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    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been posting over at the cgtalk.com forums, but things seem mighty quiet over there these days. I stumbled upon conceptart.com, and it seems a little more focused on painting, so I thought I'd test the waters over here a bit.

    I'm very much an amateur - I work in software development, but have a soft spot in my heart for art. I started doing some digital painting in my spare time a few years ago, and found myself really enjoying it. Right now I'm working on a book for my oldest son Gideon - illustrating a story set to verse that my sister wrote for him. At my current rate, this children's book will make a wonderful high school graduation present, but I do really want to finish it.

    The verse I'm illustrating is as follows:

    So none of the people could tell what to do
    with the king in the tree and the knife throwers too.
    But Gideon heard, and he put away fear
    and entered the clearing and spoke so they'd hear:


    The scene is a main street in a medieval town. It is full of all sorts of people, from soldiers to friars and clergy to peasants to artisans to merchants, etc. All are arguing or fretting or scheming on what to do about the king. None notice Gideon, though he is the focal point of the image. He is marching off, determined and resolute. I'm trying to use overcast lighting.

    I warmly welcome measured critiques - though I'm not planning to do a major overhaul at this stage.

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Edit: Added image for thumbnail, since I just learned how to do it.

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    Last edited by thegiffman; June 10th, 2011 at 05:30 AM.
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    Hi thegiffman,
    You have a very good start. The only thing I would suggest is that you keep your foreground elements separated from you mid and background elements. This can be done with value alone. I attached a example to illustrate. Incidentally, as an admitted amateur, you should be open to changes. You never know what might be suggested that would drastically improve your work. Hope this helps.

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    Thanks, Javier! I have a feeling I'll be spending more time over here - a quality critique in 20 minutes.

    I have really been struggling with how to give depth to the image and set apart the foreground elements, and I'm intrigued by the idea of making them so much darker. But I'm also a little stuck with wanting not to completely disregard physical reality. They are standing by an open window, so they shouldn't be completely dark. Yet, you make a compelling case for solving a problem I'm trying to solve - I'll give it a shot.

    The comment about not wanting to completely overhaul it is more a reflection of the amount of time I have for the hobby and actually wanting to finish the book for my son. If I'm too much of a perfectionist, I simply will not finish what I set out to do. But I'll start future posts from the beginning, and listen to critiques from stage one.

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    OK, here's a little bit of work on the foreground figures with a massive change of value. Is it overkill?

    Chaotic Medieval Street

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    Well, honestly what really bothers me is the fact that everyone has this huge, bobble head when the style itself doesn't seem to go for that sort of cartoony.

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    here are some things i would do>
    add some details to the pure black areas
    lower the saturation of the foreground
    use the separate layer for the ground so the brush strokes can go free, under the figures
    establish the lioght source

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    Hi thegiffman,
    You update does seem a bit extreme. The very dark values give the image an ominous feel. I don't know if that is your intention or not.
    I think much of your problems have to do with your initial value arrangement. For example, since your background and mid-ground elements have a fairly dark cast to them, then the foreground will need to be really dark to have separation. I would suggest simplifying your image into clearly defined sections and working from there. I included a rough painting to illustrate my point.
    Just because the figures are dark does not mean that they have to be in complete darkness. Also I arranged the other values to create a more defined focal point on the figure of the boy. Many instances will require you to be more 'theatrical' with things like lighting and composition, but this helps add interest and make images 'read' better.
    As you work, keep checking your image in gray-scale to see how the image is working. If it works well in black and white then it will look great in color. Hope this helps and good luck.

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    TinyBird - Thanks for sharing your gut reaction. I'm afraid there's not much I can do about the balloon heads at this stage of the book. But I do have to ask - why do you think it's inconsistent with the style? What makes the image look non-cartoony to you (other than the overkill background dark that I'll fix)? I'm doing more realistic shading than a comic book, going for something a little more like this painting. Where, stylistically, have I dropped the ball, if indeed I do want to be cartoony?

    Here are the previous paintings, if it would help critique the style:

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Chaotic Medieval Street

    Chaotic Medieval Street

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danilo View Post
    here are some things i would do>
    add some details to the pure black areas
    lower the saturation of the foreground
    use the separate layer for the ground so the brush strokes can go free, under the figures
    establish the lioght source
    Great thoughts - I see those things as well, but it's nicely confirming. About the light source, it is somewhat "established" I suppose, in a sense. It's overcast lighting, so a vague soft light directly overhead, tapering off some as the angle lowers, with heavier color bleeding and ambient occlusion than a hard lit image.

    I appreciate the comments, and will very much welcome a second look at the lighting as I post another update.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JavierP View Post
    Hi thegiffman,
    You update does seem a bit extreme. The very dark values give the image an ominous feel. I don't know if that is your intention or not.
    I think much of your problems have to do with your initial value arrangement. For example, since your background and mid-ground elements have a fairly dark cast to them, then the foreground will need to be really dark to have separation. I would suggest simplifying your image into clearly defined sections and working from there. I included a rough painting to illustrate my point.
    Just because the figures are dark does not mean that they have to be in complete darkness. Also I arranged the other values to create a more defined focal point on the figure of the boy. Many instances will require you to be more 'theatrical' with things like lighting and composition, but this helps add interest and make images 'read' better.
    As you work, keep checking your image in gray-scale to see how the image is working. If it works well in black and white then it will look great in color. Hope this helps and good luck.
    Wonderful paint over - very very helpful indeed. I'm really touched by the amount of time and effort you've put in to helping me improve this piece and my technique in general.

    You're definitely right with the darkness - too ominous. The picture is supposed to show the townspeople distressed and disoriented, but I don't want the feeling to be that dark. I'm hoping to do some fun subtle stuff with color bleeding in the dark areas now - I'll post an update soon.

    I like very much the idea of doing a more comprehensive value guide than I did above, as you demonstrate. I'll use this, and incorporate this practice into future paintings.

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    Here's a version with updated value. Don't worry about the black lines in the background - those will all eventually be worked in.

    Chaotic Medieval Street

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    I have a question for all you seasoned professionals. Do any of you know where I can get a 3D human anatomy block model that I could play around with in some 3D viewing software? Basically, I'd like to get something that has the basic planes and shapes, but isn't smoothed out to be totally realistic, so I can improve my understanding of some of the form. I can see there are issues with the foreground women above, and I'd like to take a stab at resolving some of them before I trouble you folks too much about the specifics of what's wrong.

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    Something like this, for both male and female, that I could play with in a 3D program and set lighting and stuff:

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    The one thing that's really putting me off with the Medieval street scene is that foreground character's direction of view. It looked a lot better in the rough sketch, but now her gaze is just leading me to a far less important part of the image.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slothboy3000 View Post
    The one thing that's really putting me off with the Medieval street scene is that foreground character's direction of view. It looked a lot better in the rough sketch, but now her gaze is just leading me to a far less important part of the image.
    I get this complaint a lot. There are story reasons why she can't be looking at the juggler - no one should notice him. But perhaps there is a non-juggler alternative?

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    DAZ 3d studio (It's named like that.... 3d DAZ or something) is a free program that comes with a couple of free models of people. I'm not sure about the lighting and stuff, and I'll be honest- I just didn't fiddle enough with the program. I'm NOT a seasoned professional .

    Right now the eyes of the foreground woman really bother me. She looks as though she's seen an alien or something. Your sketch seems much better in this area, maybe you could look at that and some references. Everyone looks really wide-eyed because they're eyes are huge and the pupils didn't follow suite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thegiffman View Post
    I get this complaint a lot. There are story reasons why she can't be looking at the juggler - no one should notice him. But perhaps there is a non-juggler alternative?
    Perhaps have her staring and/or pointing at something which then leads to the juggler via composition?

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    OK, here's an update. I consider the background and mid area more or less finished - minus a bit of cleanup, so let me know if I missed something big there.

    Now I'm going to work on the juggler himself, as well as trying to get the foreground women right.

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    An attempt at improving the foreground women, using a reference. Better?

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    Getting there?

