The instant I got this uploaded on Flickr I saw it's weak weak weak!!! In terms of value contrast and color and pose and overall composition - everything really. Except I guess detail.
Here's one reason it ended up so weak - because I was designing the clothes at the same time I did the illustration. I did it paper-doll style, essentially I painted the figure and then started making bits of clothing on it piece by piece. This is something you should do BEFORE you start an illustration!! You should know the clothes and weaponry (if applicable) going in, so you can concentrate on the pose and composition, not end up with something that looks like a - well, a paper doll, just standing there showing off her clothes!!
But a few things I did pretty well I think - the way I applied paint near the end, which was starting to take on a certain semi loose quality like what I want, but looks much better than any of the loose techniques I tried on the photo ref pieces (MMA paintings etc). I was starting to bring in some stronger colors toward the end, but I should have been able to do that a lot earlier - in fact right from the beginning.
I really like the technique I use of progressive refinement. It allows me to start with a rough idea and then keep refining. One of the really cool things about digital. Love that liquify filter and transform tools!! And I'm really happy with how the figure eventually turned out - I only used reference for the head and looked at a few pics of supermodels for the shoulders and collarbones, plus a few female ab pics, but on those I really just winged it after looking at some pics.
I should have also started with a very strong idea for lighting - I really didn't even decide on lighting at all, just let it kind of happen, and ended up with a very diffuse light coming from vaguely upper image left somewhere. The 2 images to the left of it are so much stronger, because of the strong dark/light pattern, which also allowed me to use that one-color-for-dark one-color-for-light plan that I like so much. This one was almost monochromatic for much of its lifespan, but just toward the end I brought in some pretty strong yellows oranges and blues for lighting on the skin which spiced things up nicely if very subtlely.
Ah well - this is one of my first real attempts to do a painting from imagination (the Fafhrd/Mouser illos began life as oil paintings many years ago, though I did do the Mouser from imagination in both of them). I feel like I'm a lot more confident with starting from imagination now having done this one. I plan to just do a bunch of imagination figure sketches now in color - nothing detailed or time consuming, just playing around.