My paintings always begin with sketches and value studies. If I get them right at the outset, I am about 80% sure the painting will be successful. By keeping my first sketches this small I avoid the temptation to mess with details.
Here I use tracing paper to sketch up my ideas actual size. The tracing paper allows me to try out different ideas and move things around. I am hoping to get in distant views of the Mississippi River as well as the Temple on the hill, and include some figures in period clothing.
I begin applying paint first to the sky area using wet into wet techniques, then move down into the house area. Here I try to establish the lights and darks and the areas of light and shadow. Notice how we can already sense the three-dimensional shape of the house, just because of the shadows.
I use that same technique as I continue to work on the rest of the painting. You can identify the areas that I had to paint around, using the negative painting technique. Notice how the eye is always drawn to the areas of greatest contrast.