View Full Version : Need Help - new artist seeks advice

02 February 2006, 04:12 PM
Image Here (

That is my 5th digital painting, so yeah, I'm a complete novice. I don't even have any art background and I am just now starting drawing classes (taken after that one was completed)

So basically I need help with everything. Am I doing /anything/ right at all?

I'm wondering why it looks cartoon-ish, when that wasn't my aim at all... brush style? Coloring technique? I just basically painted, I did not use dodge/burn tools in any way.

Is this the right place for me or do I just need to scurry away and get better first? Where can I get the kind of help I need?

Anything will help, thanks in advance.

02 February 2006, 01:55 AM
HI there

I'm an amateur myself, so take these thoughts in that context. I would say the primary issue is the underlying drawing itself, rather than your brush or coloring technique. Basically, if you strip away all the color and bring it back to the line art itself, it doesn't look solid or cohesive, many of the drawing components do not appear to be related (in three-dimensional space) to anything else. I mean this not as a criticism, but as my best understanding of where things are going wrong for you in the painting. This is an issue of learning the rules of perspective. You don't need to know all of them, and in fact unless you're an absolute masochist I would not suggest trying to learn them all ( ! ), but a bit of the basics will do you a long way. I was very fortunate to find a good secondhand book on the subject.

Online, I would suggest the following site:

As you scroll down, you will see a number of categories which will serve you well in your learning. The perspective section is under the "technique" category.
With respect to coloring and texturing, for early painting I think you've done a decent job. The paving stones in the foreground, for example, have a nice mossy and irregular feel to them. I like the misty effect leading into the cave, and you have definitely avoided the common trap of starting painters of using bright solid colors. Your colors are more muted and gray, which is definitely closer to what you see in the real world. That way if you want the occasional really bright highlight you could drop in one or two spots of the pure color and it will really shine.

Once again, Handprint to the rescue. A great deal of information on color mixing, composition, color harmony, etc.. It's written for watercolors, but almost all of it is completely relevant to digital work.

My final point would be that there is no cohesive light source in the painting. Even if you can't see one, in the real world there is always a source of light. On the side of objects facing the light, you get highlights and bright colors. On the side of the object away from the light, you get shadows and muted colors. If you have 5 objects in front of you and a light source off to your right, the right hand side of all the objects will always be brighter. If you take a look at your painting, that's not always the case. Figuring out your source of light, and where the shadows will lie, also brings a sense of cohesiveness to the sense of three-dimensional "place". Actually, light follows the same rules of perspective as anything else, so you may find some useful information again at Handprint. Another excellent resource is the 2D tutorial section here at CG talk.

My absolute favorite coloring/shadow/value tutorial is here:

Hope this helps a little bit anyway. Don't stop.

02 February 2006, 03:05 AM
A good way to learn alot of quick realistic glazing techniques for Painter or Photoshop is to check out the Speed painting thread. Also Check out and in thier finished section is thier speed painting thread.

02 February 2006, 07:25 AM
you know if you took out the pillars, gave the painting a consistant light source, you would have the more realistic painting that you are looking for. im a novice too, but what i found helps me with the lighting is to use a gradient that goes from a light color to a dark color as the base layer, and then put my line art over it in a multiply layer. i can then use the burn and dodge tools to bring out highlights and shadows. Then you can insert another layer in the middle and use your brush on "color" setting to make it the colors that you want.

02 February 2006, 09:17 AM
My question is, are you painting still lifes along with these purely fictional scenes?

I mean, you wonder why it looks so cartoonish and unrealistic, but how would you know and understand how things look realistically when you haven't trained yourself to paint realistically?

I would avoid using photoshop tricks to establish any of the painting basics for now. Your goal is to become a better painter right? Then paint it, don't rely on tricks until you're good enough to use those tricks as efficiency boosts, not as crutches.

02 February 2006, 08:19 PM
I think the responders, while having good intentions, did not read my original post entirely.

I already said that I had taken zero classes when I did that painting, so your concerns about perspective and still life drawings shouldn't have been taken into effect - since I had literally zero instruction when I did that painting.

I don't know if you can tell, but it's an underground cave area, where there isn't a direct lightsource except perhaps the glow in the center of the painting itself.

I really wanted to know more about the actual matter of painting more than the drawing (which I realize isn't superior and off a bit perspective-wise) and why the look of it looks more like an animation cel than paint.

When I did that, I was completely flying blind, without an ounce of training in anyway. Doesn't that count for anything? I spose not :(

Since then (November/December) I am taking a Drawing 101 class at the local college (started in Jan) -- but I am still curious about digital painting. No classes for that.

Oh and, I believe dodge and burn tools are for photo manips only - and should never be used in paintings at all. It isn't really using color properly. <-- just my opinion.

02 February 2006, 09:47 PM
Your opinion on dodge and burn is a good one at this stage if your training. It's best to paint shading it by hand so that you learn how to pick and choose colors, using warmer and cooler shades where appropriate. Later on when you do this for a living you can use dodge and burn all you like to speed up work.

The main reason why it looks so much like a cartoon drawing is your use of pure neutral black. If you look in nature, pure black is extremely rare. Pure black is the complete abscence of light, which only happens in a completely sealed room. The next problem is your propensity to use outlines, such as the stone outlines and those cracks. That's actually a common thing for beginning artists. As above, there are no such thing as outlines in real life. A line in real life is where two shapes meet on the vision plane and seen only because those two shapes have different properties that set them apart.

