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I'm going to try something to help my pitifully slow progress at blender and if it works I'll keep people here posted on it as a learning tool.
I'm going to try some reverse engineering. I'm going to look at full bender models and files posted by much better blender artists and try to see how their models look when examined up close.
One thing I hope to learn is how many vertices are enough and how may may be too many. I've found you can't make a good model just by adding vertices, that just grinds your system down to a crawl.
So I'm going to examine some of the models made and posted by truly great blender artists, like polaris and the guy at mad shipyards, to see if I can learn how a properly made mesh should look, how many verts it needs, etc.