For the past few months I've been amassing some critiques of my work from
various other artists and a couple of art directors. There are many common
threads. Regardless of my state, not being able to afford formal training, or
even some lessons on life painting, I stick to this as much as I can.
Digital painting is not my preferred way, but for now, it's the only way if I
ever hope to gain more income. But it's not only for that, but because I want
and know I can be better.
So, I have begun to try to find ways to address the weaknesses I have, one
at a time, through the various commissions I get. But, I need extra eyes for
Here's a small private commission I was paid to do. It was only for a character
sketch. I decided to go for a digitally colored one, with a background and such.
Now, since the commission is done, I want to take it to the next level.
I haven't addressed the background beyond the initial sketch stage, and I
really want to. Yet I am being timid, I don't know why, and also, I feel the
composition of the background and the character are, shall we say,
random statements of what I want to be there, but it doesn't feel well
organized, pleasing pictorally.
Next, is a constant problem I have, the lack of texture and sharpness. I
have a difficulty figuring out how to state smooth edges and shapes, without
overmodelling. I haven't experimented also with the brush features and
textured brushes because they make me feel anxious, that the tone or
color isn't right due to texture, and I overmodel things anyway so the
texture just makes everything "muddy".
One last thing I'd like to fix (and it's not the end of the list but that's what
I aim for in this one) is credible lighting. Now, I have no idea where and
how I could ever find reference to something like this lighting situation.
I've looked at other paintings, and some lava photos, of course I couldn't
find anything combining that and "moonlight". Also, I couldn't really
calculate how local color would credibly change, under such extreme
So, tear this up, give me your worst please, otherwise I won't be able
to develop. If you can see more wrong with this, please point it out. Any
guide, solution, advice, paintover etc is encouraged.
try thinking of the elements of your painting in terms of hierarchy of importance. So the figure is most important, but you have a number of things competing with him, so first lets isolate and make him more important by lowering the values of all the other elements. Then maybe lessen the contrast in the background and build some glow around his head and staff; now things are more organized visually. You can add more lava and glow to the background but it can't compete with the figure for importance. You control the organization with value and color to group as much as you can together, background from foreground , figure from rock pedestal. You see I've separated the values and the color keeping the strongest values and brightest colors for the figure. No yellows or blacks in the background.
Dpaint, thanks for taking time to do the over paint. I have to admit that such a dramatic
turn, I would not have taken. And there are 2 reasons.
First and most importantly, if you check my gallery, you will see that I have stuck too
much with the classic spotlight vs dark background thing. At first it was because I love
the theatrical setup, but it slowly became a crutch (coupled with the guy on a hill setup)
to the point that it's become a shackle composition I am trying to shake, and with some
So, that's one reason I didn't go for a very dark background, I wanted to see how I could
make this work by turning things around, hence the very intense light coming from above.
I didn't want it to interact with the background, sort of like there's a crack and it shines only
on the character, hell, I didn't even want the spotlight initially. End the end it may give some
more focus to the character, but it's forms are all washed out.
The second reason I wouldn't have gone this way is because I don't generally use very
saturated colors. The few times I have, were a decision from the start, to challenge
myself, see how I could use them and what I could learn, but still I'm talking maybe of
one small area with intense color, like a focal point or something.
So what I suppose I should take from here so far, is that I must reassert my connection
of contrast = white (or some color close to it)? But the other part, with the highly saturated
colors, I am going to have a difficulty with those, simply because, from what I see, realistic
paintings I admire, have more desaturated colors in general, but even that doesn't always
give "credible" colors if you know what I mean. So maybe I have to fail with high intensity
in the color for a while?
Still, I am curious on what could be done differently here, but not take the spotlight vs
dark background approach. Any ideas?
Well I hope my quickly arrived at solution doesn't trump what I've said because I think it is valid. Yes, there are a number of ways to solve the problem without darkening the background or over saturating the character, but again they are carefully orchestrated solutions involving value and color. My main point still stands, which is to keep things separated. Keep things in value groups and color family groups, that is what most realists do. The level of saturation and contrast is up to the individual artist. Here are two examples from Frazetta, one with color and one with values; The Conan piece is separated by values- the foreground has the greatest contrast- the color is harmonious, almost monochromatic. The second piece is separated by color; the greens in the foreground are completely separate from the background, even though the value separations are similar between the two areas. Look at your favorite realist pieces and see if you can detect what I'm talking about in the ones you like.
