I thought this would be a good way to answer some questions that I received by e-mail. It made me happy to receive them because my purpose in doing a blog was that it be something useful so thank you.
How to start a painting? If you go back to the archives listed on the right of this page I did a post in 2009 about starting a painting. My own way of starting has changed a little since then. I generally tone the board with Transparent Red Medium by Rembrandt because it is a nice warm color that looks good when it peeks through your paintings.
I still rely on the method of toning with a neutral color (UB and Burnt Sienna mixed with a lot of OMS (odorless mineral spirits). I did my most recent peony painting that way.
Then, using a big brush I do a very loose drawing with paint mixed with a little OMS concentrating on just value. I use a paper towel to lift out the lights. (There are examples of this in old blogs, especially the one of painting a portrait of the dog TUX). The second and third layers are when I add more detail and think about hard and soft edges.
There are so many variations of this stage. One that I like is using transparent colors to establish the lights and dark at that first stage of painting. (that method is described in detail I on post dated April 2013.
What surface do you use?
For daily paintworks I've been using gessobord by Ampersand for two reasons. First, I like the smooth surface and, second, they are inexpensive if you order them on sale with the special discount and free shipping. I watch for sales on Dick Blick, Jerry's Artarama, Cheap Joe's and ASW, all online places. I'm always looking for ways to save a little on supplies. Art supplies are not cheap!
My favorite surface is Belgian linen mounted on Baltic wood that I order from Raymar. These are luxurious and pricey. Tux was done on Belgian linen.
Do you do an underpainting?
Yes, but it is fairly loose, emphasizing value and big shapes. I add detail as the painting progresses.