I thought I'd show you the steps I took for my newest illustration.
Step 1: Coming up with an idea. First, I try to think of a story. My stories are influenced very much by what's going on around me. What season is it? What are kids doing during this time of year? The subject matter I chose for this painting is swimming. Once I think of a subject matter, I imagine different ages of children and the feelings and thoughts that may surround the subject matter pertaining to that certain age. I then, decide which age, feelings and thoughts I want to focus on. For this painting, Swimming Lessons, I chose a young girl, age of three. My thinking was that a child this age may be afraid of water (which was NOT true for my model. :) I don't think she had even an ounce!). Of course, the story ends with her taking swimming lessons, learning to love the water and concludes with a joyful pool party with all her friends.
Step 2: I draw some thumbnail sketches. Thumbnail sketches are just that- sketches the size of a thumb. I draw them about 2.5" tall and I draw several. I drew her in different aspects of the story until I decided which part of the story I wanted to focus on. Here's some of my thumbs.
Step 3: After I've decided on which direction to go, I find my model and take TONS of pictures. Here's a couple I used for reference in my painting. I used a facial expression from one, the body pose from another, and the snorkel from another.
Step 4: Once I have my reference, I start on my final drawing. I work out values during this process.
Step 5: After I feel comfortable with my drawing, I paint a small color study. This color study is roughly 10 inches tall. I then, scan it into my computer and mess around with it a bit. I may experiment with different versions in Photoshop.
The first is the original color study. The other two are manipulations in Photoshop.
Step 6: Finally, I get to start the actual painting! Most of the brain work is now done! This is the part of the process I like best. The final painting, Swimming Lessons, is 18"x24" painted on an ABS panel. I adopted William Whitaker's painting substrate. He loves this kind of board. I don't think he paints on anything else, anymore.
Here's the final: