After talking with some of my forum mates, I decided to scale back the cracks on the hound. Thanks as always for the honest feedback! It was hard to remove such a large portion of the freehand I had spent quite a bit of time on. However, the pattern was too symmetric and too linear--it might be something that would work well in a sci-fi setting, but as a fantasy creature was too artificial. I think it looks more natural and am happy with the result. I may even remove a bit more...
The blacks have two separate highlights to help differentiate them. The black on the horns and nails is pure black with a sharp, pure white linear highlight to hopefully convey the look of polished obsidian. The black of the skin is pure black, RMS Blue Liner for the shading and incremental amounts of RMS Ghoul Skin (a gray-green color) mixed with the pure black. I give a softer look to the highlight.
Good news on the magazine front as well--the next issue of Portal is out and as usual has some great interviews and tutorials. Take a look: http://www.wampforum.com/VB4/downloads.php?do=file&id=38