Couple of recent pieces. Top one was a private commission. It was fun to do a piece that was way over the top. Tricky since the client wanted a flaming hammer, glowing armor, an illusionary image of a volcano erupting and a figure that's darkness. Decided to make the flames more stylized. Haven't heard any complaints but still not sure if I shouldn't raise the realism. Probably change the volcano to some kind of magic symbol when I go to make prints so that it's not confusing.
Second piece is a cover for an eBook. Bottom section and top section will end up being covered with text. It was also a bit tricky. Basically just had hair colors and ages. The problem for me was that all of the characters are wearing cloaks and facing what would be the light source. Stylized the magic part a lot like I did with the fire on the other piece. Again, not sure whether it was the best decision. Gives them a photoshop look but at the same time I'm not sure I'm totally against the more graphic look.
Thought I'd bring up a problem a new illustrator may not expect. Sometimes people won't like your work. In fact they'll hate it and not because of your drawing, rendering,color choices or composition. It'll be because it's not what they expected. One of my very first gigs was for a product that had several editions before it and I had to illustrate a race/monster that had changed several times throughout. For some reason I was directed to illustrate a version that wasn't the most recent. Well fans hated it and posted all over forums saying they hated it. The company never spoke up and said, "hey this is what we wanted." They just ignored the complaints and really that's the right call. I have to admit that I was agitated over the whole thing and wanted to scream, "it's not my fault! They asked for it!" It's tempting but don't do it. It won't do any good and will likely hurt your standing with an art director. You also have to remember that art directors won't see some fan complaints on the interpretation of something and decide not to hire you. Other artists and ADs know how the art process works and would never lay the blame at your feet.
On a related note, I'll have some new work being released sometime soon that I bet will have some fans screaming about the design. Kind of dreading it and already feel that urge to scream out, "I was just doing what I was told!"