View Full Version : Character: Neighbourhood Watcher

10 October 2003, 02:05 AM
A portrayal of a universal character, the nosey neighbour.

The expression is far from subtle (modelled after Kenneth Williams of Carry On fame), but then most sticky beaks are pretty brazen. We also have no idea what they are looking at, though it's likely to be trivial.

I guess I was going more for a shared recognition of this type of person (most neighbourhoods have at least one don't they?) and hoping the picture acts as a trigger for viewers' own recollections of runins with the Neighbourhood Watcher.

(ZBrush and Photoshop.)

10 October 2003, 02:09 AM
I think that I understand what you want to express, but that hand over the window... what is it's purpose? I find it quite distracting.

I know this isn't a technique oriented forum, but unless you live near one of earth's poles it is quite unlikely that the sun light will ever come to your window with that angle... unless it is near sunset/sunrise. And on that case the color temperature of the light would be a lot different.

10 October 2003, 02:41 AM
Thanks for the feedback.

The hand is a 'hand pointed in accusation'. It was meant to be a cue to the nature of the watcher - without it I sort of feel that they could be just a surprised person; with it I hoped it would instill an idea of disapproval by the watcher. It's a funny one though; I have shown this on other forums and some people get it and others don't, some like it and some don't. On a basic level it is mediaeval-type ornamentation.

I had concerns over the light angle myself and in the end it was a technical and aesthetic compromise (perspective and shadows are not strong points of ZBrush). As far as it goes though, I live in New Zealand, which is pretty close the the pole and we also have incredibly harsh light here and quite different colour temps to other parts of the world. It didn't look out of place to me but it will be easy to throw some sunrise/sunset tones in there so I'll give it a go. And I'll have to keep colour temp in mind in future if I'm aiming at a global audience.

On a different note, it seems to me that critiques of 3D work often point out anomolies in the representation of physical reality. I wonder if a need to try and be absolutely 'real' in 3D can act as a hindrance to achieving an evocative picture. Throughout history artists have played with reality, be it light or colour or perspective, to invoke certain ideas or feelings, even in what are quite realistic paintings. Should 3D work be any different?

Just an idea and I'd be keen to hear others' thoughts on this.

10 October 2003, 05:12 AM
First, the picture isn't showing anymore on the post, so I'll speak from memory.

About the hand.. I was afraid that was it' s meaning. I think, besides been distractive it also takes away the "taste" of the image... it just gives out to many clues (Not to mention that on the Medieval age people used to hand signs related to their profession.. hand making doesn' t seem like a real profession :) )

Could I suggest that you remove the hand-thing at all and instead changed the face expresion.. instead of wide-open eyes you could try intensionally half closed eyes.. figure your small brother when he just cacht you doing something wrong and telling "Shame on you! I' m going to tell mom" - That is the expresion that I mean. (The mouth is all right as it is).

10 October 2003, 08:40 AM
Have to agree with apollux.
Another thing that bothers me are the eyes. Somehow
they are not focused on one point. Maybe you should pull
them a bit together just a little bit.

And where is the window placed? Is it ground floor or 1st?
cause when I first saw the picture I thought it would be
ground floor because of the tree shadows.
So it seemed to me that the person is starring at the grass or something.

I think it would be better if he looks more strait and with
the expression Apollux suggested.

10 October 2003, 11:51 AM
Lose the hand over the window, if I scroll down so it is hidden, the image "sits" better.

Also, for me, she looks like she is sneezing, (sorry ;)) her face is so drawn out. Have you tried looking offended in the mirror? I think it's more in the sucked in cheeks and raised eyebrows.

10 October 2003, 12:29 PM
I think the idea of the picture is really good but there are several things you can do to enhance it. First of all I think that the face disappears in the mix of colours, lights and shapes. The mood could also be further enhanced by better lighting.

Changing the lighting should be the easiest thing with most impact. You already have the trees casting shadows, try to make the shadows denser at the edges of the pic, keeping the window and more important the face in the best light.
I think you should keep the contrast down on single elements (the red on the walls to the white walls, the dark shadows of the hatches cast onto the light wall, the dark hatches themselves against the light wall) and instead have more contrast between the surrounding areas and the area of interest.

