The most important thing I've learned with professional work is to search for references when you start a new piece of artwork. So, before I start a new project, I always come up with a general idea of what I'm going to produce. Then I start to search for as many references as possible to refine the idea.
For this particular project the main references were the film and art book of Monster Inc. I want to say too that there isn't a magical brush which "paints" for you, or a secret plugin that makes you paint like Da Vinci. Everything I've learned and applied for this project came from watching Gnomon's DVDs, talking with other professionals and observing their nature. The important thing is to understand the main concepts and how to apply them.
I quickly established a cartoonish style and created a character with the feeling of a child bully. Then I started to think about how it would be if this guy wasn't afraid of the things that came out of his closet (Fig.01).
With the general idea set, I started to refine it. I worked a bit more with the design of the characters and the scene itself (Fig.02).
Then I started to think how I would work with the colors and how they would behave in the scene. So I did a preliminary color study, which gave me a clear idea of how I would work to get to the final piece. (Fig.03)
I think this is a great thing to do especially if you are working professionally. During this stage I decided to have my main source of light coming from the window and the back light coming from the door on the opposite side of the scene (Fig.04).
I am used to working with the contours as a guide for the first volumes. After I had most of a piece done, I hid the contour layer and then I started to refine it (Fig.05a - 05b). I confess that when I turned off this layer I had a little panic, because the volumes got a bit confused and I asked myself: "My God, now what?" So I patiently started to work individually on each element. The more I worked on it, the more the elements started to come out.