I suppose when you are an artist and trying to make it, everything you do is practice!
Anyway I'm back to my art classes and getting back to the basics. Thumbnails are a major tool, and one I wasn't doing very much. To get better and get it ingrained in my mind, I'll be doing a lot of these "scene dumps." I want each image to have the feeling of a story. This will be a tremendous way to improve my visual storytelling abilities.
Next year, after Unstoppable Penelope Jane is finished, I'm going to work on a book dummy for my portfolio. Now I just need to chose a great story that I'm in love with. I always like a little more fantasy so Peter Pan and Thumbelina come to mind as really fun to illustrate!