Bear with me....
Have you ever listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED speech? She's the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" and she talks about the origin of the word Genius. It stems from Roman myth which once meant "a guiding spirit who attends a person from birth to death", and this spirit or Genius would either show up while you created or not. So if you did create something a step above all else, it was because your Genius decided to show up and help you out.
Now, my husband watched this with me and said, "she's a loon, that one". Ok, but this is what I got out of her speech.
Copy your Genius.
Take that special creation...the one that stands out above the others ...the one the Genius decided to show up for and keep it as direct reference, while you create another. Use it again with a twist. I have one painting sitting next me while I paint another. I pick that painting because of something particular that might be useful for what I'm working on at the time. It's never the same. For my charcoal study on Kelly, I had a framed charcoal study sitting next to me that I did sometime ago as I drew her. I copy linework and shading. I try to copy everything except the subject. This way it brings it up to the level it needs to be.
|I painted the beach girls while I had the old man on the easel|
|Loved the stripes so much, used them again|
|A little cleaner, but the same colors|