1. Every great painting is born of an equally great plan.
2. The most important step of your work takes place before you ever begin the painting, as you clarify your vision and develop your plan. Create small thumbnail sketches as a way to focus your vision.
3. With a clear vision before you, consider using an underpainting wash to efficiently chart the course for your work, and establish an overall color mood. Additionally, you can wash in complimentary colors to add some color interest to your final painting.
4. Now develop and refine your vision on the surface without overworking it! The underpainting gives you a very effective way to establish the large masses of value while setting up the color. It also gives you a feel for the overall mood. As the work progresses, ask yourself questions to assess when you are finished, Here are some questions to ask yourself:
"Where do I want the viewer's eyes to linger? Where is my darkest dark? Where is my lightest light? Are my values working as a whole? Is the dominant color warm or cool? Are my shapes simple enough? Are there edges that need softening or sharpening? Do I need any color accents to liven things up? Is there too much detail in any area? Do I need to apply any freshening marks to the painting? Are there quiet areas in the painting? Have I accomplished my vision yet?"
Keep this inner dialogue going throughout the painting process so that your work progresses intentionally and efficiently, and doesn't become labored. When your personal inventory of questions is satisfied, step away from the easel because you are done!