Usually when I sit down to paint I choose a photo reference or a physical arrangement, squeeze some colors out of a tube, and just start. There are times, however, when a bit of outline or even a full blown drawing seems necessary. In general I don't like to work this way because it feels more like "coloring in" than painting. Recently I completed two paintings that combined sketching and free hand painting: this tabasco/floral painting and a commission of a special ceramic statue.
After completing these two paintings I realized that I rather enjoyed drawing and so I have tried to carve out some time to do a little sketching from life. Among my first subjects were this apple and apothecary bottle with thistles:
Then a group of little related objects:
Then a fun project of my children's baby shoes. Initially I thought if I drew them I would be able to declutter and throw them out, but now I find that I have become even more attached to them!
In the future I think I will do more sketching and also paintings that include some sketched elements. The convenience of sketching, which can be done anywhere and requires just a pencil, paper, sharpener and eraser, is a nice change from watercolor. It's also nice to have a record of special objects in one's life. Drawing and painting is my way of holding them close.