Once you decide on your subject there are several ways to start a painting.
My favourite approach is toning and then loosely drawing direct on the canvas with a brush and then wiping back the light areas. This method will give you looser more painterly approach.
This is my goto method. Your paintings come out more painterly and you can begin to see if the value and composition is working. You can build up your paint slowly and wipe it back again.
1.)Mix transparent oxide brown and ultra marine blue deep with a little solvent and brush the entire canvas. Wipe it with a paper towel to dry and draw the outline of your subject with terra rosa or lighter paint. Dip your paper towel in gamisol and wipe back the light areas as you see in your subject. Now you have something to work with you can keep building shape by shape.
Graphing for Accuracy...
If you need accuracy or your subject has an insane amount of detailed you can use a graph. Draw the same lines on the photograph as the canvas.
For smaller paintings I can use four lines to divide the bird across and in the middle. (left) For larger paintings I will use more lines. (right) The graph makes it easier to measure between points. You can focus on one area and get accurate detail using the lines as guides between the points. With this method I won't tone the canvas and once the drawing is done I dive right into painting the birds eye.
Rose Tanner is an award winning artist who loves the outdoors and studying birds. She is dedicated to portraying her subjects using traditional oil painting techniques, travels widely for her subjects and is active in supporting endangered birds and their habitat.