starts with a lot of thinking. This can easily be construed as procrastination, but don't be fooled. I put the idea in my head and then walk around. Things that I say, or hear, or read, or see influence how the idea grows. I usually hold it in my brain until it feels like I can actually put it into words or images before I ever sketch a thing. Sometimes an innocuous phrase or song or image will trigger something, like it all comes together, in which case I go scrambling for my sketchbook. Then once I have a basic idea, I sketch variations on it, but usually by this point, it's been incubating so long I'm pretty sure where I want to go with it. Sketching is more just for the sake of visual layout and design rather than brainstorming. Eventually I settle on a sketch, and sketch it bigger. I work mostly with ink, so I ink it, scan it, and color it in Photoshop. I tend to add a lot of textures too, and when it calls for it, I'll do texture work in watercolor on a piece of tracing paper over the original drawing and composite it in post.
My process seems to work fairly well. I think spending more time thinking than drawing helps the overall concept of the piece. But at times I wish that the two were more intertwined, as there really isn't ever any record of how I got from Point A to Point B.
I found this guy David Downton over the summer. He does mostly fashion illustration; models, celebrities, actresses. He's got this ridiculously elegant way of composing a drawing. It's the kind of work that makes me jealous that I can't just sit down with a brush, slap down 7 or 8 perfectly placed lines and splotches of value, and emerge with a gorgeous ten-minute illustration (that I can then sell for the cover of this week's Vogue for a cool grand).
I tracked down an interview with Downton about his process. Turns out, he does dozens of sketches of the same drawing for each illustration, picking a choosing specific marks from each to compile the final result. He actually says, "When the drawing looks right I start to eliminate, to de-construct if you like. I keep working until it looks spontaneous."
I do the same thing, but I have a tendency to add lines where they aren't really necessary. I know it has a lot of to do with the very little visual planning I do for illustrations. I like high contrast and I like minimalism. I'm not huge on fashion art but these are just too gorgeous to get picky with.
His website is DavidDownton.com.