For sure, I didn't mean your point was invalid, I understand it completely. I
have just been trying to kill my bad habits, but maybe I am also forgetting the
points I have learned. Also, Frazetta being my favorite artist has been a sort
of bane because I've used this basic formula I described, taken from him
without considering other parts of it, that you are pointing out, even tho
I have read about them.
Something that really stuck with me in the paint over and I forgot to mention,
was your color separation, no yellows in the background. Thinking of some of
my color work, I don't think I have even consciously done this.
The examples from Frazetta are outstanding. But they are also directing me
to a point I hadn't thought about and I don't know if it's apparent, that being
that I don't think I looked at the concept of the image as a pictoral problem.
I just threw in the sketch and began hacking away. I was pleased with some
of the daring things I did, but I didn't consider the problem at hand, I just
made up stuff as I went and in my efforts to keep away from using some tools
I know how to use a little, I forgot to look at other I may have used to my
benefit. So maybe part of my not making some choices like tonal or color
separation, was due to the fact that I didn't consider there to be a problem in
the first place, but in the end I just ended up just "adding white". On the other
hand I am glad I did because the solutions you have given, weren't in the forefront
of my arsenal, now I'll remember this more.
What about texturing? Do you or anyone else have any suggestions? How
would you paint this to give say, the fabric some texture, the rocks, or
just some of the generic atmospheric gritty surface stuff?
By the way, based on Dpaint's suggestions I will proceed in the next couple
of days to edit the piece, look and think about it more and see if I can apply
what's been theorized.
For the time being you would benefit a lot from doing some painting studies and learning how to render different materials. Pay close attention to your edges and brush strokes, they are very hazy and un-confident. As for your painting, you are using too much black for the shadows and you have no defined light source. The overuse of rim lighting is killing the dimension of the figure and scene as a whole. I can see defined muscles on the guys bicep and clavicle area but everywhere else you indicate fabric so it kind of throws me off. I can't tell if those flames on the shirt are supposed to be reflections or some kind of pattern. The blueish light coming from the top seems quite out of place and just thrown in like a lazy photoshop fix. Also think about your composition and perspective. I can see this being an upshot which would make it more dynamic while also cutting out all that unnecessary space at the top.
There are other issues but those should give you an idea of what to think about. Also make sure to use reference as much as possible, it makes a huge difference!
Sketchbook - http://conceptart.org/forums/showthr...=1#post2697831
Blog...(Updated more regularly!)
This could also benefit from cropping. There is no need to have all that space up top if it isn't for a book cover that needs room for the title.
You show the being stepping on the pillar but give no indication on what he is stepping up to it from. At this angle it just looks like a lone pillar.
Line, I just have to mention how much you remind me of me. The issues you have are consistent and they are the same issues I deal with in my paintings, even down to what kind of lines to use and how to render it without overdoing it. It's just nice to see someone in the same boat as me still challenging themselves. You're doing a great job.
@Elissiam: Thanks for that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in the "show me how to use a pencil" boat. I have developed
my skills to a level and I just have a good understanding of what I know. I just need outside critique to make sure the
self-criticism I am making isn't skewed. It doesn't help to not have any kind of institution or art circle around, hence
not being able to get some criticism or advice up in person.
@cliffroth: I know what you mean. The spotlight beam from above enhances this bad feeling, I added it by necessity
because the blue-lit areas didn't make bring the point across. I personally feel that without that, and with more of
the background showing, it's a little better. I do acknowledge that the use of the commission affected me too much
to not dream up a more exciting composition. But still, I'm interested in seeing how I can take this piece to a more
pleasing and detailed level.
@Avvatar: Thanks for that suggestion. I've been hung up on thinking on how I might use texture brushes or overlay
textures to give it more punch, but have forgot something I do with my pencil, study real textures. I'll see how I can
@Dpaint: Your comment ties in with Avvatar's. Do you think I should look at it only as a surface problem and skip
thinking about how to go in with some brush or something as well?
Think of it as a design problem.If texture or details add interest but don't detract from the center of interest then use them to your advantage. They should always be used to strengthen the idea you have for the piece.
Last edited by dpaint; December 7th, 2012 at 10:35 AM.
Your issues lie more in the fundamentals, relying on texture right now would act as a crutch. Using textures without proper knowledge will also make things look like a cheap photoshop filter.
Sketchbook - http://conceptart.org/forums/showthr...=1#post2697831
Blog...(Updated more regularly!)