The basics of how I begin one of my draught horse paintings.
Materials and equipment:
Benq 24" screen, (more on this later)
Corel paintshop pro- its a program not an app and well worth the investment
Easels Galore easel, it is counterweighted making it very easy to slide up and down
long steel ruler
I choose an image that I want to work with, and using Corel paintshop pro, I manipulate the saturation, the depth of shadows and light, sometimes I modify the red/green/blue balance (there are a lot of confusing functions in Paintshop but there are a lot of useful youtube videos that you can watch). I used to frequently edit an image on my phone using BeFunky, this app is great for making images simplified and fun, it allows you to give the impression of accuracy whilst eliminating a lot of confusing detail. In the early stages I needed to simplify a lot because I just couldn't make sense during the drawing process.
The next thing I do is work out what canvas I want to put it on, and determine the ratio of height to width, I often use canvases that are 3 to 4 or 2 to 3, so for every 2 inches up, I go across 3 inches, often these canvases are 20"by30" or 24" by 36" or the one I am working on today is 36" by 54". working out the ratio is a completely separate thing to working out the grid. Once I work out the ratio I crop my image in Corel to the same ratio.
Often people print their image out and try to grid and draw up from there. Once you get a lot of detail this become really hard bordering on impossible. It is vastly easier to grid an image and enlarge it on the screen, to the same size as your canvas. I achieve this by gridding my canvas, the example here is 4 squares down and 6 across, they are 9" squares. I often just grid my canvas with 4 across and 4 down, so a 24" by 36" canvas would have 6" by 9" rectangles. I then go to my screen and zoom into the image until each of the grid squares/rectangles are the same size. This way I can directly measure from the screen to the canvas. I always measure from the edges into a reference point, never from one point within the square to another.
The screen, I love this new screen, for a long time I had troubles with cheaper screens blowing the colours, or the values, or there'd be a distortion of some sort, I investigated screens that are true RGB, (you can buy equipment to calibrate the screen regularly) I also wanted a screen that I could swivel to a portrait shape when doing something in portrait. I settled on one from Benq and am very pleased with it.
I use willow charcoal, as it is easy to remove from the canvas, once you draw with pencil it becomes virtually permanent, willow is also hard to remove if you press hard.