Here's a step by step guide of how I put together my Fox hunt illustration. All up it took about 15 hours, done on Photoshop.
Okay, so here is the final artwork...
Step 1: Here I've laid out my idea using some rough reference photos to get an idea of scale etc, the initial idea is a bit different than the final artwork, but a little way in I realised that the fox wasn't working.
Step 2: On a new layer I've refined the sketch to get an idea of facial expression and detail using some more reference photos (I've coloured matched the photos to one another to make sure they'll all have the same look).
Step 3: A mid tone is laid down (mid to the horses and backround) and I start blocking in the first details on two layers (horses and fox).
Step 4: I've separated the front guy and finished the painting to a pretty high level of detail, focusing on expression and lighting. As he's the main guy, his colour and level of contrast will be the base for the other elements as I progress.
Step 5: The fox is gone and I'm painting the secondary figures while trying to figure out what to do in its place...
Step 6: I've blocked in the background figures on two new layers, to allow me to adjust the depth of field later on. I've also started to rough in the background colours to match them in.
Step 7: I managed to come up with a new idea to pop in the foreground (two dogs) which I painted to final level striaght away, before I changed my mind again...
Step 8: I cropped the artwork for better balance and have started adding the little details, extra dogs, more background detail, and contrast on the ground to match the lighting of the figures.
Step 9: Background details are finished and then depth of field is added to draw the focus to the bits I want people to look at. This also means that the background woodland can be a lot looser ans the blur will tie it all together.
Step 10: Final flourishes are added, some splashing and light reflections behind the different elements to soften the look. Done.