Painting Sikh History: Guru Nanak - Spiritual Ecstasy WIP
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Thread: Painting Sikh History: Guru Nanak - Spiritual Ecstasy WIP

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    Painting Sikh History: Guru Nanak - Spiritual Ecstasy WIP

    EDIT: Visit www.sikhiart.com/for-sale/guru-nanak-dev/ for further details of the painting, close-up shots, and a brief introduction to Eastern Traditions.

    Hi guys,
    Here's my newest Sikh History inspired artwork.

    Background/Inspiration:
    Guru Nanak was a great moral teacher of the 1500s. He was well versed with many languages and philosophies, and preached a message of love and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims and between those of higher castes and lower castes. During his travels around India (including neighboring countries) as well as the middle east, he discouraged superstitious thinking and hollow rituals. He encouraged people to remember God, live honestly and share with the less fortunate. Sickness and death were common during his time. So he encouraged these values as a way of liberation from this world.
    His message made him popular among both Hindus and Muslims. Those who became his students came to be known as Sikhs, which translates to "students".

    Guru Nanak composed a lot of poetry and music during his lifetime. In fact, he spent most of his lifetime singing his compositions and thus preaching moral values. Poetry and Music were excellent tools for speaking against damaging societal norms and corrupt political figures. Music was believed to play a significant role in bonding with God. So I used this concept in my painting of Guru Nanak. He is singing in an ecstatic state, with his friend and companion during his travels, Mardana, playing a guitar-like instrument, Rebab. In the back there is a temple-like complex in the midst of a city in India. I figured his admirers must have brought lots of oil lamps or something, and that's the light source that illuminates Guru Nanak and Mardana.
    My aim is to create a serene and somewhat ecstatic mood.

    Here's the painting, still a WIP. Critiques are always appreciated.


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    Last edited by prince911; September 6th, 2010 at 10:58 PM.
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    I would darken the sky and make the fire visible. also add more heaviness to the tree

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    The image has a nice classical feeling which I'm liking. The fire lighting is very nicely done.
    I think the foreground characters could stand to be a bit darker where not hit by the light for more depth and separation from the main figures. The person on the bottom far right feels awkward to me since he is oddly angled backwards and doesn't look quite as well/realistically drawn as the others (also not enough contrast).
    You stated that you are trying to create an ecstatic mood, but the audience members seem very subdued and bored right now, so perhaps you could liven them up some?
    I'm a bit confused about the coloring/rendering on the leaves on the tree at the top edge as it looks out of place with the rest of the image currently.

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    I am loving the idea of a guru painting done in the modern, Western fantasy-art tradition. Forgoing the halo in favor of use the red light of the sunset to depict his illuminary nature is wonderful.

    IMHO He is not lit by lamps. He is illuminated by the sunset. He reflects the sun behind him, thereby depicting the classic dilemma of the guru. That the guru speaks of the sun, but the students pay attention only to him.

    The only area I see a problem is in the area right under the guru. It needs some detail near the bottom to bring it forward so that we have the sensation that he is sitting atop a hill.

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    Looks nice Maybe the background looks styled another way than the characters...

    http://www.human-anatomy-for-artist.com/?ref=c02

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    Ok I was told by my family and friends that they weren't feeling this piece. They said a bunch of things e.g. Guru lacks charisma, Colours aren't so good.

    And then there was a mixed review: one said I love the 3D looking effect, and another said they didn't like the 3D so much.

    So I figured out some tricks to give the Guru some charisma, which he probably had since he afffected many people. The trick was to keep him as close to vertical as possible. Vertical things symbolize stability, and authority.

    I also redid the background. Even I wasn't feeling this part of the piece.

    You guys suggested:
    Danilo: I made the tree heavier and darkened the sky (don't know about a fire). I meant to indicate light from lots of small lamps.

    Wooblood: Glad you like the classical feel. Created depth by darkening edges (maybe this could use more work), fixed posture and fixed leaves. Let me know if the congregation still looks subdued. Hopefully, the ecsatic sky fixes that!?

    CountJackula: I think halos are cheesy. Yes, I am a scientific minded person so I always leave a natural explanation for things. The idea was to have him self-iluminated, like those classical paintings of Jesus.
    See if that hill is fixed... I pushed back some of the shadows, it should do the trick.


    Ok at this point there are still some things to be detailed and fixed up - minor things. Once I have that done, I will turn up the brightness up just a little on Guru Nanak and radially around his face. That should give him a bit of "glow" and should also pull him out of the painting a little bit more.

