My painting process begins with the selection of an object or scene to paint. I usually have to be inspired by the subject, and I want to feel that I have the sufficient capability or skill of rendering it. Sometimes I have a particular subject matter (e.g., roses, camellias, gardenias) or technique (e.g., depicting water or glass) that I want to master. I will also select the size of the painting I wish to make. I learned the hard way that standard sizes are important not to spend a fortune on custom framing sizes!
Once I have selected the subject of the painting, I batten down the watercolor paper onto my board with painter's or masking tape. The watercolor paper may also be "stretched" to reduce the tendency of the paper to warp and buckle. Heavier watercolor papers (e.g., 300lb.) do not tend to warp as much as lighter papers (e.g., 140lb.).
The next step is to draw, trace, or transfer the subject matter onto the watercolor paper.
As I prepare to paint, after having set up my watercolors, buckets of water, brushes, tissues/papertowels, and other items within easy reach, I am thinking about the best way to approach the painting. Do I want to paint the background first? Do an underlayer of glaze? Work on the details first? With this particular painting of a camellia (from a photo by Susan Jeffries), I began with rendering the leaves and contrasting background to give it depth and shadow.
Sometimes it is a matter of "building" my confidence. I might work on the least important part of the painting first. If that is successful and my confidence is strengthened, I try the more difficult areas. Other times, I work on the most difficult part first. Once I am satisfied with that part, I go onto to finish the background and less important aspects. With this camellia, the major focal point of the flower was done last.