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It was extremely important to get the right gradient from a very dark blue at the bottom to light blue at the top. So I first painted a stripe on the left side of the painting, adjusting the colors until I was satisfied with the gradient. It would have been much more time consuming to adjust the colors across the entire panel. Once I had a satisfactory sample gradient I could then continue all the colors to the right, covering the entire background.
I followed the same plan for the leaves, making sure that they faded out from bottom to top before painting all of them.