Here is the way one painting, Fire in the Snow, part of the Egypt series, evolved.

quick sketch with vine charcoal
quick sketch with vine charcoal
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underpaint with complementary color
underpaint with complementary color

if you start with a color's complement, the top layer will be more vibrant. I know the sky is going to end up in the pink-ish range, so I start with green-ish

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blue flames to start
blue flames to start
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block in branches
block in branches
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red eyes start green; yellow start
red eyes start green; yellow start

purple

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more branches
more branches
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orange-y warmth under blue-ish snow
orange-y warmth under blue-ish snow
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heading towards a final color
heading towards a final color
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here comes snow
here comes snow
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some warmth on the horizon
some warmth on the horizon
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flames!
flames!
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warmth in flames
warmth in flames
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sketching in trees
sketching in trees
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starting to paint trees
starting to paint trees
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more trees...
more trees...
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and branches (and second moon)
and branches (and second moon)
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rock outcropping appears
rock outcropping appears
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smoke...
smoke...
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refining foreground snow
refining foreground snow
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the egyptian owl ...
the egyptian owl ...
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gets refined...
gets refined...
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and more refined
and more refined
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the snowy owl starts to emerge
the snowy owl starts to emerge
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painting owl feathers
painting owl feathers
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more feathers
more feathers
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and more feathers
and more feathers
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and more feathers
and more feathers
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and more feathers
and more feathers
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and more feathers...
and more feathers...

I spent a month just painting the feathers on this one bird. Then I decided he or she needed a different face.

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The finished painting
The finished painting

I didn't photograph every single stage, but enough of them so you get the idea. I worked on this painting over the course of about five months.

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