oppressive. I chose a pale blue, so as not to overly complicate this area. It was also important to remember to trace the multiple trunks skyward; it’s a bit embarrassing to find, too late, that a tree or two has mysteriously vaporized half-way up. While I was at it, the nearby trunks received a series of transparent glazes to validate their importance. And finally, I developed the foliage wherever I wanted the eye to be drawn, while leaving other less important sections quietly suggestive.
Then came the tousled forest floor, which lay replete with fallen leaves in every colour. The predominant colour was autumn orange, but i could find pinks, scarlets and purples mixed in, as well as dark sections where branches had fallen. Again, detailing this part of the scene would have made the painting too busy, so I chose again simply to suggest the rich disorder except where the path enters next to the biggest tree. The well-worn trail was almost clear of leaves and shone with milky purples and whites in my reference photo so I decided to treat it much like a meandering stream with lots of reflected lights. It starts up just below the lovely old maple on the right and is a critical component of the focal points - its main job is to draw the viewer further and further into the painting until she is finally directed back to the beginning.
Finally, I focused on following the shining path into the heart of the forest. The distant tree trunks have quietened into soft lines which echo the smokey blues in the mid-range. Only in the mid-zone are the tones rich and uncomplicated, the beating heart of a living forest where the sun breaks through and lights up a glade.
Within a few days the sheen will have died down and I will be able to truly judge the intensity of colours. A few more layers of glazing may or may not be in order before the painting takes on its independent existence. Bittersweet moments, these.