James - I can tell from the way you conduct yourself that you are an intelligent, disciplined, and positive-thinking individual, so I was fairly sure that you would be able to handle constructive feedback without all the sugar-coating. In fact, any serious artist–be it hobbyist or aspiring professionals would have to be able to handle straight-forward constructive critique in web forums if they are to have a chance at continual artistic development, because as we all know, the internet is not without the trolls and just plain rude people who get off on making others feel bad. Without a thick skin, a hyper-sensitive/fragile-egoed artist would be driven into becoming a recluse and never show their work or interact with others on the web again. You don’t fit that profile, and it’s a good sign that you’ll continue to advance artistically by leveraging all the available resources to you on the web for helpful critiques.
You’re right that I tend to be sparse on compliments and try to focus on how I can help the artist improve his work. My mentality is more like the character “The Wolf” from the movie Pulp Fiction. I’m here to help you solve your problems, because you wouldn’t be here unless you had a problem that needed help with. But like you said, that it can be hard to take for those who need more positive reinforcement. I guess I’m more like the kind of sifu you see in martial chivalry movies. If you’re not familiar with the genre, the closest equivalent would be the original Karate Kid movies with Pat Morita as the serious but sincere and caring sensei, or Morpheus in The Matrix. They are short on compliments too and focus on making you better in the most efficient way possible, but when they do compliment you, it really makes you feel special and tingly all over.
I would say the good points in your image so far are that the figure’s proportions are pretty good and the rendering looks polished, and the forms look coherent.
Now, let’s get back to how you can become better.
When you consider ambient bounced light and the color cast it introduces (such as the blue of the sky dome), you have to remember that because something like a sky dome is so vast, it will bounce its blue onto everything it can physically reach, as long as the surface is: 1) not being dominated by the much more powerful sunlight (or any other more powerful light source) already. In situations like that, the more powerful light source will completely overtake whatever influence a weaker ambient light would have. 2) The surface is not blocked by another surface (called ambient occlusion).
So when you apply the bounced blue influence from the sky dome to your scene, that blue will be on everything in your scene in the form and cast shadows, unless it meets the previous described two points. It’ll be on the skin, on the clothes, on the weapons, on the plants, on the hair, etc.
I don’t know if you realize this, but you have put Link almost completely into cast shadow, so his entire figure should be getting a lot of ambient blue from the sky, since there’s very little strong sunlight to dominate that blue. But of course, we can also treat this the way we do in the handling of white balance in photography and “color-correct” it to look more neutral. But I’ll tell you this–the advanced artists’ work look awesome precisely because they include the sophisticate interaction of light and colors into their paintings, showing the effects of ambient bounced light/colors (radiosity). That is one of the most obvious and important marks that separate an advanced artist from the rest.
You can try to limit the blue bounced color only in the darker form shadows–this will help you maintain more neutral looking local colors, while still have that extra spice of ambient bounced color to make your painting look more sophisticated.
Whatever I’ve said about the blue, it’s true for the green too. But because green is a less pleasing color in general for figures, you can dial it back on the green a bit.
Another thing you can do to make your painting more interesting is to vary the greens in your plants more. In the wilderness, there are all different kinds of species of plants, and they can’t all be the same green. Some are a bit more yellow, or more saturated, or have dried leaves, or have a bit more brown, or have different levels of specularity (some leaves are waxy and some are more furry with tiny fuzz), and so on.
If you want Link to look like he’s in awe, you need to push his expression a bit more. Let’s say a clearly readable “awe” expression needs to be at a seven on the scale of ten in dramatic intensity, what you have is more like at the level of five. Widen his eyes more so it’s more obvious he’s in awe, as opposed to just staring down at the sword.