I can’t remember where I read this quote or who said it but it goes something like this; “a painting worth making is a painting worth planning”.
When we are walking through museums in awe of the beautiful old master paintings that we see we tend to forget the amount of preparation and planning that was done in order to make them. Preparatory drawings from the figure and landscape, compositional sketches and small oil sketches are all part of this process. Unfortunately old master preparatory studies are all too often squirreled away out of sight in museum storage.
While travelling in Germany this year I got the chance to see a bunch of preparatory oil sketches by Rubens. Seeing them reinforces my conviction that much of a painting’s strength comes from it abstract elements: a strong composition and an interesting light effect.