I also think it could look more interesting if you saw less of her head. slightly hidden by the curtains, most of the head in shadows, but what is visible is in strong daylight along with the curtains.

I also aggree on the hand being a bit too distractive. A shame though, nice hand model =)


10 October 2003, 12:56 PM
Well, I'll deliver the "minority report" here and say that the hand is perfect as it really underlines the point of the image.

And where is the art is everything has to be physically and historically correct all the time? What's more important is believability and consistency - but that's just my opinion.

The thing to change here is her facial expression. The hand tells me she is the accusing type. But she looks surprised or slightly scared to me. Maybe squint her eyes, raise one of the eyebrows and tilt her head slightly backwards and give it some roll/bank to make her look at her surroundings a bit "from above" if you catch my drift.

The leaves on that flower look a bit too thick and plastic to me, but that's merely technical.

10 October 2003, 05:51 PM
I think you need to remove the hand. As it is now you have two focal points. The hand and the face, which splits your vision. I think the suggestions on improving the facial expression is where you need to go with this.

10 October 2003, 06:57 PM
Why does everyone keep referring to the face as she, Kenneth Williams (who this is modelled on according to the artist) was in fact a man.

The eyes wouldn't be closer together unless the subject of focus was closer. To me, the figure is looking at something distant but not miles away.

The hand is like the comedy element in pantomime which is the sense that this image portrays. (to me anyway... but maybe that's because I am familiar with Kenneth Williams and his character). It's almost like the figure is shouting "it's behind you" and the hand is showing you where, just like kids in a panto. The expression is a typical "oohh, Matron" expresion and conveys the comedy shock value perfectly.

As a side note, this is an emotion critique forum, I think people need to stop concentrating on the technical wrongs and rights and deal with the subject in question. The light might be at the wrong angle but it's effect on the emotion is nil. Things might be the wrong shade but their effect is minimal. Open your minds a bit more and just 'feel' a little.

After reading a couple of these posts, I get the sense that people don't see the images like the artist intended. That may be part artist fault but I suspect that people have got used to telling people what is wrong (in their opinion) with the image. This forum needs a different artistic approach and I think a different critique approach... IMO anyway.

10 October 2003, 07:59 PM
How did I miss the reference to Kenneth Williams? (Ohh Matron!)

In which case, I guess my comment about the face is off.

As to evocative vs technical, I think we may have hit a problem here, where the line between the two diverges.

Okay, as regards mood, I guess you could go two ways here.
1) keep it nice and bright, sort of midday in 'up pompei' land.
2) Go dark, curtain twitching type person, with the character in half shadow, suggesting a less than pleasant snooper.

Given the Carry_on reference I say the formaer.
However, I stick by the hand being a distraction, in terms of the feel, it is also a too blantant 'ohhh look' sort of message. The characters face alone should be enough to carry that message.

10 October 2003, 08:36 PM
Thanks for all the feedback - I think all the comments made are valid and are all things that I struggled with while putting the picture together.

LeeC is spot on with his/her interpretation but, given the other posts, this tells me that my picture does not stand well alone and needs either to have a context that most people know or to be altered acording to the suggestions given. I wonder if without a shared global iconography, history and culture, the internet is making it hard for artists who want to reach beyond a local audience?

I agree that evocative versus technical critique is going to be a hard one to call as they are not completely mutually exclusive.

The face: I went through several variations of this, including one with sterner eyes but this looked like they were angry or shouting. Surprise combined with disapproval seems a subtle and hard expression to get right (at least for me). Unfortunately the head has been 'hard-modelled' (not rigged) so I won't be changing it any time soon.

The hand: I originally put this here because the lintel looked bare without it. It's purpose is as LeeC explained and I personally like it, but I agree it is distracting. My first plan had been to put two small ones in on each end of the lintel - I might try this to see if they become part of the picture and don't distract so much.

