Walking around my favorite lake on a recent autumn day as the leaves gently drifted on the breeze, I came across this small turtle who seemed to have big plans. Balanced precariously on the tip of a submerged log, he stretched out his legs with aerodynamic precision and lifted his head toward the sky. With his eyes closed tightly, I could imagine him repeating to himself, "I believe I can fly ... I believe I can fly." We can dream, can't we?
I wanted a close-up of Mr. Turtle on his inaugural flight, but when I cropped the photo I could tell that the surface of the water would look vertical without some visual clues. So I decided it would be important to move some floating leaves into the foreground and have them overlap the turtle's reflection.
In my under-painting I worked out the composition with the leaves and added some hints of leaves floating on the surface behind the turtle to indicate distance. At this point I was excited to begin capturing the turtle's character, as well as the smoothness of the water, while the under-painting was still wet.
In the final painting, you can see the important role that the leaves play in defining the surface of the water and in leading your eye into and around the canvas. Of course the turtle doesn't care about all the things I did to properly compose him ... he's too busy launching his dream :)
I Believe I Can Fly, available
Here he is framed: