One thing that has helped for me when developing artwork, is to keep a bunch going at once. Very easy when you are a student and are forced into multiple projects at once. I see a direct affect in the progress when I have paintings as well as drawings going. It helps everything from the mark making, to composition, and overall enjoyment as the piece progresses.
This one was created the same time that I first started oil painting, and I don't think either this or the painting I was working on would have turned out as well otherwise.