The name of the game here is to get the basic values and colors established while covering the gesso.
First and foremost is keeping the drawing intact. I try not to be rigid with it, but I keep the contours as close to the drawing as possible. Then the next focus when applying thinned paint is the values. It is usually easier to start with the darker areas first, so the hair and shadows go in first. This painting has nothing but black in the background so lots of dark to cover. Lastly is color, I get a general hue onto the areas but I don’t worry about it too much.
I made a mistake though. I added ivory black to my palette for the background which makes covering this area faster as I don’t have to mix something that dark. But, ivory black is such a dead looking color. It really is effecting everything about the painting. I may replace it with an umber as the dark and adjust from there to get some life into the most darker areas. Besides I really dislike how the ivory black is adjusting the initial skin tones.
Painting on gesso kinda sucks. It is scratchy and absorbent, the paint hardly moves around. After covering the whole canvas with a layer of oil I find that the rest of the strokes will go on much smoother. I could have started with an oil primed canvas but the cost of such is ridiculous. I could prime it myself but I tried that in the past, it takes too long to wait for it to dry and the results have always been disappointing.