Does this work?

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Old 02 February 2013   #1
Mountain Fortress

I spent a few days working on this and was hoping for some crit. In an attempt to speed up my workflow I painted this without any opacity in the brush. It is all painted over a scanned pencil sketch then coloured digitally in Photoshop using a round brush, 100% hardness, 100% opacity. With exception of the background sketch no tones or colours are blended using opacity.

My concern is there are some large areas where there are flat colours, the clouds at the top of the painting and the areas at the bottom.

Are the flat areas distracting and do they look unfinished or stylised? I was aiming for stylised but depending on reactions may change it and add more blending.

Also is there enough life in the scene? Any feedback and help will be greatly appreciated.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog

Last edited by Jacobiahsj : 02 February 2013 at 01:43 PM.
Old 02 February 2013   #2
It does look stylised and I like that. Kind of a comicbook type of appeal. I like the sky and the grey area in the background. The pillar on the left, though, is highlighted on its right side with a brownish colour that is too close to the sky colour behind it, I think. I suggest either reducing the red tones or else adding a lighter line of colour to visually separate it from the sky. (I know, there's a black outline, but the whole picture is covered in black outlines, so a lighter line might do the trick here.)

The bottom half of the image bothers me, though. If the water is supposed to be ice, perhaps you don't need to change anything. (Living down south like I do, I don't get to see iced over streams very often, so I'm no authority on the matter.) However, if it's suppose to be liquid, then it needs to reflect the land. Also, even a slow-moving stream will have a little bit of wave to it and a subtle colour difference in the surface would not only indicate this, but also add visual interest.

The path is very very red! It would definitely benefit from some colour variation. If you used the same blue-greys and yellow-browns that are in the upper half of the picture, it would help balance the colour composition, too. Blue tones in the shadows and yellow tones in the highlights is a popular approach.

Old 02 February 2013   #3
Cheers ~D~

I agree the highlight on the pillar needs to be different hue to differentiate it from the sky.
Secondly you thought the water was ice, but the intention was mist so obviously it doesn't read correctly so I will definitely need to tweak this.

There's also an area leading up to the tower which is meant to be lava but I don't think this works yet either. So that will be worked on as well.

Will get a full day on it tomorrow so we'll see how it progresses.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 02 February 2013   #4
Ah, mist! Maybe try some cloud like shapes in the whitest areas.

As for the lava stream, I originally thought it was the path, only brighter because of the light. I'm not sure how to make that read as lava on such a small scale. My first thought is a more vivid red, but I don't know if you want to break away from your muted tones or not. Maybe a tributary or two running from the stream would help.

Old 02 February 2013   #5
When you make a stylization choice, you need to know exactly why you're doing it. What is it about this particular stylization that achieves what it couldn't otherwise with a more conventional style?

The large flat areas aren't too distracting, since you're using flat values for the entire image. You can try to divide them into even more value levels so there are less larger flat areas--that'll help a lot.

Last edited by Lunatique : 03 March 2013 at 02:33 AM.
Old 03 March 2013   #6

Finally got round to working on this again. I got distracted making a font and then a few other bits and pieces came up. I got asked to exhibit some work at a gallery so took the opportunity to finish this off.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 03 March 2013   #7
I think it works. The way you are hatching can be more consistent though. You sometimes cross-hatch in multiple directions, and sometimes have just one direction, and the density/sparseness also varies. There doesn't seem to any reason behind the choices you made. For example, why does the bottom/left area having only one direction in hatching while the other areas also depicting the fog use dense, multi-directional hatching?
Old 03 March 2013   #8
Hi Lunatique,

I agree it is inconsistent. I had to prioritise as I had a lot to do in a short a amount of time. I focused on the bits that weren't working and had to move on from the hatching to work on other parts.

It turns out that due to the unseasonal weather we are having that I have an extra 3 days to work on it. So I can work out the kinks and up the resolution. Will post again when they're sorted.

Cheers for the feedback.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 02 February 2014   #9

I've had some time to work on this a bit more. I made some major changes to the colour which has helped make the image read a lot better. I think it makes the focal point much more obvious. It is also closer to feel that author of the passage the image is based on, was going for.

I have also tried to make the hatching more consistent. Will probably spend quite a few more hours on it getting it portfolio ready.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 02 February 2014   #10
If your main focal point is supposed to be the warm colors of the lava, then I think you need to darken the rocky structures more in that area so the lava will contrast more strongly against darker rocks. This is necessary because right now, the moon and the sky is taking too much attention away from the lava area, yet the moon/sky is not supposed to be the main focal point.

One very important lesson to learn about composition, is that often you must tweak the tonal composition of the image so your values are managed to best bring your focal point out more strongly, and how you choose to manipulate the values without throwing off the credibility of the lighting is a matter of experience, which also informs your aesthetic sensibility.
Old 02 February 2014   #11
Thanks, the way I have the layers set up it should be easy to experiment with that so I'll give it a go.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 02 February 2014   #12

I played a bit with the sky, darked some areas and lightened the background behind the fortress to increase the contrast in that area. I think it's taken some emphasis away from the moon but without losing this completely.

I have also tried to lighten the mist in the mid-ground to lose some contrast and hopefully de-emphasise this area a bit.

The last thing I did was whiten the smoke and add some darker values around the lava to increase the contrast and hopefully focus more attention on this area.

I need to tighten up the foreground as it's looking a bit under-worked. Will focus on that tomorrow.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 02 February 2014   #13

More work on this I've tidied up the hatching although it still needs a bit more work. I think it looks a lot better and when compared to earlier versions the hatching is a lot less distracting.

I've also darked some area of the sky lightened and added more colour to the area behind the fortress. I think this really pulls focus on the fortress now and adds clarity when reading the image. I think it's also makes the foreground feel cooler which is also a good thing.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 03 March 2014   #14

I think I'm finished with this for the time being. It's time to move onto something else. Comments and crit welcome. Thanks all.
Tooth and Nail

Rusch Blog
Old 03 March 2014   #15
Does the fog have to be completely white? It seems unlikely that it could be so incredibly bright when it's just the moonlight. You have to keep in mind that in any image, white is the the absolute bright value there could possibly be, regardless if the image depicts a bright sunny day or a dark night. So by having so much white in your image, what you're saying is that the fog on the bottom is incredibly bright, as if it's strongly illuminated by a very strong light source.

The moon looks a bit strange being darker like that. Like the fog, you have to balance your relative values. If the fog is that bright and the rim light of your clouds have bright halos around their contours, then your moon has to be bright enough to be outputting that amount of light. Your light source is always brighter than any surface it is illuminating. You need to carefully manage all the values in your scene logically, so the hierarchy of brightness makes sense and the scene's overall lighting scheme looks credible. Also your lighting is currently still too diffused/flat looking, and does not appear like a back-lit scene that it is. To make it look credible, you need very dark silhouettes with bright rim lighting from the moon.

Take a look at these examples:

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