When it comes to beginning a painting, it can be an often intimidating process, but once I start, I just proceed in steps. At the end, it's all worth it though! Here's how I do it for those curious.
Starting from a blank canvas
When I look at a blank canvas, I always try to just imagine my painting (finished) on the canvas. I try to visualize what it will look like. Then I break down the steps in my mind into what I need to do to begin. I always look for something simple I can come up with. If I don't come up with a crystal clear first step, I often get intimidated and procrastinate with the painting. The key is to just begin, and my first step is usually just to put a neutral base coat down to cover up white space. As an artist, I despise white space!
Once I have neutral color down to indicate the basics of the painting, I'll start defining the colors a little more, here's an example down below from a previously done painting of mine.
If you observe this stage of the painting you can tell that the colors are very evident, just not any detail. This is where I establish where everything will go and the darkness/lightness of it. I try to stick with the proportions of everything here, but if I see a mistake down the road or if something doesn't look quite right, I simply repaint over it. That is the best part about oil paints. You can never go over it too any times with multiple coats of paint.
If I am still not confident about painting a specific part of a painting because I am unsure what it will look like or because I just need some thinking time, I will leave it untouched until a few coats down the line. You can see I've done just that with the red wheel in the picture. I have left the spoked untouched because I am not sure exactly how the spoked will look like yet. At this point in time, I want to first find a few reference photos and decide what the proportions and dimensions will be.
Oil paint takes quite a while to dry, so I let the painting sit for about a week before I start with the next coat. When I paint, I usually do so in pretty thick coats, as I like to generously use paint. I use the drying time to my advantage though because I am able to think about it over time. In a week I may not like something that I had previously liked before. In my opinion, it is important to give yourself this time in each stage of the painting rather than doing everything at once.
Now here's an image of the 2nd or 3rd stage of the painting. It looks much better now! The foliage is not quite detailed yet, but I have worked from the center on out. Since the building and wheel is the center of attention of the picture, I've fixed that up first just for my satisfaction.
Using texture and then smoothing out details, I've defined more of the lines on the building and brought more definition to the painting. Now it looks crisp and "high resolution". The colors are also stronger and brighter now. I further work to establish the dark and light areas to bring more noticeable contrast in different areas.
A technique commonly use is to mix linseed oil with my paints. This makes the coats more lustrous and glossy when I paint. It not only thins out the colors, but allows it to retain and even show more of its hues.
When doing the bricks of the building and things like bushes, I use a randomness of motion with my brushes. I also use different colors to show depth. It looks messy at first. but when I refine it, it looks very nice and realistic as in the building's walls. People always ask me how I do it, so there you have it. Not to mention, if you look closer, you get see lots of different colors within a single color in my art.
Someone asked me once how I am paint shadows so well. I told them to look at an actual shadow and tell me what colors they saw. They told me "I see gray". I could already see the first problem. Shadows are NOT gray! If you were an artist, you would have said, "I see blue, I see purple, I see brown, and maybe a tinge of yellow in the mix." That's how an artist sees colors.
And, its amazing what happens when you actually mix and put those colors down on canvas. Using the right brush strokes, it looks life like! More importantly, it DOES look gray all together like most people see shadows! Before letting the magic happen though, you have to carefully chose and use the right colors. Over many years I have trained my eye to see different colors in objects which appear like a single color to most people. So anyways, that's how I paint. Down below is the final painting all detailed, varnished and framed!