This is for Deborah because she asked.
Obviously I start with an idea that's been swimming around my head. Its usually something from around my home; something in my everyday life. I then set up a still life and start taking lots of photos. I like to use lighting to see what interesting shadows I can achieve. I keep moving the objects around and keep taking photos. Once I've loosened up I start getting interesting compositions. I play with those compositions by changing where the light comes from, how much shadow is revealed or by adding new objects etc. I choose the pic that stands out to me as being the most interesting and I print it out. I then crop it so its in scale with the canvas I will be working on. I like to work from photos because it means I don't have to keep the still life set up and I don't need to worry about any changing conditions such as light etc.
Next I start working on the canvas to create a background. I do have a fear of the blank canvas so I need to cover it to ensure I don't freeze hehehe. I start with old book pages or other interesting paper. I use gel medium as the glue and once its set off a bit but not completely dry I tear back some of the paper. It leaves a lovely texture and creates interesting results once paint is added. In some instances it leaves the text from the other side of the paper revealed which means the text is reversed. Once the whole canvas is covered I check for ugly gaps and fill these in with either patterned paper or some hand writing or more book pages. I allow the canvas to dry or use the heat gun to hurry things along. Next I put washes of acrylic paint on and some rubber stamp patterns. That's basically the background done. I then draw the image on and "colour it in" using acrylic paint that I've watered down slightly. This allows the background to show through. I don't worry about detail at this stage. Its just to get blocks of colour down.
Final stage is drawing on top with conte crayons. I use conte to do the shading and add the finer details. A quick spray with some fixative (to set the conte) and then some matt varnish is applied as a protective layer.
I hope that answers your questions Deborah. :) I have pics of the stages in some of my past blog entries.