I was looking over that piece I did for the Darkstalkers Tribute Contest, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it could be better. I decided to go back into it to make it a bit more robust.
As you can see, the biggest alteration I made was the contrast. It's a lot less faded now. I tried not to go too extreme with the values though. That would look just as bad.
Lighting is something I haven't really honed in on much, so I pushed that as well. Of course, I had to do more than just put in more highlights. Pretty much all over the piece, dropped in various violets, magenta's, and carmine's to complement all the blues and greens. This helped to get that warm, vibrant feel to the sunlight. It also improved the foreground/background separation.
All and all, I'm actually pretty pleased with the end result. I don't feel that way very often. Coming back to something with a fresh pair of eyes is probably what helped the most. Experimentation is pretty key as well.
In most situations, my preferred way of working is to just "play it by ear" without locking myself down to some rigid mindset of doing it the "proper" way. By "proper" I'm referring to a very calculated, by-the-book approach. Like this is how I'm SUPPOSED to be doing this. I'm certainly not trying to say that I don't put any thought into what I'm doing. I just try to keep my thinking flexible. It's like one of those science projects where you build a guided path (out of cardboard, or something) for a plant to grow. You know where the plant's going, but you don't know exactly how the vines are going to shape themselves to get there. Controlled chaos, if you will.