While watercolor is my favorite medium, it's not the only thing I use, so when I think about a new drawing or painting (other than just sketches, that is -- more finished work), there are lots of questions:
1. What subject will I draw or paint next? I have thousands of photos. Lots of birds, some landscapes, some dogs, some from various travels...thousands. So that's the first thing to think about.
2. Once I've found the next subject, what medium do I use? Watercolor? Acrylics? Ink? Colored pencil? Multimedia? What would best suit the subject?
3. What surface do I choose? 140lb cold press watercolor paper? Rough press? Hot press? Canvas? Canvas board? What will work best?
Well, sometimes I just don't know, and have to find out by experimenting. Yesterday, for example, I sorted through the photos I've printed out recently, and found this one:
I took this photo last summer of a Pied-billed Grebe family, and wanted to do something with it, but had no idea what. I considered watercolor and acrylics and decided against both, as I thought the level of detail in the feathering would be hard to convey in paint. Colored pencil might work well, except in the past I've found that I haven't been able to depict water or smooth-looking surfaces with it very well.
In the end, after much dithering, I opted to give pen-and-ink a try, as it seemed a good medium for fine detail work. I chose a light-blue tinted watercolor paper and focused on the birds rather than depicting the water itself. Here is my set-up:
First I sketched in a very rough pencil outline of the birds and their main features. Then I started in on the main bird with walnut ink, using a crow-quill pen. I tried to follow the feather patterning as best I could, putting in overall light to medium tones and then going back in with extra strokes and a little crosshatching here and there for the darker areas. I opted to hint at the reflections rather than put them in with the same value as the birds, as I thought that might distract from them. Here is the final piece:
And now I'm back to square one: what do I paint next...?