There are endless ways to begin a painting from starting on a white canvas to doing a detailed underpainting, then adding color. The following is a list of only a few ways, the ways that I usually use for my paintings.
Some way to start:
1. Toned canvas (use turpentine to put a thin layer of a neutral color or any color of your choice) that is a middle value. This is how I started this painting. (Pictures shown above)
2. White Canvas - I rarely start with white canvas, but there is an example of one earlier in the blog.
3. Painted canvas using acrylic or colored gesso that is a dark value. For example use a strong red for a landscape with a lot of green. Complementary colors vibrate when used together. My painting of the Purina Building started with a painted red canvas.
4. Detailed underpainting - use either a toned or white canvas, draw with either charcoal or thin paint. If you use charcoal, spray the drawing with a clear fixative so the charcoal doesn't smudge into the paint.