Have a Plan, Work the Plan
I know that structure or having a plan feels like it takes the joy or spontaneity out of painting but I find it is the opposite. Having mapped the painting out actually allows me to be "in the moment" when I'm at the easel. My first couple of years painting, I was all over the place. Never set my palette up the same way, no set palette of colors, diving straight into a painting. The results...poor paintings. Of course, I was just learning but looking back, if I had a little more structure, I could have eliminated many headaches. So here's my basic plan.
2. Now time to do quick value sketches. Editing the information that is not necessary. Asking myself if certain elements add or detract from the painting. It's my sketch that I rely on at the easel, not the photo. I will reference the photo from time to time as I paint. Many times, the photo goes away until the end of the painting process.
From the original photo, I eliminated the cobblestone walkway, the fence line,
the misc. potted plants, fence line & busy foliage in the background.
3. For students: Pick your format. Sounds silly but I'm amazed that students that will actually crop an image (i.e. a square format and then paint on a rectangle canvas).
4. Mix my palette. I generally premix between 85% to 90%. This allows me the confidence that I have a harmonious palette and that my colors will be clean and brushwork descriptive.
5. Time to paint. At this stage, I've eliminated the big black holes for a painting. It's now about the application of paint. If my head isn't full of design issues, drawing problems, incorrect values, bad color choices then I'm much freer in my application. This is where the interesting & beautiful brushwork can flourish. Choosing how to make a brushstroke is easier since I've already determined the correct value & color.
Students say all the time, I didn't realize that you had to think so much to be an artist. In a nutshell, YEP! Hope this will start you on your own path. Would love to hear about your process.