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The Reference Image Hunt

Hello, I just started with CG Cookie but I have been learning blender on my own through youtube and Udemy. I love character modeling and I just started freelancing character models. I have found that I have gotten pretty good at modeling characters as long as I have a decent reference image, which leads to two questions:

How do I find ref images of characters to model with side view and front view? (I usually set up a pureRef of photos from pinterest, google).

How do I take my CG abilities to the next level where I don't really need to match reference images exactly by aligning the images on the corresponding axis? I feel like I do a good job of deviating from the reference images to make the model my own. But how do I get to the point where I can model using my own creativity from scratch. Would you recommend drawing courses? If so, how can I start making my own ref images?

I hope other have struggled with these problems and can provide some support, thanks!