Earthbound Artist

Our Baffin Island Snowmobile Adventure

19 April, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Richardson party in Iqualuit on Baffin Island

To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, John and I, with friends Rick and Nancy, embarked on a 3-day guided snowmobile adventure on Baffin Island, in Canada's far north. Our trip was on Easter weekend, to take advantage of the long hours of daylight and milder spring temperatures.

Iqualuit Baffin Island

We flew via First Air on a Friday morning, from Ottawa to Iqualuit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut. This was our first view of the town from our airplane. We stayed at the big brown building at the top of the photo above.

John and Karen Richardson in Iqualuit Baffin Island

Our guide from Arctic Kingdom picked us up at the airport, and we collected our snowmobiles. John and I are pictured above on our Arctic Kingdom Polar Expedition Grand Touring Skidoo.

Richardson party on Baffin Island

We all went on a short test ride on the sea ice. The photo above shows John and I beside our Skidoo, with our friends in the background. Rick and Nancy each drove a Skidoo.

Sled dogs and Fuel tanks Baffin Island

We saw lots of dogsled teams tied up near the shore. In the background are fuel storage tanks, that are refilled every summer from tanker ships, to provide fuel for the town of Iqualuit all year.

Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island

After an excellent dinner and comfortable overnight stay at the Frobisher Inn, we set off early Saturday morning across the sea ice of Frobisher Bay (shown above). This 20 km crossing took us over tortuous 2-meter pressure ridges near Iqualuit, then over smoother sea ice to the far shore of the Bay. 

Baffin Island trip equipment

Our destination was the tiny village of Kimmirut on the other side of Baffin Island, about 130 km away. The photo above shows the two traditional qamutik (pronounced KAMmatick) expedition sleds made of wood and twine, and five snowmobiles, that made the journey. We had to bring all our gas, personal luggage, safety equipment, camp stove, and food with us.

Baffin Island snowmobile trail

We followed tundra trails through more than 100 km of Katannilik Territorial Park, and along the Soper River valley. We enjoyed sunshine and blue sky all day, surrounded by glaciated mountains and pure white snow. The trail was busier than we had expected, and we saw about 50 snowmobiles that day, because there was a snowmobile race along the route we were taking.

 Baffin Island trail hut

Shelter cabins, like the one pictured above, were provided at intervals along the route to Kimmirut. Travelers use them to get out of the wind for a lunch break or even to sleep in overnight. The huts are very plain, with one window, one door, a chimney vent, and three raised platforms inside. Visitors have to provide their own heat source, such as a camp stove.

Baffin Island guide making tea

The photo above shows the inside of the cabin where we stopped for lunch. This is Wayne Broomfield, our unflappable, capable guide, boiling water and heating soup on a camp stove. We enjoyed homemade vegetable beef soup and biscuits, hot chocolate, and ham, cheddar, and lettuce wrap sandwiches for lunch. Delicious! Wayne grew up in northern Labrador and still spends time there. In addition to working as an expedition guide on Baffin Island, he is a professional photographer. 

Baffin Island guide Malaya

After lunch we prepared for a steep descent down a mountain pass. We left the second qamutik full of gas cans beside the trail, hidden behind a rocky ridge. Malaya Qaunirq Chapman, our guide's assistant, is shown in the photo above, sans qamutik. She was born in the Iqualuit area, spent several years in Los Angeles, and returned to live in the north. She was fully bilingual and a delightful addition to our group.

Malaya on Baffin Island

The photo above shows Malaya in full riding attire, Baffin Island style (i.e. parka and goggles rather than snowmobile suit and helmet).

Baffin Island Willow Trees

We passed through the only 'forest' on Baffin Island – the Giant Willow Tree Forest. The trees reach 3 meters (10 feet) in height, although the ones we saw looked to be about 1 meter tall above the snow.

Kimik Coop in Kimmirut, Baffin Island

We reached Kimmirut by late afternoon and got settled in our rooms above the Kimik Co-op store.

View from Kimmirut, Baffin Island

This photo is our view of the harbour from the dining room above the Co-op. The tide is out, so the sea ice has subsided beside the iconic peninsula in the harbour.

Dinner in Kimmirut, Baffin Island

We were served a wonderful dinner - homemade buns, shepherd's pie and poutine with cheese AND bacon. Good job we all had worked up a good appetite that day.

Polar bear skin, Baffin Island

After dinner we walked around the village and visited the local museum to see their collection of traditional artifacts, tools, and clothing. We also saw this polar bear hide beside a house.

Friends on Baffin Island

After hot showers and a good sleep, we embarked on our return journey on Sunday morning. The day was windy with some haze, but it was interesting to see the scenery under different weather conditions. The photo above shows our friends Rick and Nancy with our guide Wayne.

Arctic sun, Baffin Island

As the day progressed, the wind increased and visibility decreased, but Wayne guided us confidently through the route back to Iqualuit. We wore our sunglasses the whole trip, because the Arctic spring sun is very strong and can cause snow blindness.

Waterfall, Baffin Island

We stopped to see this huge frozen waterfall on the Soper River. It was the same gorgeous aquamarine colour you see in glacier crevasses.

Whiteout, Baffin Island

Our guide, Wayne, took the photo above. John and I are on the snowmobile on the left. Behind us are Malaya and three local women who joined our group when the weather worsened.

Whiteout, Baffin Island

Wayne took this picture above. Rick and Nancy are in front, with John and I behind them. You could not tell where the land ended and the sky began - everything was white. But Wayne got us through and back to our hotel by late afternoon. Three of us ended up with a bit of frostbite on our necks, where the wind sneaked in between our jackets and helmets. Gotta have battle scars, right?

Arctic Kingdom house, Baffin Island

We returned our snowmobiles and qamutiks to the Arctic Kingdom office in Iqualuit (shown above). Afterwards, we had dinner at the Frobisher Inn, and Wayne entertained us with more enthralling tales of his Arctic adventures.

While we dined and talked, several local artisans came through the restaurant, offering their creations for sale. (This is an acceptable practice in the north.) It was wonderful to meet these Inuit folk, and it was a convenient and affordable way to acquire some quality paintings and carvings, as souvenirs of our visit to Baffin Island.

Group photo, Baffin Island

On Monday morning, Wayne picked us up from the Frobisher Inn, to give us a driving tour of town, before we flew back to Ottawa in the early afternoon. Above, we are pictured at the Arctic Kingdom office - John, Nancy, Wayne, Karen, and Rick - in front of four brand new qamutiks.

Iqualuit Baffin Island 

This is one of the residential streets in Iqualuit, above. Wayne told us house prices run in the $300K to $500K range and jobs are very well paid here.

Grocery store in Iqualuit Baffin Island

This is one of their grocery stores, above. Groceries are more expensive here due to freight costs - goods have to be shipped in during summer when the sea ice is out, or flown in during the rest of the year.

Trilingual stop sign in Iqualuit Baffin Island

Stop signs are tri-lingual in Iqualuit.

Tim Hortons in Iqualuit Baffin Island

And, yes, there is a Tim Horton's here too... Now you have no excuse not to go to Baffin Island!

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Grad Photos from my Watercolour Workshops

19 February, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Last fall, I enjoyed six weeks of teaching watercolour to a total of 30 students, at my studio in Lindsay, and at Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry. Here are some graduation photos.

My 'Island in the Storm' (2-day beginner/novice) class ran twice and it was amazing to see such excellent and varied interpretations from our reference photos:

Island in the Storm watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Island in the Storm watercolour class by Karen Richardson

My 'Pebbles 1-2-3' (absolute beginner) class also ran twice, as shown in the two photos below.

