The sketch--I use willow or vine charcoal to lay in the drawing...I fill in all the details because it helps me learn my way around the bear. Even though the drawing will be obliterated, my hand and brain still "remember" those little detail lines. When using reference photos and a large format, I grid the canvas and the photo to make sure I get the proportions right. This canvas is my largest so far, "30 x 40".
This is about two hours in of painting. I'm blocking in the major lights, darks and mid-tones. I usually start with the darks, then the lights, and middle last. I follow the contours of the bear, imagining his muscle underneath and lay down the strokes in the direction that his fur would fall.
The end of Day 1. This is at about four hours painting, not including drawing the image. I've added the light on his nose and his eyes (my favorite part!) The eyes help me focus on the image and make it more interesting for the long haul. Understand that right now, this is all Block-In...every centimetre of what I've already painted will be painted over again and again...the joys of acrylic, and glazing! But it's necessary. That's what gives you the depth and realism. It's like constructing the bear, hair by hair!