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    Hi thegiffman,
    This is coming along nicely. From the other samples you posted I can see that this will turn out well. You have good control of value and a good sense of staging. My only suggestion would be to study anatomy and gesture a bit more. I realize that you work is stylized, but there is a certain 'awkwardness' to some of your character's poses which I think prevents the images from being truly spectacular.
    In this current illustration, for example, you have not included some of the more subtle bits of information from your reference. The slight plane changes of the faces as they recede in perspective and turn from the viewer are particularly challenging to pull off with line (as in your style). The way the upper lid of the eye is 'lost' under the brow is one such detail. I did a quick sketch to show what I mean. I would recommend using your ref more closely for accuracy though.
    Also the tear ducts are located near the inside corner of the eye, so tears generally originate from that corner. Blinking and closing the eye pushes tears toward the outer edge. Hope this helps and hope to see the finish soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JavierP View Post
    Hi thegiffman,
    This is coming along nicely. From the other samples you posted I can see that this will turn out well. You have good control of value and a good sense of staging. My only suggestion would be to study anatomy and gesture a bit more. I realize that you work is stylized, but there is a certain 'awkwardness' to some of your character's poses which I think prevents the images from being truly spectacular.
    In this current illustration, for example, you have not included some of the more subtle bits of information from your reference. The slight plane changes of the faces as they recede in perspective and turn from the viewer are particularly challenging to pull off with line (as in your style). The way the upper lid of the eye is 'lost' under the brow is one such detail. I did a quick sketch to show what I mean. I would recommend using your ref more closely for accuracy though.
    Also the tear ducts are located near the inside corner of the eye, so tears generally originate from that corner. Blinking and closing the eye pushes tears toward the outer edge. Hope this helps and hope to see the finish soon.
    Thanks again for the drawing. I know this takes a bit of time and effort, and I certainly don't take the help for granted. Hopefully as I improve I can help other folks along and give back to the community.

    When you say study anatomy and gesture, how would you suggest going about that, given an amateur schedule? I've got a copy of Civardi's "Drawing Human Anatomy" - should I just try copying the images in there in my cartoony style?

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    Once I get the foreground women finished, I'll want to really focus on finishing the juggler well, since he's the focus. I do see some things I'll want to improve (his right foot is bothering me a good bit), but I wanted to ask for critique specifically on him in case there are things more fundamental to be fixed. He is supposed to look determined, single-minded, and resolute. He's going to march off and rescue the king. However, part of the fun of the book is that he's always juggling, no matter the circumstances.

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    Your young maiden on the window looks almost as old as the woman behind her, because you accentuated the folds on her face so much. Be careful with that, these features are to be drawn in a very subtle manner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thegiffman View Post
    Thanks again for the drawing. I know this takes a bit of time and effort, and I certainly don't take the help for granted. Hopefully as I improve I can help other folks along and give back to the community.

    When you say study anatomy and gesture, how would you suggest going about that, given an amateur schedule? I've got a copy of Civardi's "Drawing Human Anatomy" - should I just try copying the images in there in my cartoony style?
    Don't sell yourself short. Your images demonstrate strong skills in value arrangement, color and storytelling. There is much you can offer right now.

    As far as anatomy and gesture; you don't even have to draw to study these things. Books are helpful to understand the underlying structure or to learn techniques to approach constructing the form. You can get John H. Vanderpoel's book 'The Human Figure' from borders.com for free as an ebook. I think it was first published in 1907, but it is still completely relevant for learning the human form.

    Drawing is really a form of note-taking when studying people (though it is VERY helpful). Just take some time throughout your day to REALLY notice how people behave and move as they go about their lives. Also, before you draw your character in a pose, try it out for yourself to see how plausible or comfortable it is. That's it really; observation from life is usually the best way to go if you can manage it. There are an almost infinite amount of unique and nuanced gestures in the world. We just have to pay attention to see them. Hope this helps.

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    More work on the women - detail level on part of the young woman's face is final quality

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    I would add a specular highlight to the tear running down her face on the left side. On the right, the tear should be darker than her skin, and the highlight can be (subtle!) blue from the reflected light. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qC-M6IbI1e...600/tears1.jpg

    Her right eyebrow is unfinished, do you just mean her skin is done? I'd take out that highlight from the right eye, there's no indication of another light on the right side, you could put a subtle one on the left side of the eye though.

    Since you haven't gotten to the juggling boy yet for finishing, I'd look up some reference on juggling and adjust his pose. I don't see how what he's doing is juggling, it looks more like he's about to throw that apple at someone. His arms are too far apart and from what I've noticed about jugglers they usually have both hands facing upwards.


    I also wanted to give you some advice on your style, since you asked for it and I don't think its been addressed:
    In the painting you linked, you're right its the perfect balance between cartoony and realistic. But it's all about proportion, and knowing where to simplify. You give
    your characters a lot of detail, mouth lines, wrinkles, letting your linework show through. Lieske has a simplified face, big young eyes, and simple shapes for everything
    else, his hair, clothing, a simple blocky sword. Lots of round shapes to help the feeling. But they've all been rendered with immaculate detail. Simple shapes, lots of detail.

