To start my harbour piece I have sewn guide lines on a piece of stout. I have a thin interfacing on the reverse side and I will use an embroidery hoop when actually working on the piece. As I often stitch rather heavily I find the hoop a great help in controlling the fabric base.
I don’t always use guide lines, but if I want to achieve a reasonable likeness – I find this a help. I have sewn through a drawing, done on thin paper, and some of the bits are still visible here.