First step: laying down the foundation. I want the generally shape of the model's head right away. Usually I can find this by nailing down the dark hair color, and what shape it is.
Second, I tackle skintones. By this stage, I should see the model on the paper, though probably it will be very blocky.
Now I start refining. This is mid first pass of refining. Still very rough, but all of the most important features are there.
Most of the time my painting looks like this. It's kinda a good sketch, but the only changes are very small little ones.
Finally all those little changes build up to make a fairly polished face. At that point I can start working the face into the composition—finding ways to unify the figure and the background.
At this point, I finish and am mostly satisfied with my work, but I never consider this done. I always need to let it sit overnight.
It's good to get back at this. It's been too long.