Working in acrylic, I am going to try to capture the subtle lilac colour of the sky reflected off water and the glossy surface of the water-lily pads, contrasting with the lime green translucence of the lily leaves where they curl  up against the light.  The scene will be inhabited by the moorhens which regularly forage over  these leaves, occasionally sinking into the water.

The starting point is a board prepared with gesso, onto which the scene is very lightly outlined in pencil.
The two birds are sketched in, and a yellow-green wash is applied to some of the lightest areas, the backlit leaves.  Although I am using acrylic, I tend to use it very thinly and allow the whiteness of the board to shine through, as one would in a watercolour.

The painting is mainly concerned with the lighting effect, but I am not happy with the initial placement of one of the moorhens, so I  move it to a closer position where it will lead the eye through the painting more effectively.
It’s darkest parts are roughly painted in, plus a hint of some of the underlying colours within its plumage.  Looks more like a purple swamphen than a moorhen at the moment, but all will be modified when I come back to do the detail.
Then on to the other bird,  divided into its shadowy and reflective parts.
Now exploration of some of the  midtones in the foliage, and  thin washes to set out the flat reflective leaves in the foreground.
Having established some of these important dark values, other shady areas are picked out.
Off to the top of the painting, with thin yellow to mark out the central foliage and a lilac wash on the water.
Some dark recesses in the bush on the left are painted in to define the strap-shaped leaves in front.  Although I am working in acrylic and in theory could just add these leaves later in thick opaque paint, here again I prefer to let the board shine back as it would in a watercolour.
Work on the distant  water and duckweed starts to give definition to the central willow, and dark reflections start to turn the closer water ‘wet’.
This stage can go on forever, so it’s time to stand back for an overview, or should that be a pause for reflection, and ask myself  “Can you see what it’s meant to be yet?”  

And there’s the much-feared melodeon that lives beside the easel for instant therapy - when painting for prolonged periods I find a quick blast on it helps to get other parts of the brain working again, and I can go back to the painting refreshed.  Unlike the poor neighbours.
There is always more that could be done, but time eventually runs out - it’s 6.20am, on 19 August , and time to load up the first mountainous vanful of gear and head off to Rutland Water to set up the stand at the British Birdwatching Fair.  I’ll put the painting in its frame when I get there...
No marks for the photographic quality as these studio shots were taken under random lighting conditions as I reached particular stages, often at the end of the day, but they at least give a record of my approach on this painting.
A lengthy period follows in which midtones and details are added, edges are sharpened, and thin glazes are used to blend and modify  - whatever it takes to get the leaves to separate in 3D or to glisten on the surface of the water.

All images © MC Wood.