Thanks again for posting - the comments have been helpful and are definitely food for thought.

10 October 2003, 12:00 AM
I just have to comment on LeeC's post concerning the light and say that I disaggree =)
I think lighting IS very important to evoke emotions and steer the viewer towards what the picture is about.
I didn't really feel the emotion the artist wanted to express because my eyes went all over the picture and got lost in the "chaos". Good lighting can greatly enhance the feel of a picture, it's far from just a technical issue.


10 October 2003, 12:34 AM
It's a 'his interpretation' just for the record :) ..

My advice is don't change your vision because they don't fit with everyones culture/iconography. Part of the beauty of art is being able to express your visions to different cultures. Not everybody will understand but everyone can't understand everything. We all don't understand the musics of other cultures but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate them. Humour is the classic example of how some things don't work in other cultures but you don't hear comedians changing their work to suit, they do what they know because that's who they are.

Your own personal visions are priceless and being able to express them is the greatest gift I think any one person can have. Always assume that there may be some, maybe even the majority that won't get what your picture is about, just accept that those people will create images that you won't understand. Neither will be any worse for it but both will have the input of something new to add to their experience and inspiration.

Only in the world of commercialism do we bow to pressure to make our images/creations more globally acceptable, here, we can just express what we are in our own personal way. If it was me having posted this picture, I would acknowledge the input, take it all onboard and use it to fuel the next creation. I wouldn't change the image as that was your vision, store the knowledge for next time.

Wiro: I didn't say light wasn't important. I was referring to the fact that it was mentioned that the likelyhood of shadows being like that in the window was unlikely unless you lived at one of the poles. As the artist pointed out, where he lives it is not unlikely, therefore the lighting was correct in his vision. It wasn't wrong but someone criticised the image because of it. Like you say, "good lighting etc..." but this lighting wasn't 'bad'.

I just don't think we should be tailoring peoples creations to how 'we' think they should look... originality would disappear into the void of creation for ever and we'd all produce the same stuff. Not that I'd mind being able to produce some of the stuff I see in here (it is fantastic quality) but I'd rather be a lesser artist that creates for myself.

10 October 2003, 09:14 AM
Just thinking about the "carry on" feel.
If you were to replace the hand with two smaller ones as you mentioned, how about making the main lintel in the middle the "name" of the house.
This would give you a chance to do the typical thing they did with names, "Noesius Parkius" or some such.
Just a (daft) thought.

10 October 2003, 03:28 PM
Just a little sidenote...

I think it's easy to mistake the "man" for a woman because of
the hat/thing that "he" is wearing, it looks like the shape
of an old lady's hair in those "old" days. I also thought that it
was a woman.

Btw. The hand above does confuse the viewer, so unless this
was the intention, I'd tend to agree with the rest about the
hand, the picture would tell more of a story if it didn't have the
hand or at least it was less obvious.


10 October 2003, 11:41 PM
I don't get a sense of "nosy" from this, so much as "shocked." The expression is priceless, but my take on it was that he had seen something he considered socially unacceptable. He certainly is blatant in his "nosiness." :)

10 October 2003, 10:44 AM
I like the face.

10 October 2003, 07:34 PM
My two cents worth. I love the hand as it is. I don't find it distracting, and it made me feel just as you intended.

10 October 2003, 08:01 PM
Wiro: there aren't that many elements in the picture, but given the textures there is a good amount of visual chaos going on. In a way I wasn't too concerned as I thought it may act as a visual representation of the way the watcher is trying to hide themself - they don't make themselves obvious so you have to look for them in the picture - a literal description of the scene. Perhaps though from an artistic viewpoint this experiment just doesn't work?

LeeC: good and wise words. If I feel strongly enough about something then I surely will stick to my guns...but it is very interesting to get other viewpoints and ideas :)

Colkai: a good idea, though I'm not sure I want to go that literal. It would be interesting though in the way that giving them a specific title could turn the watcher into a sort of exhibit - the watcher being watched. I'll have to ponder that one.

