I'm sure that it has been 20 years since I snapped these photos. It was one of those scenes that an artist tucks away in his head until his idea has gelled and his skills are polished enough to handle it. I don't think any earlier attempt would have produced as successful a result.
After toning the canvas, I placed both the animals and the horizontal lines that divided light and shadow. I made sure that the bottom of the top shadow area was not in the center of the canvas and that the shadow in the foreground was more narrow than the lit pavement.
The figures themselves are roughly drawn. I will refine it throughout the painting process since these shapes are very intricate. If ever there was a painting that depended on "putting the right color in the right place," this is one. The interlocking shapes will be carefully drawn and placed.
I start with the darker animals and the shadow area on the rider's mule.
Next, I use a dark wash to create the background shadows. They will be slightly lighter than the darkest mules.
I also wash in the foreground cast shadow.
I've placed a light area behind the rider since he is the focal point. I developed him enough to keep more detail there as I work on the mules and packs.
Now came the fun. I worked shape against shape... positive and negative shapes... to draw the mules, packs, cast shadows under the team and the sunlit pavement. Almost miraculously, the individuals appeared.
What fun it was to do those characters in the back, peaking over the others and their forest of legs that broke up the space.
Halters, ropes, harness, and hat moved value and temperature changes across the line. Breaking up the foreground with a few accent spots and I was finished.