Help me improve this piece, please :)

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  03 March 2013
Help me improve this piece, please :)

Hi guys,

Here's my latest piece of work that I tried to submit to the showcase board. I haven't received a rejection e-mail (like I did before) but the status of the image in my portfolio says it was rejected. So, can you please help me understand what the possible reasons are, and perhaps I could improve it at least a little, so it will be of better quality. I'd appreciate any advice, preferably specific one. Thank you!

Dragons exist if you believe in them!
  03 March 2013
Hello Rozichka.

The first thing that comes to mind is composition.
- the main character is facing us without any kind of body expressivity, which very often results in a boring composition. For instance, she doesn't show even the slightest turn of her neck despite the action obviously taking place on right : she would feel a LOT more alive if she gracefully turned her whole head and not just her eyes.
- scale and perspective make very unclear how she relates to the background. Is she a giant head emerging from underneath the leaves ? Is she part of the forest? Is she a human-sized being standing amidst trees ? Right now, she's just a large head pasted over a random background.

Second, anatomy.
- main character: none of the basics are blatantly wrong, but too much simplification has made her face inanimate like a wax doll; her lips faintly smile yet it's not reflected anywhere in her features. In truth, a smile puts in motion a number of facial muscles whose pull will move up part of the cheek, which in turn creates subtle creases in the skin and raises the flesh underneath the lower eyelid, etc. Emotion and the play of facial features are very difficult to get right in portraiting, but with such a head shot and realistic rendering they're something you cannot ignore. The best advice I can give is to further study facial anatomy and photographic reference.
- leftmost nymph: her shoulder is very thick for such a frail body and the both outline and shading fail to account for underlying muscles. Same goes for her legs. Also, with her legs upright the pose could be mistaken as standing on the ground behind. If you want her in mid-flight, then make it obvious.

Third, shading.
- This might just be my personal taste, but part of me wants some hard shadows to contrast with all that softness. In the same way that light is only revealed by the presence of darkness, hard shadows would give meaning to the soft ones, whereas softness everywhere makes a bland picture
- the trees in the background have very simple shapes, and barely any shadows. Because you only drew thick branches, they don't feel quite real.
  03 March 2013
Wow, thank you for the detailed critique!

Truth is, in the reference I used for the leftmost fairy the lady was actually standing, somehow I couldn't find one that was flying I guess I thought no one would notice.

Then.. muscles - I must admit I didn't think of muscles at all! Note taken, I should pay close attention not just to the overal shape of the body but the details too!

The big lady.. well to be honest the initial idea for the painting didn't include neither the two other fairies, nor the forest in the background, so there was nothing to compare her scale with than just the fairy. She's meant to be a regular human being, which apparently I have not succeeded making clear judging from your reaction. Another note taken here And her facial expression - I know there generally should be creases around her mouth when she's smiling but then again I thought is a matter of one's facial features to a degree - I have tose same creases even when I'm not smiling (prolly 'cause I smile a lot and they're not kinda permanent even though I'm young enough). But I guess you're right she looks a little waxy and doll like.

The trees - I guess you're right. I didn't think any shadows were necessary, hence the way they look.

I would really like to know your opinion on whether there is enough depth in the image, which was something I really wanted to achieve and honestly this is my best attempt so far

I personally think that however better than my older works this one may be, it still looks tightly painted, which I really want to change. Does this come with experience or are there any specific issues I should target?

Thanks agan for your time and effort to comment. Really appreciated
Dragons exist if you believe in them!
  04 April 2013
Muscles are important because in addition to defining the contour of a body,give give form to the skin and define the formal shadows. So if you're aiming for realism, their study is a must.

As for the smile, in truth it isn't only about creases. Your intuition is right, they will appear in varying degrees depending on the specific layout of an individual's facial features, the amount of fat in one's cheeks, the frequency at which a person has smiled in their life and possibly created permanent wrinkles, ... In varying degrees, but it still happens in everyone. Along with it comes the rounding of the cheekbone region as muscles contract, the lateral movement of cheek flesh that induces the widening of the mouth and the thinning of the lips, ... There's really a lot of time to be spent on the study of how emotions are displayed on anatomy, which is a great thing about painting.

Regarding depth, the fading of the trees does create a misty effect that gives depth to your picture, in addition to the progressive vanishing of texture and their decreasing size. However, the somewhat vague definition of the ground and the previously composition problems work against it, which makes the relative scale of elements in your composition hard to understand. If your character is a human being standing so close to the camera, then I guess there would be more distance between her and the first trees that can be seen in their full height. I'd do a quick perspective study that includes the whole body of your character in order to check scale

Last, I'm not sure what you mean by "tightly painted", so I can't really comment on this yet.
  04 April 2013
Again, thank you for the in-depth critique, I really appreciate that!

I really do aim for realism, so I guess there's a whole lot that I need to learn! I'll surely try and lay out the desired perspective first the next time I start building the composition of my painting. I guess that works the same way as keeping the rest of the proportions intact - it will never fail you!

I am not sure if I'd be able to implement all of your advice onto this painting but I could least try to improve the human female's face and the body of the leftmost fairy according to what you said.

Turns out there are many things to keep in mind, in fact much more than I originally thought, and I'm very grateful you pointed them out for me.

As for my artwork being tightly painted, I am not sure how to describe it, it's rather a feeling that probably stems from my lack of experience and lack of confidence about my work since I constantly compare my work with the work of others. In my eyes there are paintings which seem loosely painted, as if almost effortlessly, and yet they have all the needed detail, whereas I try really hard to achieve detail and yet the final result is.. well.. tight
Dragons exist if you believe in them!
  04 April 2013
Heh, painting really is a lifelong journey. ^^

Now that you describe your feeling, then yes, I do think it is something that comes with experience. When artists repeat a process countless times and become intimately familiar with their tools and colours, they progressively become able to use them without having to think of it. Where we as beginners will struggle to translate on the canvas the idea we created in our mind, their brushtrokes will look so expressive because the technical thinking doesn't get in the way anymore. But rather than engaging on a lengthy awkward explaination, I'll point you to this thread in the Techniques section, which has a lot to say on the use of brushes and expressiveness.
  04 April 2013
Thanks for the link! For the record, I am already reading on perspective

And yep, I agree with you on the journey. A few days ago I just thought.. I have only drawn a few women and a bunch of trees and flowers (which I am still afraid of) and there are TONS, literally, of other things for me to learn to draw so I guess I will never get it done, which is FUN
Dragons exist if you believe in them!
  04 April 2013
I would examine your color palette, too - your tones are all in the warm range, you will get more depth and volume if you use cooler colors in the shadows, especially in the skin tones. You have no real feeling of depth because of that. The fairies are flat and cartoony, because of a lock of any depth cues from color or value.

Also, your lighting needs some adjusting - you imply a light source coming in from the right, but you have a vivid light source in the back on the left that isn't reflected anywhere.
  04 April 2013
Thank you for replying, BillyWJ!

I've reflected the light source in question but I guess since you don't notice it, it's way too subtle! I didn't want it to be too harsh but I guess I should've made it clearer.

About my color palette - well, I know how important color variety is and that I need to have both warm and cold hues present in my artwork and I tried to do exactly that, but now as you mention it - even my blues and purples now seem more on the warm side to me. I'll surely work on that, too!
Dragons exist if you believe in them!
  04 April 2013
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