I’m posting this to show how I compose a portrait when working from life. If I’m working from photos the sketch stage is not as necessary. I begin by doing a quick sketch like the one above. This sketch took about 25 minutes. I draw as much of the model as I plan to have in the painting. I’m careful to get a reasonably good likeness so that proportion will be consistent to those in the painting. With the sketch as a reference, I design the layout of the painting. Before the model comes back I will have the abstract portion of the painting roughed in and two little marks to show me the size and placement of the head. These two marks are enough regardless of whether I’m painting just the head or the full figure. Having the colors laid-in in advance is important because when the model comes back I will need to use those colors in the flesh to unify the painting. When I begin painting from the model, as long as I keep her head inside the marks and I’m not tired or hungry, its works like a charm.