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  11 November 2013
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"Lingerie for fictional fighting women. Go into combat looking and more importantly, feeling your best. Now with breathable Kevlar and ballistic nylon panels, fashion and comfort are synonymous with protection. Saving the world never looked this good."

This is an illustration I did as a submission to Ballistic's recent call for entries into their latest iteration of Exotique. To me "exotique" means a beautiful woman with a hint of sexuality thrown in.
My initial concept was of a woman undressing in a locker room for an lingerie ad (in the back of my head I always saw the black and white diamond ads). By the time I started painting I felt I had gone overboard with the use of hanging underwear in the background. So I ignored it thinking I'd come back after fleshing out the subject. In the end I decided to move more to a pinup style focusing on the subject alone.
I've always had these colors in mind. I'm pretty happy with them as this is my first attempt working outside of grayscale.
I'm really proud of this work and with it being my first I need a little help to find it flaws. I'm shooting for a realistic style. I used reference as inspiration for the face and pose, but none for the other aspects and I think it shows.

My questions are:
Can this composition stand on it's own as it is?
Should I have more detail/texture to the subject and background?
Are there any glaring problems with my lighting?
Is the character bland with not having more personal touches to the outfit, etc...?
Is it clearly implied she's taking off her jumpsuit?
Should she be looking offscreen, middle distance or at the viewer?
Should there be more interaction between the subject and the background through the use of a shadow?
Do I need more cast shadows on the face and body?

Those are just the things on the top of my head. What glaring issues do you see that really hold this piece back? I've looked at it so long now that I'm inured to it (even flipping it). What can I add to really make this look better. I feel like I'm right on the edge of making this look realistic and less of a cartoon.

With this being my first illustration I'm afraid to push certain aspects. Like shadows on the face, or covering things up I worked hard on.

Thank you all in advance for your insight.
  11 November 2013
I think this is a good start on a sexy pinup. Her face is unique but pretty, and I like the colors. There are some issues, yes. It doesn't look like she's taking off that jumpsuit, for starters, and there are some minor anatomy things. Her breasts are very low on the chest, her left shoulder looks dislocated, and her forearm looks too long compared to her upperarm, and her ear looks too high. Watch how you paint things like eyebrows, noses, and lips. Those eyebrows are very stark compared to her hair, the edges of her lips are heavil defined when it can be prettier to sort of leave it less defined. On the other hand, fi you're going for the sort of retro, heavy-lipstick look, it can work, but in that case, you could have made the lips perter and fuller.

The biggest thing that I thiink is wrong is the composition. A pretty girl in a flat space can make for a great pin up, but I don't think it's working for you here. The darker tint around the edges and the motion blur looks lazy, and even though I like the colours, I think you could have played more with abstract shapes or hinted at location. Even things like props can really help, without actually defining that space. Look at classic pinups for the sorts of flatter compositions they use.

The next thing I notice is her hands. They're hidden. If she's taking off that jumpsuit, they'd be better off tugging it down in front, otherwise it looks like she's just hiding her hands behind her back while her jumpsuit falls off on one side.

I think you could push the darks more with this one. A lot of areas, like her pouches, are kinda vague and soft. I know you said you're afraid to push the shadows, but I feel like this image could really use more contrast. Also, don't be afraid to push it, in any way, especially wiht digital where things are so easily changed back and forth.

I also feel like in this instance she should be looking at the camera, fully knowledgable of her provocativeness, rather than giving some thousand mile stare. Or, she could be looking down at her own body.
  11 November 2013
Hi Anaxa. Thank you for taking the time to come up with some insightful critiques. You pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to a lot of the issues that have been bugging me. My PC died toward the end of the this piece and the replacement didn't have the power to work with the file. It became painful to continue the work and I just pushed out a quick finish.
Now that I have a new workstation I'll jump back on this. I agree with a lot of things you pointed out. Though I'm a tad disappointed to hear about the anatomy. I thought I got it pretty good, but looking at it now I can see why you said it. I think I might have lost my way when I came to the shoulder. The addition/design of the shoulder pad really looked to be pulling the shoulder outward. However the low bust was intentional. I wanted to get away from over the top cleavage, while also bringing attention to the bra. Perhaps the design of the bra wrong making it look more like an anatomical problem instead of a design choice. I really thought I nailed the body language of of the movement of removing a garment such as this. But perhaps it's just one of those things that no matter how right or wrong it is, it just doesn't look proper at this angle.
A lot of my decisions had come from not wanting going over board with sexy cliches. I lost sight of the piece and focused solely on the subject. I'll step back and see if I wanna finish it as a pinup or bring back illustrative narrative.
Right off the bat I'm thinking of bring her arms back in front of her pulling off a glove.
  11 November 2013
Some women, particularly taller, narrow builds, have lower set breasts, but these seem like they're running into her waist, almost. http://mjranum-stock.deviantart.com...auty-4-52800203 this model has quite low-set breasts, for example, but there's still a chunk of ribcage before you hit her waist.

