You'll pull yourself on-model if you inbetween your early work first. Just try not to want to kill yourself because you 'could have done better...' No. You couldn't. You CAN DO better, but you did the absolute best you can. Relax. I'll need to tell myself this too, eh?
Oftentimes I try to dig up old character designs and see how I've changed... a lot of my old designs make me cringe, unless I can adapt it to look less gauche. Let things evolve, it'll look interesting when you paint the backgrounds. ^u^
Mrm. I'd say there's multiple aesthetics to take into account. I drew a couple of things I recall from the trip, imgur.com/a/IFlVt as a shapes diagram, and try to pin down just what qualities recommend them for the films... -
*Pre-Katrina/Imaginary bayous - the sort you see in the pictures, foggy and oppressive and claustrophobic. Lots of greens and browns and blacks and bronzes. Bald cypress dominates the place, worts and lilies make up the low-sunlight vegetation, and spanish moss shrouds the scape. Just... Just watch "Princess and the Frog," they got it pretty damn accurate (They studied the soil Katrina dug up, planted their own weeds, and referenced a swamp in South Carolina for the cypresses... unfortunately, the "Art of" book doesn't say where in the state...)
It's good for strong geometric shapes and lights and darks and strong raking shadows. It feels predatory enough in its own right for a lumbering obese gatordog to be funny as hayl. The air and wind are trapped by the trees and set the water close to berling. The key word is, think Heavy. The shapes and the very air are pulled by gravity a little higher than the rest of the world.
*Post-Katrina, the lake was knocked in and floodwaters and saltwater killed the trees before the Mighty Muddy flushed it back again. The trees haven't grown back yet, but the shrubs and flowers have. Scum and grasses have congealed into cute wee archipelagos that reflect in the water. Flowers of every color shroud the landscape. The bushes gather silt in the current and slowly build chains of bushes, barrier islands almost. Tall shrubs of things like Angel Trumpet and Azaela and Swamp Rose dot the landscape, and it's an indescribably interesting look, everything reflected mirrorishly in the impossibly still water, waiting for a kid to cannonball into it. Logs and collapsed dead trees jostle the landscape, sometimes an abandoned house floats by. The ultimate hide-and-seek grounds.
It's a vast yet child-sized universe, of the cutest little islands ever being made... It's a bunch of small set in a sea of big. The sky is like Saskatchewan in scope, with giant colors staining it and clouds approaching the momumental, vast surviving cypress groves in the background, a mirror sea of incredible vastness, above-ground electrical towers in the distance providing the only perspective. But in the lakes themselves, all is light and airy and young, the shrubs are probably about as old as the girl herself. This is the setting if you want Dog and Girl to seem "at home" in a giant playful world, and if you're less interested in gigantic trees and Dr. Caligari shapes than you are in gigantic swathes of gorgeous color and playful teeny designities.
It's the Mary Blair world to the cypresses' Eyvind Earle world, in animation terms. stephaniekuehnert.blogspot.com/2011/03/photo-friday-adventures-in-new-orleans.html It is, however, impossible to find reference for in the web, aside from blogs of tourists.
It occurs to me that I don't even know what the plot of the piece is, but you'd know more than me which aesthetic would suit it more...
It's good to have something you've redone a million times, hon. For me, it was liimlsan.deviantart.com/art/Ar… a webcomic about this group of nomad werewolves, which I came up with in the 9th grade and have made, at last count, either 7 or 8 different stabs at making something of the piece. I've changed the setting twice, the characters three times over (came up with 33 characters and pared it down the 8), the core concept once, and sketched an outline for the geography and two conlangs. It's nice for your brain to have something to tinker with, you know?