While there was no new art from me recently, the works are ongoing. The thing is, they are quite a bit outside of my comfort zone! And it naturally takes time. Before a definite result can be presented, here's what is being worked upon.
1) Environments, both natural and man-made: it's a bit of "philosophical" thing. In the more sketchy or (semi-)cartoony art styles, and especially in traditional art, it appears to be easier to make a background. It doesn't have to be as detailed as the foreground characters, in many cases it seems like just marking it with several strokes and color areas is enough. But with ambitions for realism, this doesn't pass so easily. When the difference in detail and quality level between the character and the background is too big, it becomes jarring.
This means that the backgrounds have to be either of high quality – or none at all. As this high quality, matching the quality of the characters, entails lots and lots of work, I was prone to making the background empty instead.
It is also an efficiency thing. The 3D characters are very time-consuming to make, but they need to be made once, and when all that hard work is done, they can be re-used indefinitely. But a background for a single artwork is to be used only that one time. So the cost-effect ratio is much worse.
I had my attempts at this issue in the past nevertheless, but they were inconsistent and inefficient. The creatures were my priority anyway. But now, as I've finally gathered bit of a "model cast", several critters to be used for artwork, the time might be right for improving their environments!
It doesn't mean I've attained all I wanted in the creatures department; quite contrary, there are definite possibilities for improving the workflow that have yet to be mastered (such as incorporating the 3D sculpting into the whole thing). Still, I was once told by an accomplished artist that my art won't achieve the level I want it to be at without tackling the issue of backgrounds. And so I'll be finally trying to tackle it.
2) Hardsurface modeling: mechanical things, as opposed to organic. If you checked my dA account, you could see that I've made quite a few detailed weapon models. However, the approach I used was largely based on the modeling techniques I've learned when working on the characters. And these turn out to be really slow and inefficient when it comes to mechanical models.
It appears that there are quite different philosophies behind these two kinds of modeling, with different approaches and different sets of tools being focused upon. The basic distinction is that the mechanical surfaces don't need to deform, unlike a character's skin. This, together with prevalence of hard-angled geometric shapes as opposed to smooth and organic, dictates the workflow differences. Which are bigger than I expected.
Incidentally, there seem to be more and better tutorials on hardsurface modeling coming from the users of other 3D packages, such as 3Ds Max. But Blender has evolved so much, that I can follow these tutorials without big problems.
3) Clothes and accessories: very much like the point #1, it was largely avoided or half-assed so far because of the amount of work needed. Suffice to say, clothes in 3D are a bitch to make! Even worse when they need to avoid intersections with fur. And the accessories have much to do with the point #2.
To sum up, currently I'm working on a picture which involves all these three points. But no spoilers till it's done!