This is a return to an idea that I have used in both oils and watercolours. Painting the picture in monochrome helps me to assess the tonal balance, and makes the composition easier to plan. Some of this underpainting will become part of the finished painting so I chose to use French Ultramarine to add vigour to the shadows. I was re-using an old canvas, but the white acrylic I used to cover the original picture was contaminated with rust. That was a piece of serendipity, as the pale orangy glow is making the blue sing already!
I’m using a palette knife for these early stages, so as to get the shapes and tones down quickly. The composition works quite well – the long curving hedge meets the short straight one near the church where the dark holly takes the eye upward to the spire. I put in the figure at this point – figures always draw the eye – but it also gives a sense of scale. The dark foreground on the right frames the church and cottage neatly. The white gate could have been a second focus making for uncomfortable viewing as it is too far from the spire. However it seems to be behaving itself. Maybe the tree above it helps to draw the eye upward too.