Pebbles 1-2-3 watercolour class by Karen Richardson

One of the students had this to say the next day: "Thanks very much Karen.  What a wonderful space you have to create!  I am so inspired and excited to see where this path takes us!!  I spent the evening in my studio last night and did a second copy of what we did yesterday and read half your book already lol.  I'm going to play this week in the evenings to just move paint around a little and get more comfortable.  I'm so inspired!  Thank you so very much for lighting this in me! ... Thanks so much for the wonderful introduction to watercolour.  I can't wait for the next Class!"

 Pebbles 1-2-3 watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Shown below are the grads from my 'Underwater Stones' 3-day intermediate level class, with their wonderful paintings well underway (to be completed at home):

Underwater Stones watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Here I am pictured below with some of the students in my 'Cedar Waxwing' intermediate level 6-week class:

Cedar Waxwing watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Last fall, I donated a free class for five students to Soroptimist International of Kawartha Lakes, for auction at their Snowflake Gala. Pictured below are the winning bidders, enjoying their class with me in my studio last month. We had a blast!

Pebbles 1-2-3 watercolour class by Karen Richardson

One of the students wrote to me after class and confided: "The watercolour class was so much fun and hard, too.  I loved the challenge.  I never thought I could feel that successful on my first lesson."

Pebbles 1-2-3 watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Another student wrote: "I want to thank you again for a very inspiring, and exciting day!  We were all pleasantly surprised at how our artwork turned out, and you definitely made us feel comfortable so we all had fun. Thanks so much!"

Thank you to all my students, who made a watercolour journey with me in the last few months. Together, we learned a lot!

Click here to see Karen's class schedule.

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The Making of 'Moongazer'

14 February, 2017 1 comment Leave a comment

Moongazer, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Recently, I completed this 16 x 12" watercolour titled 'Moongazer' (above). It is an imaginary scene, based on these three reference photos (below). The trees and water are from our travels along the north shore of Lake Superior, and the full moon was seen from my house. The sketched watercolour paper is shown beside the photos.

Moongazer, reference photos and sketch by Karen Richardson   Moongazer, first attempt

The second photo above shows the painting after two layers of sky colours. I didn't like the way the colours were granulating, and I thought the moon should be higher and smaller, so I turned my watercolour paper over and started afresh with new colours.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

Here is the new painting above, with the tree and moon covered in yellow masking fluid, and the first sky layer on.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

This painting was slow to complete, as I had to let each sky layer dry at least 24 hours before applying the next layer. Shown above is the finished sky after six layers. The masking fluid has been removed from the tree, revealing the white paper.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

In the photo above, the first paint layer has been applied to the tree foliage and two layers have been painted on the tree bark. I left some paper bare at the top of each foliage mass, to give the effect of moonlight shining there.

Moongazer, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In this last photo, the tree has received three paint layers. Then I painted the distant hills and lake and let that dry. Finally, I painted the foreground forest in one layer.

This painting has an atmospheric mood that really captivates viewers. I am delighted that it found it's new owner even before I had it mounted and framed.

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The Making of 'February Flow'

08 January, 2017 10 comments Leave a comment

February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I completed this painting, February Flow, 18 x 24", just before Christmas and I have to say, I am enthralled with it. I don't know if my reasons are just sentimental (the scene is about ten miles from where I grew up), or if they are objective, but I feel like I captured something very special in this piece.

It has a Zen-like quality and looks deceptively simple. The painting is full of contrasts such as light/dark, still/moving, fragile/strong, simple/complex, quiet/noisy, and frozen/liquid. The complementary colour scheme of cool blues and warm browns is a favourite of mine.

Let me share with you some of the earlier stages of this remarkable painting.

I found the subject matter quite by accident. It started with this view of the Petawawa River, near its confluence with the Ottawa River (shown below).

Photo of Petawawa River, taken by Karen Richardson

We were there on a snowmobile trip with friends last February, and stopped briefly on the trail so I could take some photos. The sun was shining on my camera's digital display, and I had my helmet on, so I couldn't see what I was photographing exactly. I just pointed the camera at the river and took the shot. It wasn't until I reviewed my photos at home after the trip, that I noticed the lower left part of the scene. Here it is enlarged (shown below).

