I’m delighted to hear you made progress, especially so if my hand had any help in doing so. ^^
I forgot about the problems with the pen tool. I used to hate it myself but I will tell you once you master it and its elements it becomes a wonderful friend. A hint for using it is, consider where the wings are pointing and you can manipulate the path anchors using the command (to pick up an anchor) and alt (to alter the angle of the anchor path). All simply confusing unless you are show the way…
But if the pen is an old enemy that ceases to surrender, the brush tool can work fine in its stead. The brush tool actually eliminates one of the confusing areas of the tutorial and general photoshop for you do not have to use the path layers option at all if you work with solely your brush. I tend to use my brush more often times when I want a picture to have a personal touch—that way I can claim that I did everything by hand. This is one of the few I did solely by hand.
Normally I do not do everything by hand for paths save time. Paths allow for colors to be added as quickly as you can outline but I must admit just using the brush and smudge tools alone can have a really nice effect on a picture.
But I’m glad to hear you experimented with new things. A lot of the effects you can see in my pictures are all on behalf of my layers. I only use a few filters here and there but I really like messing with the modes of the layers. Try using some of those for your next pic, those tend to help me out. As a final note, I like your pic however forgive me when I don't send it out…I get the reference but I don't think others outside of this forum would. ^^’