Hi first off I’m no expert, I’ve been modeling a few years now and feel I’ve kind of got the hang of it but I’m no further along than intermediate!
If you want some names to learn from: Bay Raitt (more or less invented edge loop modeling!), John Feather, Ken Brilliant, Martin Krol, Tony Jung, (of course there are loads of others too!) I don’t recomend you copy Stephen Stahlberg, he breaks all the rules and gets away with because he’s an EXPERT! If you look at meshes from the guys I mentioned above you won’t go far wrong!
Edge loops are really important, they actually make the modeling easier, produce a lighter mesh and one that will deform well. I model with obsessive attention to edgeloops and use quads as much as possible but I don’t worry too much if there are one or two tris here and there. What I said about avoiding long thin polys (especially tris) is important too, they will cause pinching more than anything. Another good tip is change poly size gradually, don’t suddenly change from big square polys to small thin ones. Generally try and keep your quads squarish and any tri close to equilateral.
That should avoid most problems. I don’t animate but I do try and model with animation in mind because a mesh that will animate wel will also pose well for stills.
Here’s some links to Stahlberg
An interview thread
And a thread he started on topology