I also think that you needn't worry about a conflict between pinup and narrative. If it mary jane washing spidey's spidersuit, or a girl with a wrench fixing a robot, or a man crashing his car because he got distracted by a girl standing by the side of the road (this was a 50's or 60's soviet pinup, probably a bit of an outdated narrative today), or a girl rushing to answer the phone with a towel around her body and curlers in her hair (also, dated). This is all fine. They're all putting narrative into pinup, and that makes the pinup more interesting.

It's true that sometimes, sexualization can hurt a narrative illustration (nipple tassel body armor, for example) but a touch of narrative won't hurt a pinup illustration.
  11 November 2013
I see what you're saying about the breasts. You should have seen the initial concept. These have already been moved up quite a bit! Haha. There is a hint of rib cage that coincides with the bra cast shadow. In my head I was seeing a pushup bra that terminated much lower than the actual breast (I wish could remember where I saw it, I remember thinking how strange it looked but so right. Basically it was the inspiration for the piece).
I think the problem might be that in the beginning I had two versions. With and with out the bra. It's possible I didn't compensate enough for the bra pushing up the breast. Should I continue to refine this style or should I go with something more lacy to adhere to the form? Also does having one side of the chest exposed work? In saying that I just had a flash inspiration of the subject reaching across with her exposed arm pushing off the jumpsuit from covered shoulder. With that I can bring the dislocated should over in front of her. Maybe turn her head so she's looking over it at the viewer. hmmmm. I'll play with it. I don't wanna push things so far that I'm better off starting a new piece from scratch when I just want to save this one.

Ok I tried to find the image that inspired me, but no luck. What I'm starting to notice is that regardless of breast size, bra style, etc it all sits at the same point on the rib. Basically. It's obvious now. I never made that connection before. I've done a lot of anatomy work and clothing is new to me. Also my pose reference didn't have a bra. Didn't even dawn on me, that. I might has well do that whole chest part over.

I feel I failed in trying to make it classy and I should just give her the cleavage everyone wants to see.
  11 November 2013
Trying to ride that fine line between being classy and being erotic, is very hard, if only because it's such a subjective thing. For some people, being classy means to skip the whole erotic/pinup genre altogether, while others think as long as it's not blatantly vulgar, it's classy.

I think your own aesthetic sensibility and what you personally find alluring should be the driving force, while tempered by your sense of propriety in the face of public scrutiny (after all, most of us don't just 100% show the world what our fetishes/fantasies are in detail).

Clarity of intent is always very important in narrative illustration, and if you have a specific goal, then push everything in your visual narrative to serve that goal with a laser-like focus--don't dilute or half-ass or hem and haw about any of it. Also, stop thinking strictly like an artist and learn to also incorporate the mindset of a movie director, novelist, and photographer.

Think about your visual scene--why it's happening, what are the events leading up to this moment, and is this moment the most potent one you can pick? Did you pick moment that comes before the most expressive one, or did you miss the most expressive moment by a good few seconds already? Photographers pick that perfect split second to press the shutter (or they machine gun the shutter and pick the most expressive frame later). Directors pick the most expressive/evocative/appropriate take from multiple takes they recorded. Novelists rework sentences and paragraphs and try different diction, syntax, cadence, etc to convey exactly the action/mood/emotion they want.

As an artist, you can do lots of thumbnail sketches/studies to figure out the perfect expression, body language, background, lighting, color palette, composition, etc so all the main issues that usually screw up a piece of artwork is already taken care of before you even start the actual painting. That is what smart artists do.

Another thing you can and should do, is to shoot photo references. Use your GF or wife, or family and friends, or even yourself in front of a mirror or a tripod. Light your reference photos exactly as you'd want it to look in the painting--most people have enough household lights to accomplish that. If not, then invest in a few decent photography constant lights--it's part of your toolbox as a visual artist. Direct your models (or yourself) the way movie directors direct actors or photographers instruct models. Get exactly what you want instead of "Frankensteining" from multiple photos that other people took later and try to piece together something that isn't even coherent because they are of different people posing under different conditions, with different lighting, different emotional contexts, different aesthetic sensibilities, and no unified center of gravity, etc. The number one mistake beginner/intermediate artists make is to not shoot photo references--most are too lazy to do it, and it's the number one thing they can do to immediately increase the quality of their work, regardless of what style they work in (even if it's a cartoony style, since even exaggerated styles are based on reality).

When you use abstract backgrounds like you did here, think about what kind of contrast it forms with the subject. You split yours into two opposing color temperatures, but what does that do to the relationship between the subject and the background? It becomes schizophrenic, doesn't it? If you're going to have a color shift in the background, think about why you're doing it--both narratively and artistically. Nothing is ever arbitrary in a good piece of work--every single decision has been carefully mulled over.
  11 November 2013
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