I decided to start this to chronicle my attempts to improve my drawing, color-handling abilities, (and hopefully, in future) painting skills. (I worked as an illustrator until my daughter was born. At that point, being a stay-at-home father of 2, I found work too difficult to fit into my life.) My daughter will be in kindergarten 3 years from now, so I will have much more time to work then, and I want to have a better skill set to offer my clients by that point.
When I was in College I never planned to be an illustrator. When I finished my degree (BFA) at Columbia College, I had visions of being a web designer. I wound up working in children's non-fiction (educational) publishing. First doing maps and other assorted things, and then doing illustrations. Had I known I could do this kind of thing, and would enjoy it so much, I would have taken a whole different set of classes in college. As it is, I am now working to broaden my skills with natural media. Most of my illustration work up to this point consisted of pencil (monochrome) drawings that would get scanned into Adobe Illustrator, traced, and color and fine details added, so the final product would be a digital file. I really want to learn to paint, but am starting with water-soluble colored pencils as they can act as a bridge between drawing and painting, in a sense. I also intend to take some art classes, including figure drawing which I've never taken.
I know I may be offering too much information on what materials I use for the pieces I show, but I do that as much for my own later benefit ("What did I use for that?") as for anyone else who might actually be interested.
I must credit a site that has given me a great deal of inspiration as well as practical tips.
Gurney Journey, the blog of Dinotopia creator and generous artist James Gurney:
His books are great, but you can also learn a hell of a lot just by reading his blog (and searching for topics that interest you).