When I begin an image, I like to start very loose. After I have discussed with the client what their needs are, I create a series of small thumbnails. These serve the purpose of fleshing out the imagery in my head and eliminating compositional elements that aren?t working. During this thumbnail process I also research as much as I can on the subject and collect a good amount of reference relating to it. Getting my mind into the topic is very important. This process can take time as I work the elements needed by the client into a picture that works for the narrative.
Once I find a sketch that is working, I begin to push in the values. I feel that a composition relies heavily on the value pattern and I really try to develop this simultaneously with the drawing. The sketch at this point, becomes more than just line. From here I can explore the drawing in more detail and tighten areas up with the aid of good reference. Ultimately, I try to stay loose while always looking for ways to push the drama of a piece through values. After all this groundwork is laid, the painting itself becomes a much smoother process.
Building a picture can often be challenging, but that challenge is all part of the fun. I really enjoy creating a strong drawing before I go anywhere. That drawing becomes an anchor for me, holding my whole progression together. In the end, what is most paramount is telling a good story throughout that process.