Photo of the Petawawa River, taken by Karen Richardson

I knew it would be a great painting subject, and finally last month I got to it. I decided on a fairly large format (18 x 24") to do justice to this scene.

After I drew a detailed sketch onto my watercolour paper, I masked out the sapling and painted in the first shadow layer on the snow, working on wet paper (shown below).

Step 1 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The next day, I re-wet the snow area with clear water and added a second layer to the snow shadows (shown below).

Step 2 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson 

The next day, I started painting the river. This was the difficult part of the process. I followed my reference photo very carefully, to recreate the shapes and values (lights and darks) so it would look like rapids. Here, the river is about half way complete (shown below).

Step 3 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

And here is the stage where the river is pretty well finished. I removed the masking fluid and painted the ice on the sapling (below).

Step 4 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The next day, once the paper was fully dry, I tweaked a few shadows here and there, and darkened some sections of the river to complete the painting (shown below).

 February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I titled the painting 'February Flow' because I am becoming more aware of how truly precious our fresh water is, how lucky Canadians are to have an abundant flow of clean water in our rivers and lakes, and how important it is that we protect our fresh water resources for future generations.

If you would like to see some framed views of this piece, click here for more details.

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A Winning Season

01 November, 2016 1 comment Leave a comment

It seems I live a charmed life. From every show I have exhibited in, for the last few months, I have brought home an award. How long can it last?

My recent winning streak started at The Northern Art Show in Apsley in August, where my display booth won the People's Choice Award and a cash prize. Here are photos of parts of my booth.

Karen Richardson's watercolour display at The Northern Art Show in Apsley, August 2016.   Karen Richardson's watercolour display at The Northen Art Show in Apsley, August 2016.

In September, I had two paintings accepted into the Kawartha Art Gallery's Annual Juried Show, and they both won awards and cash prizes. Rhapsody in Red won the 'Technical Skills & Use of Colour Award', and Caught in the Rain won an Honourable Mention. Both paintings are pictured below.

Rhapsody in Red, watercolour by Karen Richardson   Caught in the Rain, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In October, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish presented me with the Mayor's Award and cash prize at the PineRidge Arts Council Annual Juried Art Exhibition, for my painting Sunbathing Swallowtails, pictured below.

This show of 64 paintings is now being exhibited at the McLean Community Centre, 95 Magill Drive, in Ajax until November 26. The juror selected the paintings in the show from 178 pieces submitted by 96 artists, and the PRAC awarded almost $5,000 in prizes.

Karen Richardson with her award winning watercolour, Sunbathing Swallowtails

Here is a detail from Sunbathing Swallowtails:

Detail of Sunbathing Swallowtails, watercolour by Karen Richardson

My next big show will be the 40th Annual Buckhorn Fine Art Festival next August. Wish me luck!

And what did I do with all my winnings, you ask? Well, I tucked it all away in our 'vacation jar', ready to fund our upcoming winter snowmobiling adventure on Baffin Island. Stay tuned!

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

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A Lifetime of Enjoyment

20 July, 2016 4 comments Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time reading articles about the creation of art as well as the marketing side of the art business. I adore working creatively, but I also want to share my art with the world, rather than just keep it as a solitary pursuit. I recognize the fact that I need to find good homes for my art.

Wild Wonders - Lynx (Private Collection)

Recently, I came across a blog post by McKenna Hallett, directed at artists who are reluctant to act as their own 'salesperson' at art festivals. I think almost all artists, natural introverts, have faced this hurdle. The article grabbed my attention with this statement:  "You are not selling art. You are giving collectors the exclusive rights to a lifetime of personal enjoyment." That puts things in a new perspective.

'Rivers in Time' and 'Featherstone' (Private Collection)
Later, the article went on to say "Your art nurtures the creative soul in all who view it and forever enriches the lives of those who own it", making the case that artists are doing the world a favour by helping collectors find and purchase art.

