Monday, February 28, 2011

WIP Midway Critique Please

These are the two pieces I am currently working on, and I am requesting a midway critique from anybody willing to give me their two cents. In the first one - the anatomical issues in the right arm will be fixed! I'm more specifically asking about color and if the light is too intense. I know especially in the first one there should be more colors added (perhaps oranges), but I would like to hear from everybody else if these are going in the right direction so far...

Thank you guys for stopping by and helping me out!


  1. First off- I like both of these, the second one especially. the look and shading in the face is right on and I like how clean it is compared to some of your other work.
    The first piece- I don't know whats happening in it. the initial impression I got from the thumbnail was like, a Disney transformation scene and it reminds me of Melanie's art. Maybe its subject matter is not as metal as your usual, or maybe I'm reading it wrong- but thats the impression i get.

    If it is lighthearted fantasy, then keep with that light blue color and I would either teal up the green surrounding or eliminate the green all together and make the piece entirely blue and magenta. If this is not a lighthearted fantasy, then definitely add in that orange you were talking about. Right now there's a disconnect between the green foliage and the blue light source. the colors don't relate right... Like Turok meets Disney's Atlantis.

    I looooove that second piece. I loooove the face. Keep going with it but don't lose its clarity. Sometimes with your work theres too much stubbly brush texture(see film noir and satanic feminists). It's the way that you render sometimes and it's good, but your pieces could benefit if you paired that kind of brushwork with a smooth rendering style too- like you already have here on the face and hands.

  2. i think that the thing that's not jiving with me on the first piece is the pose of the figure... it doesn't really say anything dynamic or contribute to the narrative that you are presenting. she's sacrificing herself with all these blades in her torso, but she's coming across as blase about it in her pose and expression. i think that you're spot on with the character aesthetics, especially the costume design, but the pose could be pushed further for the sake of communicating the overall message of the piece. if she's a goddess or forest spirit who sacrifices herself for something, maybe she has more scars all across her body? there's no doubt a good backstory to it, because i thought it was a good idea, but looking at it objectively without the pretext of words and explanations, you can't decipher the underlying message too well. she has a good general pose to her, with contrapposto all up in's and a good feeling of weight to her, so it's really just the minor things that will push it. don't ask me about colors though... you know me, i'd much rather do a piece in black and white than color. that you are doing such an ethereal and bright coloring job earns big respect from me

    with the second piece, i think that you are definitely on the right track, dude. one thing i would consider though is planting more anatomy in the region where her skull meets the horns... they seem a little planted on, rather than a gradual development. maybe some skin deformation, or bumpiness in her brow near the horns? i see on her right horn that you're starting to put in that information, but it could maybe be pushed more. i don't think that you would have to worry about too much information on her anatomy, as she is an intriguing character with a cool look.

    there's also maybe one or two points in the hands that i would reconsider... on her right hand, the ring finger seems to sort of float or feel disjointed. i know it's probably kosher with the ref, but sometimes you need to fudge these dumb little things to make it more clear to the viewer. maybe giving a hint of the base segment of the finger meeting with the knuckle (just a smidgen of skin fold, even) would anchor it. also, on her left hand, i would consider slimming down the lower segment of the thumb, where it fuses closest to the wrist. it seems a little too wide, where classically a female is going to be more slender towards the wrist. and i guess some additional background elements could help in fleshing out the scene. there's kind of an ambiguity as to the context of where she's at... is her chair really high up? is she super big? more background information (and a visible ground plane) would fix that up in no time

    god i hope i don't come across as too critical and focusing on minutia. this is like a bajillion negative things, but they're all really minor. your stuff has a good foundation to it, especially with the colors

  3. First Pic:

    I'd say darken the forground most of all. Add some more darks to the background as well for that matter. It's all very evenly toned at the moment. Add more highlights to her skin and maybe even pop that pool a bit more. I would also add more tendrils coming from the energy source in the end.

    Second Pic:

    Alright. Thicken that left arm first. It's too twig-like. Secondly, make sure that light bright ball of light between her hands reaches those ridges on her horns as well as the edges of her tiara thing.

    Where is that really strong blue light coming form behind her? It seems like the chair back would block it. Besides, the saturated, bright blue light is kind of distracting to my eye and I keep wanting to look at it instead of her face.

