This is my favourite Howard Pyle painting which I saw for the first time in a color and composition class of Marshall Vandruff. He showed it as a extraordinary example for thoughtful picture planing. What is especially impressive about this work is how Pyle created the balance of complementary colours.
He designed the sail of the boat in the lower left like a knife coming from the cool waves cutting in the warm smoke. He chose a neutral color for the sail that reflects the warmth and coolness around it (like a real knife would do) and thereby connected them harmoniously.
I think that the metaphor of the sail as a knife made this painting stuck in my mind. It connected to a real life experience and put it into another context which made the painting even more engaging. It is a great way to think about picture making.