Also, there is no such thing as lighting coming from nowhere. If you have to, stick in luminescent fungus to light the scene, but it's very important that the scene be lighted by a source either on or offscreen. Only in movies and animations does the light seem to come from nowhere, and that's only to light the actors.

02 February 2006, 10:51 PM

Good start--- its good that you are exercising your imagination----if you seriously want to improve your art then read on:

If one of your main goals is to create works of art from imagination then you have to first understand that everything you draw from imagination comes from somewhere, whether it be a physical image, or a feeling you got from doing something, or a film or bit of art you viewed. Cultivating that side of it is only one part of the BIG jigsaw.

You have made the first step in the right direction by taking a very basic drawing class. Good! I would advise to spend a LOT of time drawing - really push your drawing - do it whenever you can. Draw from life as much as possible! Give yourself permission to make bad drawings - dont throw out unless you know you REALLY can do better - keeping old work reminds you of how far you have come on your journey. I think the more time that you spend on drawing the better it will be for you.
You only can paint as well as you can draw. Painting is even more complicated. Get a good amount of mileage with your drawing and painting will come so much easier to you. Too many people dont give painting the respect it deserves. the basics are the most important thing in everything - spend a lot of time on them and you will be handsomely rewarded!

start looking at good examples of the art you like and admire. If you are working on your own - then using other artists work is a good way of showing what you still have to work on - but it takes time to be able to extract this information - be patient. If you can find a well trained teacher - this is very important - if not - use the forums for feedback.

Get some good books on basic drawing and perspective - Betty Edwards has a good book on very basic stuff called "Drawing on the right side of the brain" - you can get a copy cheaply in any bookstore or on amazon.

I could keep writing a load more here, but just as a last point - use the forums - theres a wealth of information here and its all free aswell - use the search function!

Just use your brain in short!

hope that helps and good luck!


02 February 2006, 03:41 AM
<<When I did that, I was completely flying blind, without an ounce of training in anyway. Doesn't that count for anything? I spose not :( >>

Hi again

If you just wanted to be told you did a fantastic job despite no training, you should have said so...

Remember that nobody here is under ANY obligation to provide you with anything. Take a close read through these replies, most of which are quite detailed and represent complete strangers taking time out of their day to try to help you (mine was written after midnight my time, I stayed up so you'd have a reply to your first post). You said you needed help with everything and did you do anything right at all? Well we've all commented on what you did right and offered our suggestions to help.

We have all read your post carefully and provided you with EXACTLY what you asked for. So, to put it mildly, don't ask for help if you don't want to hear it.


02 February 2006, 04:48 AM
actually darcy I felt like I was repeating myself with my second reply - the answers I got after that are what I was really after.... and which I thank the responders profusely for.

I don't see a single solitary thing wrong for wanting even a nominal pat on the back, either. But then, I'm a generous person that way when I give a crit - so that's just me.

On to the replies:

Thank you SO much for explaining about black. I had no idea - at... ALL - about that. I wouldn't even know where to begin honestly.

I totally know what you are saying about outline -- after taking the class for about 6 weeks now, I really get it outline/contour versus plain value and shades.

And, its cute that you said beginners do that - because she is teaching us to contour -then shade...

then she totally dumped us into pen and ink and I'm screaming to go back to charcoal/pencil because to me, imo, I still need soooo much work and I really like the medium besides.

I had decided to stop digital painting while I learned the basics - is that a bad idea? should I still piddle along?

My teacher groans when I mention my digital fascination - that's kinda a bummer, too :(

Besides still life subjects (which are sooo boring, and I have 3 kids and a husband and not tons of time to devote to snore inducing work...) is drawing from a photo reference an ok way to practice?

Also, I stink at learning from books (even though I love to read them)... am I doomed kinda in this process? Will I just have to suck it up and realize this is basically a medium I will have to journey through on my own (the internet doesn't count :D )

02 February 2006, 05:29 AM
Well, you can do contour lines, but unless you're making an active decision to include them in your artwork, it's best to use them as guides to block in your drawing. Just draw the contour lines really lightly and shade over them.

Some older artists will disdain digital art, but I don't. Like anything, it's just another medium with its own quirks. However, it does make it a little easier to make artwork, as there are a lot of tricks and features you can use to speed things along. However, a bad artist is still a bad artist digitally and traditionally. Fancy digital art tools won't replace solid knowledge of art fundamentals. The reason why instructors want you to focus on traditional drawing first is so that you arnen't using those tricks and features. This way, your mind has to make decisions about the drawing fundamentals like lighting, forms, perspective, texture, etc. I'd recommend that for every digital work you do, make sure you're doing just as many or more traditional drawings.

As reflected put it, the reason why you want to do still life drawing is so you can build up your artistic vocabulary. You have to know how to draw things in the real world before you can learn how to draw them in imaginary worlds. I notice you have a lot of stonework in your image, yet that stone doesn't look very convincing. How would you know how to make realistic stone when you haven't sat down and drawn rocks?

02 February 2006, 02:00 PM
Well I think I kind of understand that, since I went and took time out of my insanely busy life to take a college drawing class :P

I went backwards from most people - since I'm 32 and realized (and got a little less afraid to try) that this is what I want to do - I've tried lots of creative outlets and this one feels the most genuine - does that make sense?

I wish I could just toss all responsibility to the wind and take full time fine arts courses - but I can't - so I do this in my own way.

and you know, what you said about 'vocabulary' that really hit home and made a ton of sense. My teacher tries to explain like that, but she's kinda flaky too and has trouble with explanations lol

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