I have altered my approach slightly to my free form designs. I pencil in the design first, as I usually do. Then I begin to paint in the areas subtended by the lines. If those areas, taken together, suggest a theme, I paint areas to further that idea and ignore the penciled-in lines.
I noticed the bird right away and, as a sculptor does, revealed the person on which it was perched, by selectively painting areas that support that vision. I modify an area if a penciled line does not define it properly.