It has long been the practice to do some studies of the figures or difficult passages within a painting before starting on the final image. I have a large painting that I will be posting updates from over the next month starting with this study of a little girl.
Below is a time-lapse movie of the sketch in progress. The painting was done with a small palette that I have found to be nice for flesh. Flake White, Yellow Ochre, Vermillion and Van Dyke Brown (specifically Gamblin for the last color, it is much more grey than other brands). I could use Mars Black or Ivory Black instead, and get cooler tones, but for now I am enjoying seeing what this set of colors can do.
I am also doing some charcoal studies of a few of the figures. Below is a study of Christ who will be holding the child above.
I think I still have a ways to go before I am happy with my depiction of Christ, but this is a good start. Something that will let me make adjustments to my painting and get a countenance appropriate for the goals of the final work.