    So far they look good. Post them again when you're a little further along.

  4. I think they're great so far. The only thing for me is the foot seems long on the blue one and the fingers too long on the red one.

  5. The mere fact you are looking for imput from other artists makes this a great situation. Now I understand the question regarding the blue light source....Compelling and distinct.

  6. Hey there, Dieter! Thanks for the invite!

    Sure, I don't mind adding my two cents. Of course you realize that once you ask people for insight, they feel obligated to make critical comments, and I am no exception! Take these for whatever they're worth.

    First of all, my hat's off to you. Great work. As I know these are works-in-progress, I feel I can be a bit critical without feeling like I destroyed your sense of accomplishment, which I believe should be quite strong for you right now! I really like these, and I definitely think these are going to go far for your portfolio. That being said, lets get into details:

    What is the mood here? Is it menacing? Magical? Fragile? Cold? The use of blue says all of these things to me. I agree that a little warmth in surrounding areas will balance it more and add the right hit of drama, I believe. The weapon (?) in her right hand seems like it's beginning to take on some life, but right now I'm not feeling it, hence my opening question. If this is meant to be menacing, it's falling short. If this is a fantastic pose for art's sake, I find it very interesting but I'm afraid I am unable to figure out the backstory (if indeed I am supposed to know it).

    I really like the promise of this one. Don't neglect the details in the fore-ground grasses and background. They are going to add a tremendous amount of depth and
    scale when complete. The folds of the fabric are reading nicely, and the detail on her left hand is coming together really well. Bring that passion over to her right hand, however, which holds more importance as it contains the prop our eyes (and her eyes) are fixed to.

    The primary light source is the pool she is standing in. This light could benefit from being amped up a bit more in brightness, as could the resulting tones on her legs and the underside of affected objects.The light on her legs should be almost as intense as the source itself, with intense shadows where the light is obscured, like the tops of her legs which appear soft and weakly lit at the moment. The point where her feet make contact with the pool should have the least amount of color detail with almost no shadow, as they are effectively inside the light source and should share the same coloration. For this reason, the contour lines defining her legs should be almost non-existent. At this point in the composition, her legs (and essentially entire form) are being hit with light from all sides directly below her. Therefore, ambient light will not exist in any great amount, especially at her lowest points which are flooded in light. Ambient light will become more powerful the further up the form you travel from the light.

    I like the orange of the sky though it may be a bit strong. Your call. This makes the violet seem very foreign. The violet has me believing the sky is moonlit, but the burning orange feels like an intense sunset. Making both colors work together can be done, but it will squarely place you in combat-mode to prevent the palette from becoming too "circusy". If I had to choose a color, orange versus violet, I would choose a slightly weaker version of the orange you have now. More specifically, I would darken those cloud forms (as the light source is behind them) and accentuate their contours with "silver lining" accents of the more intense orange on their edges. This may allow you to bring back the intensity of the orange in more effective pops of color, rather than as a dominant flood of tone. This will also allow you to bring that violet hue into the clouds and foreground sky a bit more (making the scene feel as though Night is pushing Day away) and will make the strong violet on her her shoulders feel more placed. (Though as it stands, that violet is really strong and bright, and you probably wouldn’t see it on her face, since her face is pointing at the much-stronger light-pool.)…

  8. …I know this is all WIP, but again, watch the strength of the "paint". Much of it feels very transparent now. Leave all of the receding shapes (the edges of the rocks, etc) transparent. But anything being hit by light needs to be much more opaque. All of which will provide heavy, effective contrast.

    I really like how the "vines" are breaking up some of the symmetry. I also like how they appear to be obscured a bit by haze. Bringing one of them to the forefront a bit more will add more depth to the image however. The entire image is happening in the middle-space right now with the barest hint of foreground. Accentuating the foreground and background will make this image go from great to stellar.

    Lastly, as this is transpiring outside, how about adding flecks of [something] being caught in the intense light of the pool? Flying insects, dust, leaves,… Anything to help place the viewer in that space. Anything that makes us feel temperature, time of day, emotion, gusts of wind, sounds of animals, intensity of light, is exponentially for the better. An image should go beyond sense of sight alone. The more senses you can connect us to, the more epic the image will be. Make us feel cold, make us smell grass, make us hear wind blowing, and this piece will have now engaged multiple parts of our brain and thus rooted it into our memory.

