I always start with a reference photo, and I always write the photographer and ask for permission*.
In this case, the photographer did not give me permission (the first time that happened), so I am using the branch in the photo, but have put the bird in a different position - the head still in profile, but now we'll be looking at the bird from the back and to the side - rather than a straight on front view.
Like so! But today, we're working on the branch, rather than the bird.
These are for the branch - a mix of hand-painted papers, hand-painted lutradur and a commercial fabric.
Which I then begin to apply...
Layering the bits...
Until I like what I see!
In this case, I built the first element - the branch - directly on the background. I plan to build the bird in the same way, and see if the background stitching is better or worse because of it.
*A note about permission -sometimes I find a photo that I want to use, but it doesn't have attribution - an easy way to find out whose picture it is, is to save the picture to your hard drive, and then upload it to Google images. Google images then tells you where the photo is. Sometimes you have to go back 20 or 30 pages, but you'll find the original owner eventually!