Pretty much any kind of project requires a process....then a lot of problem solving and adapting to things you weren't expecting. Usually, with any painting that I dive into, I have a general concept of what I think the piece should look like compared to what the client tells me they want. This piece, "A Good Clearing," was loosely and generally told to me as wanting a a couple Redfish tailing underwater, with part of the tail spot out of the water in the foreground....everything else was pretty much up to me.
If the Redfish are tailing, they are going to be in the grass and there is a good chance they are searching for crabs, as all those details would go in at the end, when all the other main stuff was put in. First, you gotta do some sort of sketch. I did the first sketch and was told they wanted the fish a lot more vertical with the tail out of the water...."oh yea, you told me that from the get go...sorry!" So the next thing I showed him was the canvas with that in mind...I kind of skipped a step with no next "sketch."
The next move is to block out the darkest colors and get an idea where the darks are going to be so I can start balancing out the shades and where the grass may be along with the right perspective. The hardest part of this panting to me was a the reflection. I had some pretty good references for the fish from my own pictures I have taken underwater and from the aquarium (Cheating??..nah). My favorite part of the whole process is getting the details down on the fish. There are many steps to make it happen, and the fish looks pretty elementary as this process takes place and seems as though there may not be a chance for it to take shape. Laying down the darks, then the mediums and finally the highlights and it comes to life. Doing the eyes last always makes it seem like the reward at the end.
After the mid-ground grass was done, I then added the oysters, which was a tougher task then I thought with a lack of good references. This Fall I took some low tide shots of oysters that ended up aiding me OK, but doesn't have quite the same look as with grass and different terrain that a hightide flat has compared to a lowtide mudflat. The last few touches were the fiddler crabs and the mud minnows. I kept the crabs somewhat elusive as to depict them with not so much detail as they are pretty hard to see underwater.
Obviously, there is a lot more that goes on, but this is the process in a nutshell. I think it is just fun to see the canvas process as it comes to life as a painting.