Sketches, Ref. & Research - I begin with small sketches of ideas. Sometimes I'll get inspired by a spontaneous line, a wrinkle on a paper or anything, and it evolves from there. The sketch on the top left is my first one. After taking photo reference and researching cranes and water buffalo online I decided to do another sketch. The final result after a few hours of fiddling with it is the middle image. Don't ever be satisfied with your first sketch. Do several and just have fun taking photos and researching!
Transferring & Maquettes - After a satisfying sketch I freehand the image on canvas with pencil, making changes and corrections along the way. It helps to have a great artist as a friend to critique your work before moving along as well :) http://ericfortuneart.blogspot.com/ Next if needed, I build maquettes using clay and other materials, take photos and establish forms. James Gurney is great at this and his work is awesome! http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/ He inspired me to create reference maquettes. The final drawing on the right is 24"x 36".
Color Study - I used to not do color studies but after struggling with my last painting I thought it would be best to take a couple hours to do so in photoshop. This is a really rough color study. Ultimately, it helps the painting process move faster. So, after hours and hours of preliminary steps it's time to spend hours and hours on the final painting.
In the final the foreground figure and crane will have crisp lines and the background will remain unfocused, something I've been experimenting with a lot recently and I dig it. I also plan to create the appearance of soft fur on the ground. The whole process currently works best for me and I encourage anyone out there to take the time out in the beginning. Believe me, you and your painting will significantly benefit from it. Thanks for reading and I hope it's inspiring!