Proper planning is the key to a successful piece. All the research, reference, reading, studying and practice has a purpose greater than simply getting better. Planning makes the work so much more fluid, it takes all the struggles and challenges and enables you to handle them in your own time. When you spend the time to plan you can tackle problems before they destroy what could have been a successful piece.
The Dragons Egg is a perfect example of how planning can save you from a lot of torment. When taking this piece from sketch to final I hit all the stops along the way. I took reference, studied lighting, made makeshift models, practiced brush techniques and anything else that stood in my way. Then when it finally came down to painting the piece for the final I had almost nothing to worry about but making it awesome. I had everything I needed at my fingertips in the blink of an eye. This removed the stress and increased my enthusiasm which translated into a smooth delightful experience. If I had not planned so much I guarantee (and I know from experience) that it would have been borderline torture to do all the things I wanted to do within this work. Take your time at the beginning stages and you will be praising yourself at the end. Don’t forget we all work better when we are enthusiastic as well, and better work means better everything.