The image was built around the rule of thirds, using the grid spacing set to 33.3%. This way, I could check it easily using Ctrl + H to turn it on and off (Fig.05).
For the composition, I designed all the main rhythm lines to converge into the waterfall, to lead the eye to the interior of the piece. I placed a hue/saturation adjustment layer with Saturation set to 0 as my top-most layer. Using this, I could quickly check my values to ensure the painting was still reading correctly (Fig.06).
I wanted to break the bottom area a bit, overlap the water and also create a mid-sized shape so I created the big central rock. There is a large round rock like that on a beach that I go to often, so I guess I pulled that reference from there.
I also created two new adjustment layers – a Color Balance layer to take the color further and a Curves layer to raise the contrast a bit more. As I made these changes, I checked the navigator thumbnail to see if the image still read well (Fig.07).
Now, I began to add more elements. Using some custom brushes, I added the foreground trees. If I were doing this today, I would probably draw a tree from scratch, but for the sake of the exercise I took the easy and fast route. After that, I drew what looks like a native having a go with spear fishing. Notice his placement on the canvas, resting on the thirds intersection.
Next, I began to focus on overlapping forms as much as I could to create the illusion of depth. Also, having a nice variety of edges and a mix of big, medium and small shapes is important.
After this, I created a new layer, filled it with a desaturated blue and set it to Overlay. It will mix with the red palette and create some nice purples to tighten the palette together. I checked my values again and decided to lighten the mid-ground on the right to push it away even further in space. To do this, I used a soft round brush, manually set it to a very low opacity with a light desaturated blue and softly lightened the area.
Again, I used a Curves adjustment layer to regain a bit of the value contrast. It's important to start simple and desaturated, while slowly building color and in-between values (Fig.08).