This is the sketch of the laughing gulls that I did in the same size that the finished seascape painting will be when it is finished. I am painting these laughing gulls on a Ampersand board in 12″ by 16″.  I did this drawing of the birds the same size they will be on the board.

You can see where I started each bird with a basic oval shape for the body and another smaller oval for the head. From there I refined each bird, adding more detail while trying to keep the initial gesture or pose for each bird. The other important step is keeping the birds to scale. I want these shorebirds to be fairly accurate in my painting so I pay attention to all of the gulls features.

I have created distance by reducing the size of the birds as they recede in the scene. These are some of the preliminary steps that I take when planning a painting. If you take the time to do these steps the outcome of the painting should be better.