Being My Own Teacher

I have a secret/not so secret goal of creating a children's book someday! Recently, I have been drawing a young female penguin character and trying to get her to fit nicely into an environment. Like all my work, I want each image to breathe, feel alive, and have a sense of mystery.  I am well on my way to figuring  out how to do this in black and white, but in color--- not going so well.  As soon as I start creating from my imagination and trying to establish a believable sense of space in color, my work becomes tight and rigid (or at least too much so for my taste). To help me master light and color so much so that I can imagine it with enough confidence to get loose but accurate marks, I have decided to go back to the basics and draw light and color from life.  Hopefully it works! 

Here is the drawing from my imagination that I would like more if it felt a little less constrained: 

Here is the drawing from my imagination that I would like more if it felt a little less constrained: