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Floating Leaves

5 x 7 inches, oil on panel

Today I spent the afternoon in Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden. I took 153 photos and was dazzled by how the design of the garden makes a beautiful composition appear from just about any angle.

I was too visually overwhelmed to choose a single view to paint, and after a while I just sat down in one spot and started noticing the small details of the fallen ginkgo leaves and Japanese maple leaves drifting by on the surface of a pond. I loved how the leaves looked as they floated on the surface and almost - but not quite - merged with the reflection of the trees and sky.

I spent a long time trying to figure out how we see that the floating debris is on a different plane than the reflection. I noticed that each leaf makes a dimple in the surface tension of the water, which creates a wobbly outline and makes the leaf "pop" visually. I tried to imitate this in my little Monet-inspired sketch.

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