    Very well done. Great reference, (I presume!) The structure and anatomy are looking really well-considered and effectively moody. This image says what it needs to: angry, other-worldy (-dimensionly), provocative. I know that you're working this up still, so again watch the transparency of your tones. The paints still feel very soft and watered-down. Hue and Tone are not enough to compensate for this. Masterful control of paint opacity is a must. Soft and transparent for receding and shadowed items, strong and opaque for close and well-lit items.

    The strong presence and close proximity of that light is going to create some intense chiaroscuro. Definitely look at Caravaggio. The darks of her shoulders, arms, etc should be almost fully blended into the dark of the background, exposed sections only by the intense light of the orb. Your lighting seems spot-on, so I must assume that you have reference for this pose/scene, so look at it for these things. Chiaroscuro is usually a forced lighting situation not entirely based on natural lighting scenarios, so you will likely need to push your reference with some creative license. Speaking of reference, watch her left hand. It's accurate, but it feels wrong. Particularly the fore, middle, and ring fingers. I believe the issue is with their perceived lengths and angles. (They feel a little too long and straight.) Even if this image has captured your reference verbatim, matters of depth and proportion are often distorted by the lens of the camera, and need to be "repaired" on the canvas. Her left hand may even benefit from an increase in size, which will bring it closer to the "camera" and amp the spacial dynamic.

    I'm assuming that the red glow of the orb is an intense light, based on those shadows; the presence of red needs to be much stronger, if that is indeed the light's color. While the core of all light is usually an intense white, the light it emits has tone. Her face, for example, appears very pale white and her hands contain more red. Given the intensity and closeness of that light source, the red color is not going to drop off that quickly. The hands and face are all equidistant from each other, so the red should be identical and in my opinion, more intense. I can assume that as her hands are generating the light, they may contain a bit more red than her face, but not greatly so. This shift in color will require some reworking of hues on her face. As this will likely change your goal or visual intent, consider dropping the orb's color to a paler hue (if not altogether. Your call).

    I believe that the background wall needs a lot of love. Those windows are going to be doing a lot of story-telling about the environment, time period, mood, etc, and they need to be rendered passionately. Having some pale light coming in through them will also break up the space dynamically. (Just don't go too bright, as it will pull focus from her face). The background wall also needs to be connected to the blue-light ambiance lighting her backside. The blue itself *may* be too warm. It may benefit from something more ghostly, a blue closer to pale Cyan. This same color should very lightly be incorporated into the background (as it seems you are beginning to do).

    I agree with the arrow; re-adjust the location of the skull for tangents.

    Skill, craftsmanship, art direction and passion all get high marks. The only down to these images is that they feel very similar to 80% of what Wizards of the Coast (and essentially every fantasy art house) is doing. So while the competence of your craft (style, technique, light, technical skills) are all top-notch, the angles, expressions and mood are all very predictable. This of course is not to say the work is not extremely marketable or portfolio worthy as is, because they are. But for future works, keep this in mind: You clearly have the ability to masterfully render a scene with what I would call professional skill and attention to detail. This work will get you more work. But being able to create a great painting is something that all artists (with enough time) will be able to do. You do not want to be "every" artist. You want to be "the" artist. Your job as an illustrator is not about being the best painter to get to a mark before your peers. Your job (and anyone reading this) as an illustrator is to be the most conceptually competent thinker. The most interesting. The most effective and dynamic problem solver. Being able to render a scene with exquisite attention to form and detail will get you work. Being able to solve a creative problem in a unique way, develop a fresh approach, or re-deliver the same theme in a totally new way — these are the kinds of things that will get you sought out. To be honest, a client can throw a stick and hit about five competent painters. What client's struggle to find are the fresh thinkers; the professional problem solvers that go beyond the common. All summed up, always push "concept" above everything else. "Concept-of-craft" is, in my book, far more important than "technique-of-craft". Once you believe you have the best concept thumb-nailed out, explore new angles, palettes, expressions. Steer away from anything obvious or familiar, if you can help it.

    All great work, Dieter. Truly marvelous. I look forward to what comes next.

    -Brian *WHEW*