'Desert Compadres' (Private Collection)
These statements resonate with me, especially when I think back about all the appreciative comments I have heard over the years, from previous buyers of my paintings. This lead to the creation of my tagline "Making the World a Happier Place... One Painting at a Time."

'Give Me Shelter' (Private Collection)

I have started collecting photos taken by some of these wonderful patrons, showing my artwork hanging in their homes or offices, in places where the paintings can be enjoyed on a daily basis. I plan to create a web page of this 'In Situ' art, to let people see my art where it enriches lives.

'Lunenburg Light' (Private Collection

The photos in this article are all from clients who have expressed appreciation for the joy my art brings to them. I thank you all.

If you are a collector of my work, I would love to hear your comments about how my art has made your life better in some way. If you could send me a photo showing my art in your decor I would be most grateful. Email your comments or photos to me at karen@karenrichardson.ca.

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Painting Seagulls and Sand

12 July, 2016 2 comments Leave a comment

For the first time, last fall I taught a watercolour class with birds as the subject. I discovered they are fairly easy to paint if one has a well-composed, sharply focused reference photo.

Here are the steps in the painting:

Step 1: (see photo below) I demonstrated the classical method of enlarging the image, using proportional grid lines. Looking at one square at a time on the reference photo, I drew the subject onto the layout paper in the corresponding square, drawing everything twice as wide and twice as tall as in the original photo.

Paintng Seagulls, step 1, by Karen Richardson

Step 2: (see photo below) Once the drawing looked correct, I traced it onto 300 lb cold press watercolour paper, using a graphite transfer sheet in between.

Using clear adhesive shelf paper and masking fluid, I protected the bird shapes. I also spattered masking fluid over the sand, using a tooth brush. The shelf paper and masking fluid keep the paper dry and clean while I paint the background, and will be removed prior to painting the bird and pebbles.

Once the masking fluid was dry, I mixed two neutral paint mixtures (one brownish and one grayish) using Indian Yellow, Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue, and Permanent Alizarin Crimson. I wet the sand area, dropped in the two colours, and sprinkled on table salt.

The salt absorbs water and paint and is scraped off when dry, but it leaves behind an interesting 'starburst mineral' effect in the dried paint.

Painting Seagulls, step 2, by Karen Richardson

Step 3: For the background, I mixed a medium green and a very dark green using the four paints listed above. I moistened the paper with clear water, just in the areas that were to be lighter. Then I brushed the medium green mixture onto the wet areas, and the dark green mixture onto the dry areas.

Painting Seagulls, step 3, by Karen Richardson

Step 4: (see photo below) The background had gotten lighter and duller when dry, so I glazed over it with Sap Green and added more of the dark green mixture to the shadow areas.

Once the background was fully dry, I removed the shelf paper and masking fluid. Using various mixtures of the original four paints, and with careful observation of the reference photo, I painted the bird feathers. I started with the lightest blue shadows and gradually built up to the darks, layer by layer. The beaks, eyes, and legs were done with the same strategy.

To complete the sand pile, I used a dark neutral mixture to paint the shadows cast by pebbles and large sand grains, and I scumbled over the sandpile with the side of a brush dampened with the same dark mixture. I painted the details on the pebbles using a fine brush.

To see a larger photo of the framed seagull painting Defending High Ground, click here.

Painting Seagulls, final steps, by Karen Richardson

Here is a photo of my students with their paintings. Well done, ladies!

Painting Seagulls - student graduates

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The Artist's Garden

27 May, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

In addition to painting, Gardening is a creative pursuit that I enjoy, although perhaps a better term would be 'Gardenscaping'.

Summer weeding can become a chore (although mulching helps reduce weed growth), but I love to build new garden beds - planning the shape; making my own triple mix from top soil, peat moss, and sand; and placing boulders in strategic spots as stepping stones.

