Hi Ice4sugar. Your statement in (4.) about practice, is partly the answer to all your questions. It may not be what you want to hear, but you already know that. I have spent hundreds of hours on Photoshop ed-5.0, mspaint, windows picture it!, and others, and I am still learning. I've had people see my art and ask me what software I used, and when I tell them I use a 10 year old program, they say: "I didn't know that old program could that!" It's is like playing chess, there are several moves but thousand of combinations. Practice, and more importantly, experimentation is the key to learning and understanding how to get your desired effects.
Experiment with what you already have, persist and be persistent. Experimentation and improvisation will bring fun into your work and at the same time it will provide you with patience.
I have seen some great creations by tablet and pen. Both mouse and pen are not the only means. I often create artworks in the traditional way, then photograph or scan them, then digitally manipulate them it my end design. So, in a way, I do not have to be a master of the tablet and pen, just a master at manipulation!
For tutorials, search the Internet. I am new to ConceptArt and have not yet fully explored its resources, but I think I saw something about digital workshops somewhere on this website. Check it out.
Hope this is of some help.
P A HAUSAMANN B Hlth Sc (Couns)[SYD]. ADM
Drawing, [Box Art], Steampunk, Mixed Media.
Only truth exists, anything else is a delusion - P A H