I've been reading in yerf_hopefuls, anti_yerf, and similar places about the consensus, such as there is, on what makes the difference between really nice art, and just sort of okay art. I also remembered the Blambot piece on What You NEED to Make Great Comics that I referenced a while back. And to that end, one of the things I decided to do, was really start investing time and effort into my backgrounds.
I've been working towards that pretty much with this whole Byron Bat storyline, starting with actually drawing the interior of the Watering Hole-In-the-Wall. Some of that was because it was such a visual gag (which SJ is short on so I'm always trying to work more in), and some of it is just because it's sorta the "next big frontier" for my artwork. My anatomical skills, while far from perfect, are at least functionally competent compared to where they were once upon a time, so the next step is taking those people that I've learned to draw and PUTTING them someplace.
I am pleased with the results for next week so far. Not every panel has a background, if only because that would just clutter things up. But one of the panels depends on the presence of scenery to make it work, while another set use the scenery to good effect, giving the characters a bit of business to do while they speak -- adding a lot more visual interest than I would have gotten from my more common "talking heads" approach.
So, my Toon Fu is improving! :) And I can point directly to a handful of sources of inspiration that are helping me. A few of them even read this LiveJournal, and you know who you are. ;) But I think that a lot of it is just wanting to feel like I've earned my place, when I find myself chatting with other artists, or hanging out with them at cons, or even being told that they like my work. I very often feel like a fake, and that at any moment, one of these real artists is going to call me on it. The only way to inoculate myself from that, of course, is to train myself up until I'm not a fake any more. It's a long road but look at it this way: I'm going to be traveling a long road anyway, it might as well be a road that takes me somewhere I want to go.
G'nite, everybody. Have an awesome tomorrow.