You’ll never have too much!
Having good resource material is always the first step, for me, before I take the plunge into my next major project. I believe this is probably true for most artists that work in Realism.
I will peruse magazines of all descriptions, use the internet and or go to the local library to collect all I can on my subject matter.
For instance when I did this picture “portrait” of the Snowy Owl, I collected dozens of picture from different angles to make sure that I thoroughly “knew” my subject matter.
The same can be said for the many “portraits” that I have done of hummingbirds. It can’t be overemphasized how important it is to really “know” everything about the subject. Nothing dismays and annoys me more than when I see that someone has portrayed a male hummingbird with a female's tail or vice versa!! For me “realistic” paintings are documented records, and it’s important to get the details "right”!
Another way that I collect resource material is documenting during travels. Taking a sketch book works well, if you’re out in nature and if you have the time to sit and sketch the details that you desire. This however, is not always possible, and many times not desirable, or extensively detailed enough for many projects. I must admit that for me it is not the ideal way to collect the pertinent and detailed information I need to complete my projects.
When it comes to good material to work from, I find that a camera is really my best friend. All you need is a half decent digital camera, and a few basic skills for using it. I always use high resolution so that if I choose to use the picture in the future, I can blow it up in size so the details are easily seen.
I have collected thousands of pictures in my travels that will give me enough resource material to probably last me to the end of my lifetime, and I am still constantly adding to my “stock”!