Then comes plant selection - perennials and spring bulbs are my favourites - then planting, fertilizing, watering, and mulching. To me, it is such a satisfying process and result.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

I've been working hard this past week getting my gardens tidied up for spring. They all needed edging with a spade, some weeding was necessary, and I had to add a deeper layer of mulch to several beds.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

I planted tulips last fall in the garden outside my kitchen window, and I get such pleasure out of seeing them bloom for the first time.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

We have two crab apple trees in our front yard, both in bloom at the moment. The white one is ornamental, with inedible fruit that stays on the tree all fall and winter. The pink one has sweet fruit that drops every fall.

Tomorrow I'm off to the annual plant sale at our local horticultural club. I still have blank spots to fill!

I hope you enjoyed this little garden tour. Happy spring everyone.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of the artist's life and travels, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

Spring Class Graduating Students

02 May, 2016 5 comments Leave a comment

This spring, I had the pleasure of leading a total of 20 students on a painting journey, in my newly-renovated watercolour studio/gallery in Lindsay. We all worked hard and made some great art.

Shown below are the ladies of my three-day Autumn Bay class, starting to work on their paintings.

Autumn Bay class

The next photo is their graduation, with my demonstration painting shown at the bottom. Several of the students opted to paint larger formats and finish them after class.

Autumn Bay class graduation

 One of the Autumn Bay students sent me this comment after class:

"Thank you so much for a great painting session and the photos.  I am grateful that you included the steps of building up your painting as well.  It will be a great reference as I continue my homework. I really enjoyed the graduation photo. It is good to look at everyone’s work objectively when we have had some time to distance ourselves. Everyone did a fabulous job because of your excellent guidance. Thank you once again." ~Wendy M.

This photo below is from my two-day Canadian Road Trip class.

Canadian Road Trip class

You can see my demonstration painting in the bottom of this photo of the graduating students.

Canadian Road Trip class graduation

And here are some photos from my Pebbles 1-2-3 one-day classes.

 Pebbles 123 class

Although my Pebbles classes are usually for absolute beginners, I did teach one group at the advanced level. They started larger compositions in class so they could work on them at home. Here is how far they got in the one day class.

Pebbles class graduation

One student sent me this comment after class:

"Thank you Karen. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and really like PEBBLES!! Yeah! The way you explained colour mixing made so much more sense than the other classes I have taken. Thank you so much for our class yesterday." ~Maggie H.

Pebbles 123 class graduation

Another student sent this message:

"I want to thank you so much for welcoming us into your home, and for such an informative class.  You are very special because you make everyone feel comfortable, no matter their skill level. I look forward to taking another class." ~Marjorie B.

Pebbles 123 class graduation 

Two of the students who did additional work on their paintings at home after class sent these photos of their lovely work.

Painting by Ann Louise S.     Painting by Jane F.

Thank you to all my students, who made a watercolour journey with me this spring. Together, we learned a lot!

 Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting tips, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

Painting Pebbles and an Autumn Leaf

01 May, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Autumn Memory, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Recently I worked on this painting as a demonstration at a one-day Pebbles 1-2-3 class. Here is how it started:

Step 1: After drawing a crinkled yellow leaf as the focal point, I penciled in the pebble shapes around it, loosely inspired by a photo reference. Using neutral mixtures created from primary colours, I painted interior shadows in the pebbles. This starts to build the 3-D effect. The leaf will be left unpainted until the pebbles are completely done.

Autumn Memory, step 1

Step 2: Using a dark neutral mixture, again from the primaries, I painted the negative spaces between the pebbles. In the larger spaces I used a graded wash, to give the impression of an underneath layer of pebbles.

Autumn Memory, Step 2

Step 3: Using various combinations of primary colours, I painted the coloured pebbles. Since watercolour is transparent, you can still see the shadow layer showing through the colour layer.

Autumn Memory, Step 3

 Step 4: Using more neutral darks, mixed from primaries, I added the shadows cast by the pebbles and intensified the interior shadows where needed. After that had dried, I painted the leaf, first with pale yellow and then with darker golds. Finally, I painted the shadow cast by the leaf to finish Autumn Memory, 4.5 x 7.5".

Autumn Memory, Step 4

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