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    Looking for ways to refine it

    Hello all,

    I am new here and wanted to start things off by submitting for critique a piece which I have struggled with for awhile now. I have a few things that I've figured out to address on my own (it's amazing what you see if you take a break from a piece!) and so far have come up with this list of things to fix:

    1. The highlights; too soft, too messy
    2. The shadows; needs complementary colors added
    3. The environment; figure out a way to make it look like swamp water?

    These are things I've come up with on my own, and would appreciate anymore suggestions, as well as advice on how you think I should address these. The basic info about this little guy is that he's amphibious, bio luminescent, and very small (frog sized).

    Thanks in advance!

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    Last edited by MichelleMH; January 31st, 2010 at 05:49 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Welcome to CA.org

    You've got a lot to learn before you'll be ready for painting in color.

    Open a sketchbook and draw line art until you're impressing everyone with your line art skills. This will teach you composition, perspective, anatomy rhythm and balance.

    Then move on to greyscale painting, and paint in tones until you can impress everyone with your tones. This will teach you lighting, form, how to compose an image with tonal patterns.

    When you've mastered that, you can move on to color.

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    Not what I asked for, but I appreciate the advice. However, I see now from this that I should throw in some context:

    This is from a school project where I was instructed to design an amphibious creature, background and composition were to be ignored as the entire focus was supposed to be on the design of the creature himself. This was a concept art only class, having anything besides a drop shadow and a white background was entirely optional, but I personally have trouble focusing on white backgrounds thus put in the one I did.

    This project is done and has been turned in, but I feel I did not have enough time with it, or was able to achieve the same level of polish that I did with my other assignments. But I have been staring at it for 3 weeks and so would appreciate some fresh eyes.

    The steps I followed were thumbnailing, refined sketches, grayscale pencil render, grayscale Photoshop painting, and finally color overlay Photoshop painting.

    Photoshop painting is my weakest ability as I only started doing it seriously this past fall, so I still haven't become comfortable with it, or found ways to achieve everything I would like in a piece. Thus why I came here with help with it. The class I did this piece for was the very first Photoshop painting class I had ever taken.

    So, with that in mind, if you have any suggestions on how to refine this piece, I would greatly appreciate it.

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    This looks good.

    I'm not getting a clear sense of the form here...the color of his skin is very cool, but it's the only thing that's coming across in the picture. If it were me, I'd go back to the "greyscale Photoshop painting" stage and focus on rendering the forms to read more clearly.

    I'd also introduce some contrast with the background. Right now the creature is just getting lost in the darkness.

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    If you want to improve it start over. There is nothing there to refine. There is no form there. You didn't spend enough time designing the thing, It doesn't matter if you did it and turned it in. If you want to be an artist you need to learn the basics first and not be so caught up on how long you have spent on something. If it doesn't work you need to start it again. This shows no understanding of light, form, anatomy or composition. You say the coloring is your weakest link but its not, its everything combined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Giacomo View Post
    This looks good.

    I'm not getting a clear sense of the form here...the color of his skin is very cool, but it's the only thing that's coming across in the picture. If it were me, I'd go back to the "greyscale Photoshop painting" stage and focus on rendering the forms to read more clearly.

    I'd also introduce some contrast with the background. Right now the creature is just getting lost in the darkness.
    First off, thank you very much for the critique!

    I understand completely what you mean about the form, the back of him is based on a tadpole, the front legs on a frog, and the head a hybrid between squid and a frog, mostly squishy critters with not a lot of defined muscle. Perhaps I should modify his body to be more like the structure of a frog or newt but with an absence of back legs? I think I'll do a variation with axolotl head gills too, and post it here for opinions.

    I will go back to the grayscale and work on getting it tightened and readable and implement the structure changes; since I designed it it's easy for me to see what it is, so it's very good to know when others have no idea what they're looking at.

    Thanks again!

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    I don't have any problems with the design per se. The problem is that I can't tell what the forms are because the image is dark and the rendering's indistinct.

    If you want to do some variations, fine--it's always good to try multiple approaches to a problem—but the main issue here is the clarity of your rendering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Giacomo View Post
    I don't have any problems with the design per se. The problem is that I can't tell what the forms are because the image is dark and the rendering's indistinct.