    You spend so much time painting in your detail but then you let the lines show through. In the future you should try and paint over them, let them disappear into the shadows the
    clothing truly creates. Many of your noses are downturned, making everyone look older, you should do some practices on noses of people from all ages to get some variation in
    future pieces.

    I hope I haven't overdone it, I think you're on a great path!

    Last edited by carakhan; June 14th, 2011 at 04:38 PM.
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    I think I'm pretty happy with the foreground women at this point. Any final tips?

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    Hi Carakhan,

    I posted a reply to your message a while ago, but was told my reply is pending approval. Not sure why that is, so I'll go ahead and try to reply again.

    Quote Originally Posted by carakhan View Post
    I would add a specular highlight to the tear running down her face on the left side. On the right, the tear should be darker than her skin, and the highlight can be (subtle!) blue from the reflected light. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-qC-M6IbI1e...600/tears1.jpg

    Her right eyebrow is unfinished, do you just mean her skin is done? I'd take out that highlight from the right eye, there's no indication of another light on the right side, you could put a subtle one on the left side of the eye though.
    Sorry about that - I wasn't really ready for your critiques yet. I did want to post an update to show how I had fixed some of the angle issues. The one I just posted is much more ready for this sort of detailed critique. I hope I didn't use up all my critique points from you there!

    Since you haven't gotten to the juggling boy yet for finishing, I'd look up some reference on juggling and adjust his pose. I don't see how what he's doing is juggling, it looks more like he's about to throw that apple at someone. His arms are too far apart and from what I've noticed about jugglers they usually have both hands facing upwards.
    Jugglers have many different stances, and I actually have a lot of photos from a juggler my son used to love to watch at an outdoor mall. But they don't do me much good if I neglect to reference them closely! I have a feeling I'll need to completely redraw him before the picture is done.

    About his pose - he's supposed to be determined, single-minded, and resolute - ready to march off and rescue the king. So he's forcefully juggling as he goes (part of the joke of the book is that he's ALWAYS juggling - no matter what the situation) - snatching that ball out of the air with gusto, while paradoxically not really looking like he's concentrating on juggling at all. It's hard to capture all these emotions with juggling on top of it. I'll give him another try.

    I also wanted to give you some advice on your style, since you asked for it and I don't think its been addressed:
    In the painting you linked, you're right its the perfect balance between cartoony and realistic. But it's all about proportion, and knowing where to simplify. You give
    your characters a lot of detail, mouth lines, wrinkles, letting your linework show through. Lieske has a simplified face, big young eyes, and simple shapes for everything
    else, his hair, clothing, a simple blocky sword. Lots of round shapes to help the feeling. But they've all been rendered with immaculate detail. Simple shapes, lots of detail.

    You spend so much time painting in your detail but then you let the lines show through. In the future you should try and paint over them, let them disappear into the shadows the
    clothing truly creates. Many of your noses are downturned, making everyone look older, you should do some practices on noses of people from all ages to get some variation in
    future pieces.

    I hope I haven't overdone it, I think you're on a great path!
    Well, as I said, I can't do a complete overhaul of the style at this point. But after I'm done with the book, it would be great fun to do a style study with a single character, and get things really nice and consistent! Thanks for these observations. I wonder if there are some minor changes I can take back into the other pictures to help ever so slightly. The noses of the kids in the first painting are pretty bad - I could probably stand to redo most of them to change the shape a bit.

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    Oh I'm sorry I guess I misread your comment. Most of my stylistic comments are for your future work, I think what you've established here is good and most importantly consistent, just some ideas for your next project

    As for the juggler I definitely understand that they have different poses, but I agree you should play around with a few more. With him being the main character that all our eyes are on, make sure his pose is the strongest and conveys the exact meaning you wish it to. Perhaps he has a smirk, his chest is puffed out a bit (he looks a bit hunched over) for confidence, and his walk should be straighter, his knees are very bent. http://img.becomegorgeous.com/articles2/653.jpg
    Bad example of a child juggler, but good for a confident walk.

    That said, I think your latest post is looking great! The wrinkles on the old woman look nice, the tears are nice as well. Perhaps add a highlight on her cross.

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SpringOfSea's Sketchbook