1. Actually had the image in my mind first, so I simply put down what's in my head. I blocked in the shapes with very basic flat colors... Sky is Blue! Fire, Red! Grass, Green! All those Art Classes really paid off!
2. Filled in the rest of the image and started to add more lighting info. Also noticed a rhythm going on, and decided to reinforce that idea (indicated by red lines). The Verticals (people on horses) could contrast the Curves of the Dragon and Flames, reinforcing the story's Conflict.
3. From here on out it just became a matter of defining the forms and making sure the shapes actually read as the things I want to convey. Fixing silhouettes, proportions, gestures, etc. Decided on a Brown-ish Dragon because everyone knows Blue Dragons don't exist.
4. Looked at horses, indicating planes, rendering out different materials such as cloth, metal, skin, etc. Dropped in a photo of some random hills in the back. Got to keep in mind the scale of things. Making sure there is enough texture detail to describe how big something is.
5. A few Power Naps later, the image is done! Added Crispy Fried People in the flames for kicks and giggles. Pretended to shoot arrows from my desk to see how the archer should be drawn. Nothing much to speak of in terms of actual Creature Design, but I got to paint a Dragon so I'm a happy manchild.
I don't approach every image I do the same way. Sometimes I can see the image in my mind, and I simply draw it. Other times I have to search and search. Other times its more structured. I'm sure you do the same things.
Honestly for the Fantasy images 1 post down, they each started differently. I'd be bored if I have to do paintings the same way each time.
Shameless Promotional Plug:
A more structured look and tutorial on my painting process can be found in BATTLEMiLK 2. Available everywhere DSP books are sold! Hahahahaha. You can check out my friends' art and tutorials too! Probably learn more from them.
Can't cover everything here on the blog, but I teach a Landscape Painting Class at CDA in Pasadena. Its Landscape Painting for Entertainment, so we do Entertainment work in the class as well. Come join me in Spring!