Well, I was able to put in some hours on this piece while I was away but never got the chance to post as I had no working computer. The most challenging aspect of this one so far has been the integration of the pine and fir needles with the background. Using mostly dark sepia I filled in as much of the darkest background as I could around the needles, then using raw umber I stroked in some of the branch work of the bough, doing it sporadically so it looked natural. Then using various greens I began filling in some of the needles, then a little negative space with the dark sepia, then a few more needles, back and forth till I could obtain the realism. If the background had a little more green shadow to it, I layered the dark sepia and a green for that. Same idea was used to work around the red berries. Negative painting is a very important technique that many folks struggle with as it looks complicated but if you understand that you are simply working around the positive object it does get easier and the trick is to step back from your work and look to see if the negative space you’ve filled in gives the positive portion the correct shape and direction it needs. I think I’m going to darken the mailbox a bit more as I progress but it’s coming along nicely.