My initial block in was with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue thinned with some mineral spirits. I used a little ivory black for the darkest darks. At this point the animals are just simple shapes that needed refinement. I eliminated the cow's head at the right edge of the painting.
I toned the canvas with burnt sienna immediately before starting the painting. That way I didn't have to stare at a white canvas but could still wipe out some highlights. As a result of toning the sky is a pinkish orange color which I liked.
Under the circumstances there could only be so much color. Sheep, a cow and lots of mud doesn't scream "colorist territory" but I thought I could play with the tree and the distant mountains and sky.
Lastly I put a bit more light on the tree with some red tones, but I didn't want to indicate bright sunlight. I lightened up the ground and developed the faces of the sheep in the foreground trying to leave the animals in back as suggested forms. I filled in the darks in the sheep with some warm and cool half tones. After the painting was dry I glazed the distant field, the foreground and the shed with more chroma (saturated, less grayed), both warm and cool.
I had fun with this one and will try it again. Exercises such as this help painters develop their imaginative skills and offer a break from the same old routine, just like trying challenging new subject material.
Many thanks to Laura Todd for providing the reference photo.
And thanks to you for reading!