    Enough rambling, here's the painting.

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    Definitely improved on the background and the light from the fire is very convincing; you can almost feel the warmth!

    Still, I agree with a comment somewhere above that said there should be fire visible in the picture. Assuming that the men in the foreground are sitting (otherwise it would be a very steep hill indeed), they would currently have the fire somewhere in their lap. Other than that though it looks wonderful to me .

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    ..or else someone could hold a torch. Do not forget that the shadows of the stones on the hill will define the steepness o the hill.

    Much better not with the "not that busy" background, but I think you could desaturate it a bit. The sunlight breaks into the atmosphere and is filtered through the chemical composition and thereby the clouds and the direct halo of the sun is turned red. But that light is directional, so only the clouds most transparent parts get a rimlight and the rest of the sky is blue. Well, just think about it

    Very nice idea though

    Not yet.
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    Nice piece...beautiful rendering of the figures.

    My immediate reactions are 1) the whole thing feels a bit too much in the midrange, value-wise and 2) the complex sky and bright sun (the sun is the brightest thing in the picture) are really pulling the viewer's attention away from the figures.

    If it were me, I'd darken and simplify the sky, use stronger values to distinguish foreground, middle and background, and crop the piece so that Guru Nanak is at the center. JPEG attached.

    Hope that is of some use.



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    Lhune: They are sitting but there is no fire, only indian oil lamps. They fit in the palm of your hand and produce a flame the size of a lighter.

    Adding a fire, will then make the fire the brightest thing in the painting. I don't want that.

    Giacomo: I agree, it does seem mid-range. It should be fixed now.

    I like the cropped version but I lose out on the temple complex in the background... and its a cookie cutter triangle composition... but they are used for religious painting.
    The landscape one has two triangles going on. The temple complex in the other smaller one hmm... they both look pretty good.

    I'd love to receive feedback on both.






    Last edited by prince911; July 26th, 2010 at 03:33 AM.
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    I prefer the cropped version, but then, I was the one who suggested you crop it. My problem with the long version is that the temple and the setting sun are pulling attention away from Guru Nanak. If it were me, I'd go with the square composition and move the temple so it fits in the picture--you might want to scoot the tree over to the right a bit and fit the temple on the far left.

    Also, the values are still way too midrange. You might want to print it out with a white border and look at the print--you will begin to see what I mean. If it were me, I'd push for a much clearer separation between foreground (the audience), middle ground (Guru Nanak, his accompanist, and the tree) and background (sky.)

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    I like the full sized version vs the cropped one... I think this is looking really solid and i look forward to seeing it when its done.

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    The rendering is amazing, as is the image already, I wish I could render even half as well. I personally think it should stay uncropped, I think it was the saturation control and edges that were throwing it a bit i guess... I did a paintover, hope you dont mind, I was hesitant to even mess with such nice rendering but here it is, lemme know what ya think:

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    Natzuur-JK: So what did you do to go about making that?
    I like the atmosphere in your paintover.

    Giacomo: What do you think about Natzuur-JK's paintover?
    Ill add some whites to Guru Nanak's robe, that'll pull him out and fix the mid-range issue.

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    I don't agree with the cropped versions, it seems really tight that way

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    I'm not a fan of the cropped version, the image loses a lot to me like that. My favorite though is Natzuur's paintover. My eye wants to stay on the guru the most in that image, but there's still plenty of other interesting things going on to let it move around, then end up back on the guru again. I also like how he's toned down the sky a bit, so that it's still beautiful but not so distracting.

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    prince911: I made a saturation layer, then went with a large nice soft round; midtone grey brush at a opacity of around 20% (desaturated from left side of color picker) then brushed in from the edges of the sky, I then took a nice orangish color, or yellow/red with same layer/ very low % brush and brought up the lower portion of the image.

    After that I did a normal layer, and brushed in a very very low% soft brush of the tone now created by the saturation layer over the city and brushed in some atmosphere slowly, as well as a bit of foreground atmosphere.

    I may have used a difference layer as well on the dude playing the instrument with a low% soft dark dark saturated purple too. and then some sharpening on the gurus edges after flattening image down to pop him a bit and thats all I think? Hope that helps in your final, can't wait to see it done!

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    Quote Originally Posted by prince911 View Post
    Giacomo: What do you think about Natzuur-JK's paintover?
    Ill add some whites to Guru Nanak's robe, that'll pull him out and fix the mid-range issue.
    The underlying problem here is that you're trying to indicate deep space--foreground, middleground, and background---using basically the same (narrow) range of hues and values, and the picture feels flat as a result.

