So, how did I fare? Here are my first few completed paintings. Despite all of the glaring flaws, I am quite happy with how they turned out. I learned that I was decent at copying from reference photos, but had trouble painting hair and making backgrounds:
I decided to experiment some more, trying out different themes and techniques, and moving away from just copying from reference photos, but was disappointed with the next few paintings. They eventually ended up in the scraps.
These two paintings did not have the technical quality that I wanted them to have, but, for some reason, they seemed to possess mood and emotion. I decided to keep them in my main gallery.
I tried painting food. These ended up in the scraps as well.
Finally, after 2 months of effort, I created a painting that I was proud of, in terms of both technical quality and visual appeal, without having to resort to merely copying from reference photos. This painting is of a bowl of chicken karaage ramen.
I was also very happy with the quality of the next two paintings, especially with the backgrounds, and felt that I was finally making progress. I also liked how the hair, something that I've had trouble with from the start, turned out in both pieces. However, I think the linework could use some improvement. So, I decided to improve on my lineart.
And improve I did! Here's my first work for Q2: