Once the values are established, I can both see and feel the painting. The underpainting provides the bones of the composition, and, if the painting has good bone structure, then adding layers of color is like dressing the perfect model. The sky, with the hazy full moon, is the dominant element of the painting, and, while I work on all areas of the painting in any given stage, the sky comes to completion first. To give the sky some depth I include a raft of clouds. Cloaked in a warmer gray, the clouds are edge-lit by the moonlight, and they also provide a sense of movement to the sky.
When the sky is realized, I begin to pull the landscape beneath it into color and resolution. The background trees are soft-edged, and the marsh grasses reflect back some of the moon’s light. I work toward the foreground, adding more texture to the grasses, and more of their local warm brown color. The middle ground trees, temporarily swallowed by the painting of the sky, are redefined. The big pine, standing alone on the right, is treated to greater detail to give it a character of its own. (Every tree is, indeed, a unique living being, and I love to paint them as individuals.) As I work my way toward the foreground, I delineate some of the grass stalks, making them tall enough to give the feeling of myself being almost at water’s level, down into the landscape.
As a nocturne, the hues in this painting are subdued, and lean toward the cool side of color temperature. The moon, and the foreground spartina grasses, provide the warmer notes to balance the composition. The moon, of course, has pride of place; it is Earth’s dance partner as well as the choreographer of the tides on our living world, tides that make the saltmarsh the wonderfully and elementally wild place that it is.