    Neither N-JK's paintover nor the possibility of adding whites to the Guru's robe is going to make any difference. The three planes---which here are: "listeners," "guru/accompanist/tree/embankment they're sitting on," and "sky"---need to be separated by distinct changes in value.



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    Giacomo, what does that picture have to do with what you are saying? I am baffled everytime I see it in your comments. Explain please.

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    To grossly oversimplify, it means you need to organize of the picture so that foreground and background have distinct and contrasting overall values. If you don't do that, the picture is going to feel spatially flat. Paintover below:



    The principle works equally well if you use the negative version of the picture---although, inverted, it's now a daytime scene with Guru Nanak performing in the shade of the tree and his audience in direct sunlight. The important thing is to maintain a strong contrast between foreground and background. (Or in this particular case, foreground, middleground and background.)



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    I was busy with summer school whilst trying to work on Giacomo's critique.

    I do like the atmosphere in N-JK's paintover. I will experiment with that next. As well as finish up some of the detail. I am also thinking about adding some wildlife to the scene. Fireflies anyone?



    PS - I think I should lessen the distinction between the white areas of the beard and the darker ones, for a more realistic look.

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    That looks a bit better. In my opinion, the musicians are still merging into the sky a bit too much, but I can understand that you probably don't want to overhaul the whole thing.

    A good way to evaluate the composition at the early stages is to convert the image to greyscale and blur it a bit. If the forms don't read distinctly in that state, it might be a good idea to rethink the design until they do.



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    Update:



    Ok I think I'm done this piece. There are a few errors I noticed in minute details but other than that I am satisfied. Still open to criticism though, I think I still have some energy left in me to take it a step further if possible.

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    Great job! That looks a lot better. Very nice rendering of the forms and attention to detail on the finish.

    (The fact that the firelight is the same basic value and color as the sky is still an issue with me---I'd make the entire background blue in tone--but other than that, I think this picture is a really fine piece of work.)

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    Blueish sky is a good idea. Ok I am just gona add a blue photofilter at 25%, I think that improves the piece.
    Also worked on some details... and still taking critiques.


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    The woman in profile view stands out a lot ... on purpose?

    Otherwise, your pieces are always kick ass detailed and nicely researched/background/story. Inspired!

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    It turned out great overall.
    One thing that sticks out to me about the final version is that you really kicked up the contrast on the two main subjects and I think it kind of pops them out of the image as if they're not really part of it. They have almost black shadows whereas things right around them have gray shadows. I would personally try either bringing that down on the people or bringing up some of the contrast on the surrounding things like the ground and the tree trunk.

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    Thanks dwardo. The women shouldn't blend in but shouldn't stand out too much.

    Thanks Woodblood. Ok I have made the darks on the guys much lighter. That should help.

    Hopefully, all is well now. Although, I am pretty happy with the piece so far I will still accept any criticism.
    I thank everyone for their support once again!


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    I think there is NO separation between the foreground figure's (playing the stringed instrument- Mardana['s]?) knee and the city. One is more important than the other and should stand with the more important element as such (whichever ground you find more important- likely the figure).

    Honestly, I don't think Giacomo is offered enough credit for his advices on value scheming (quite a few posts where he beat my advices on the same subject). It might LOOK simple, but it's very VERY important. It doesn't only play into focus, it allows for a good value scale to show foreground from background, as defined by human's understanding of aerial (atmospheric) perspective. Darker things often appear closer than lighter things etc.

    Sterling Hundley (the credit of my entire "education" at VCU) offered me the same advice without relent (cannot stress the importance he pressed upon me) and I have to say the focus of my art was dramatically increased as a result of following nearly the SAME advice. I say "nearly" because I'm paraphrasing (or citing another source)- it was the same.

    How much more dramatic would the foreground figures be if you dropped the value of the sky? Just try it... you don't have to keep it. If you'd like I could try a paint-over...

    Your art is so impressive (almost EVERY time). Don't overlook the important features of picture making.

    Last edited by Quigleyer; September 5th, 2010 at 04:27 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quigleyer View Post
    Honestly, I don't think Giacomo is offered enough credit for his advices on value scheming (quite a few posts where he beat my advices on the same subject).
    I'm still trying to fix the pieces he's advised me on He's always very helpful, and spends a considerable amount of time in the critique section. Always been appreciated Giacomo, cheers mate.

    And everyone that pitches in the critique section is always a gem, cheers everyone.

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