    If you want to do some variations, fine--it's always good to try multiple approaches to a problem—but the main issue here is the clarity of your rendering.
    Oh, I see! I understand now, I will get to work on clean up of the grayscale, and better definition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    If you want to improve it start over. There is nothing there to refine. There is no form there. You didn't spend enough time designing the thing, It doesn't matter if you did it and turned it in. If you want to be an artist you need to learn the basics first and not be so caught up on how long you have spent on something. If it doesn't work you need to start it again. This shows no understanding of light, form, anatomy or composition. You say the coloring is your weakest link but its not, its everything combined.
    I hope you did not take my explanation as a barrel of excuses, I just find that people often have an easier time critiquing when they know the purpose.

    Since this is concept art I didn't bother with composing an image as I just wanted to get a nice design only, but now that the project is done I will be incorporating him into a larger piece, the sketches for which will be posted in this thread soon. These sketches may come before or after I render him better, (how delightfully vague of me!) so if you would like to see them I would encourage a future visit.

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    Hmmm...well, you seem to be working pretty hard to improve above and beyond class work (which is what it takes). It's a cool little creature but you're rendering and development compromised his design. It is a little tough to critique as dpaint says - need to separate him from that background first. The other thing is it feels "made up" as far as his anatomy goes - he has a cartoony feel - which is fine if that is the intent. There are a few major tangent issues that are adding to the confusion as well (left tentacle blue line goes right into left arm blue line). The "glowy pods" on the back not working either - reference those off some nudibranchs or something.

    Anyway - it's a neat design worth pushing - just need to develop something like this more thoroughly in earlier stages and reference more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Hmmm...well, you seem to be working pretty hard to improve above and beyond class work (which is what it takes). It's a cool little creature but you're rendering and development compromised his design. It is a little tough to critique as dpaint says - need to separate him from that background first. The other thing is it feels "made up" as far as his anatomy goes - he has a cartoony feel - which is fine if that is the intent. There are a few major tangent issues that are adding to the confusion as well (left tentacle blue line goes right into left arm blue line). The "glowy pods" on the back not working either - reference those off some nudibranchs or something.

    Anyway - it's a neat design worth pushing - just need to develop something like this more thoroughly in earlier stages and reference more.
    I hadn't noticed the tangent before, thank you! Nudibranchs are some of my favorite sea life, (he's a combination of favorite water-based critters) so when you mentioned them I went "Of course, why didn't I think of that?"

    I'm really excited/inspired by the feedback I'm getting, I think the first thing I will do is post the current grayscale without the color layers and highlight layers, and with a lighter background, and then start the repair process from there.

    Thanks so much for the help!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    The other thing is it feels "made up" as far as his anatomy goes - he has a cartoony feel - which is fine if that is the intent.
    Oh yes, I forgot to respond that he is indeed supposed to be cartoony. I chose a different style for every piece we weren't given a style guide for in this class, and was inspired for this guy by the designs of Viva Pinata, the video game. I will work to make him look less artificial.

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    I'd say his structure is fine then for that look - there is a range of styles to all this of course - from Wayne Barlowe's "Expedition" to Pokemon or Winnie th Pooh. Just subdue that background so he stands out, fix the tangents and maybe the luminous polyp things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    I'd say his structure is fine then for that look - there is a range of styles to all this of course - from Wayne Barlowe's "Expedition" to Pokemon or Winnie th Pooh. Just subdue that background so he stands out, fix the tangents and maybe the luminous polyp things.
    I love Wayne Barlowe! I haven't seen Expedition yet, though.

    I'll be redoing the structure of the luminescent polyps to make them more visually interesting, and I'm thinking I'll turn one of his back fins into tiny feet (like what tadpoles look like when they start growing legs) so that he'll still be awkward on land, but maybe look a little more balanced visually. I'll try out a few things and see what looks good.

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    And here is his current state, the only thing I've done is stripped off all of the layers except for the grayscale and the original pencil drawing. I've also lightened it a lot to make it easier to see, my monitor is very bright so I'm able to see things that appear black on other screens.

    From here I will be working on redoing the grayscale rendering, as well as experimenting with some structural changes to him.

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