SketchPad: yup, and to tell the truth my original conception was a man and it was textured using parts of a photo of a man - it was only afterward that I realised the headware was more female in design. I'm happy for it to be androgenous though and people can see him/her as they want.

Marcia: as I said, they are brazen. The character was inspired by a neighbour who used to live across from me - she didn't make much pretense of hiding behind the curtain, but stuck her head under it in this way. Shocked is right though - I wanted the sort of neighbour who makes a habit of sticking their nose into other people's business and then judging them.

Juliannab: thanks - seems to be the way it goes. It's a funny old world and all the better for it :)

10 October 2003, 10:29 PM
I like the piece, it reached out and tapped me on the shoulder right away...I must have had a neighbor like that as well.

10 October 2003, 12:50 AM
The neighbor looked female to me, too... like an old crone. And that is the sort of behavior one would associate more with a fishwife (much as I hate to malign my own gender). But people kept insisting it was a man.

Anyway, I think the expression's great.

10 October 2003, 08:48 PM
I get no feel that the person has to lean over to view out the window. Aren't the bottom of most windows of this type at waist height, not shoulder?

I also think that the compositing my be a little off. The nosy neighbor was the last thing I saw in the image. Just glancing at the image I fist saw, hand, curtains, flower, shutter, face. If the point is to have the face be the story, then change the compositing a little so it is seen first.

Here is a quick hack of your image to show what I mean:

I tilted the head a little, but I could not get the pointing finger to fit in the picture. Have you thought about placing it below the window sill?

P.S. I love the texturing job you've done. Everything is excellent, but you might be able to add a little more detail to the hair cloth/net/whatever on the ladies head.

10 October 2003, 11:46 PM
Oh, I think this crop really strengthens the composition, even though you lose your pointing finger. If you think about it, the expression itself is a pointing finger with a capital P; the image doesn't need additional visual cues to make that... er... point.

Also, the begonia is no longer competing with the person's face for the viewer's attention.

11 November 2003, 12:12 AM
I agree. But I worked so hard on the plant and the shutters and the wall - hehe, time for me to take a dose of my own medicine. And I can always reuse them elsewhere.

By the way, it's a geranium ;).

Nice job Slaughters. I do like the tilt of the head - it makes him look like he's coming from the side more, as you would do if hiding behind the wall. And yes, the window is at waist height - the watcher is simply kneeling on the floor, as my neighbour used to do.

I may also try a letterbox crop, retaining more of the plant and right shutter, but placing the head in the centre of the composition to compensate.

11 November 2003, 12:20 AM
LOL. Geranium. And a fine one, too. :)

11 November 2003, 10:59 PM
I think the hand should go under the window. I also think the woman should be more visible, and have her hands grabbing the window sill. That'll give her the appearance of 'peering' out at her neighbors. The composition of your shot focuses on the hand too much. It becomes the centerpiece.

The composition of the shot is bad photography. If you were going to photograph this scene, it wouldn't look that way.


11 November 2003, 11:00 PM
The woman's face looks like it's floating, as if she had no body.

11 November 2003, 09:40 AM
First, I'm from the U.S., I've been living in Japan for a few months, and I'd like to mention that if I start to change the way I was trained in design and graphics to match my current culture, I won't be able to get a job when I go home. I would recommend asking others from New Zealand how they feel to get a more accurate idea on whether the disagreements are particularly cultural.

That said, when I put together in my head the scene you've created with my own impression of a nosy neighbor, I see a hand pulling back the curtain on one side and only a half or two-thirds of the face peering through. The eye(s) are squinted, and the face looks angry rather than surprised. I feel that most nosy neighbors are judgmental, bitter people with a lot of anger built up inside. I wouldn't see them as being particularly surprised, because I think they already expect the worst from their neighbors.

I do like the idea behind the hand, though it does need to change somehow. On the other hand, it reminds me of one of my favorite Jerry Van Amerongen comics that reads, "The [so-and-so]s look for someone to blame," and it shows a couple walking around their neighborhead carrying a giant hand with the index figure pointing. :)

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