Yeah, I have noticed that I don't put much time in the planning stage. I'm self taught, so I can see where you guys are getting at. I really just block in colours for about 20 minutes, somewhat were I can see the idea take place (Proportion, Lighting, Mood, Colour Scheme, (Lacking Design)). Really, after that I just let detail take over the design by color picking what's on the canvas. I guess that's something I need to work on, probably making thumbnails too.
I'm still not quite sure on what canvas is recommended for me, I just stick with a 2800x1800 px canvas (PS CS5.1). I also try to set benchmarks, but I never seem to follow, I lose track of time and go all out, also something that I need to organise. My motivation pushes me through stressful moments to draw, I don't know if this is a bad thing but it gets the job done. Deadlines are already taking place, it's what pushing me to draw.
I never touch the filters, unless making some glow FX. I just paint with the brush tool using default brushes, whether it's the round brush or the chalk brush, minimal custom brushes. I keep a minimum amount of layers, usually just the background and foreground in two - four layers, collapsing whenever necessary.
I also have a bad habit of detailing the unnecessary, I can never actually finish a "loose" painting, I kind of naturally just detail, I guess that came from rendering drawings on paper. I save all of my drawings that I scrap in a "Scrap Folder", probably nearly hitting a Gig now.
Thank you all of you guys for responding! Really helpful information!
Details are a killer. I think your problems grew as you started using a larger canvas.
I looked at your art and it looks like everything you do is on a small canvas, but looks don't mean a thing. There is a lot more brush work going into a really large canvas. While a small canvas has a lot of one sweep actions that can cover the whole canvas. You can still do a lot of details with a small canvas when you zoom in. If you want more you can always get it. That is just part of what works best, but reducing would be a mistake. You lose details and a lot of work like that.
No matter what size you work with, when it takes too long then you need to back off on size next time, because even if you can start over with a smaller size you already spent too much time on it.
Put more work into the initial planning stages. Get idea -> draw draw draw -> "Shit! Nothing makes any sense because I didn't plan! Abort!" is what newbies do. After you've fucked up enough pictures that way, you start getting the idea that maybe running off half-cocked the minute you have an idea is not the best way to get a picture done.
You want to work more like this: Get idea -> do some initial sketches -> do composition, colour and lighting thumbnails -> gather reference -> once you know what the fuck you're doing, draw/paint the picture. Optional: go back to it later and fix all the parts that suck.
If you are planning to make a living at this you are going to have to do several rough sketches and thumbnails to present to the Art Director. They will come back with changes and suggestions. You will apply those to a new set of roughs. And only when everything is approved will you actually get to paint the picture. Every time you start running after your initial inspiration like a dog after a frisbee, you will work for hours and then the art director will go "...no, I wanted this from a totally different angle" and you will not only have to start all over, you will not be able to abandon the picture just because it's not working.
Sometimes I find it helps to set benchmarks for yourself -- and write them down!
Tell yourself you will have one part of the image finished by tonight, another part finished by tomorrow night, etc -- and be specific about it! Pick out specific parts of the drawing that need to be refined and finished and give yourself a specific deadline. Make sure the deadline is reasonable, of course, or you will find yourself getting discouraged anyway.
I also highly suggest you save as many of your drawings as possible, so that later on down the road you can look back and see how much you have improved. I keep my art archived on my computer by year so I can always look back and see how far I've come. :3
You just have to keep practicing. The great thing about being an artist is that you're constantly learning new things. It may be aggravating at times, and you might feel like your not making progress, but you are. I just spent 4 years of art college working and struggling to find my style, all the while trying to refine my basic skills like life drawing and color theory. It does take it's toll, but as long as you keep working you'll always be getting better, even if just a little. If you don't feel like drawing or hit a rut, then go do something else for awhile. We all hit that wall every once and awhile and sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and do something else for awhile (Video games, hang out with friends, even look at other art for inspiration, etc.) and come back to your artwork with fresh eyes. I see you're into doing digital art too, and that's a hurdle by itself (As a fellow digital artist, I know your pain, haha), but you're getting better whether you see it or not. Sometimes you don't see progress until you step back and compare your work now to work you did a year ago. I hope that helps!
I don't know what to offer you, because it happens too often to me, too. The only way I've developed so far is to start and to finish without making breaks. Because once I decide 'I will finish it tomorrow', I never return to the drawing and just trash it as a scrap. :/