Each of my paintings begins before I even pick up a brush, with a compositional image of the painting in my mind. If the painting requires historical or ethnic details or is an illustration, I begin researching details such as costume, furnishings, plant life, geographical features, etc. Sometimes all that is required is a walk outside or browsing an encyclopedia but most often I perform extensive research on the Internet or at the library. If the painting is an illustration, research centers about the book or material which is to be illustrated. Once I have created the image in my mind of the ideal painting, the frenzy begins and I find myself thinking of little else during my working day.
Once the compositional elements of the painting have been determined, I next create a small sketch on tracing paper, allowing me to make numerous iterations. In order to perfect the proportions of the figures in the painting, I sometimes refer to magazine models to aid my visual memory but most often make use of digital photographs of family members, especially myself. The photos can then be traced into my sketch and modified as needed.
When the tracing paper sketch is absolutely as perfect as I can get it, I use digital manipulation to enlarge it to fit the size of my canvas. I then transfer the enlarged image onto the canvas. Now at last it's time to paint!
I use large brushes to cover the entire surface with background colors. I then blend in shadows and highlights using mental approximations. If the lighting is complex, however, I arrange a setup to mimic lighting conditions so I can determine where highlights and shadows should be placed. After I am satisfied that color blending is smooth and polished, I move to the detail phase of the painting which I enjoy most. I use a set of very small brushes to add the details which give my paintings the crisp look that I find so appealing.
When the day comes that I feel the painting is complete, I set it aside. In passing, I glance at it from time to time and usually, I find at least one thing that I could improve. I have found that if I take several "fresh" looks at my work, I can better perfect it, allowing me to experience the feeling of satisfaction which makes the process so rewarding.
During the painting phase, I often listen to a book on tape -- a really delightful way to accomplish hours of work while immersed in a fictional adventure! The entire process from conception to completion of the painting takes from one to six weeks, depending upon the size and complexity of the painting.