I have been doing these little "low stakes" value studies...maybe four or six where I really get to know the various shapes and elements of the image. I really see the value of them for finding a 'way into' an image. I love what Julia Cameron says about this,
"My artist performs best when the stakes are lower."
And so it is with me, I do my best work when I just do, and try, lots of different possibilities...see what works, what NEEDS to be included, what NEEDS to be left out.