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July 8th, 2011 #1
Bandits Under a Tree [PAINTING STAGE]
My first painting WIP on these forums was a wonderful introduction to conceptart.org. Javier especially went above and beyond the call of duty in his paintovers, and I came away a better artist than before. A huge thanks for the privilege of being on this forum.
There may be a few things to tidy up with the previous image, but I thought I'd go ahead and get the ball rolling on the next one in the story. This stage is purely compositional, so hold off on anatomy and perspective critiques just yet. Let me describe a little of what I'm going for.
The line of the story is the juggler's challenge to the bandits:
You bandits, that crown is not yours on your head
and him you should serve you have captured instead!
I give you fair warning: release him right now
or I'll have to do it myself (with a bow)
I have in mind a worm's eye view with two point perspective. The juggler will be facing the bandits, but hopefully in a pose where we can see some of his face and not just his backside. He'll be pointing accusingly at the leader (or should he be pointing at the king?) with one hand, and doing a one-handed juggle of three balls in the other hand. The bandits will be doing any number of banditory activities - counting money, drinking ale, fighting amongst themselves, cleaning their teeth with their daggers - all looking quite annoyed at being interrupted. The leader will be seated pretending to be a king, though the ill fit of the robes and crown and the general unkingliness of his demeanor should keep this from fooling the viewer. The king will be swinging from a rope ("tied atop a great tree as a jest" - as the narrative goes) in his under-tunic - furious and kicking. I don't want him so high that his fall will injure him when he's (*SPOILER ALERT*) later cut down by the juggler using the bandit's own knives.
As far as focus goes, I want the eye to move between the juggler's face to the bandit leader and his stolen crown, to the captive king. I have in mind to perhaps have the king's own castle off in the distance somewhere - symbolizing his strength and help being out of reach - but don't quite know where to fit that in yet. Since the juggler isn't under the shade of the tree yet, I can get a nice value contrast.
Well, that's the concept. Any thoughts on the value and composition?
EDIT: Added image for thread thumbnail
Last edited by thegiffman; August 26th, 2011 at 11:36 AM. Reason: Edited in an attempt to change the main thumbnail
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July 8th, 2011 #3
July 8th, 2011 #4
First post here. Been lurking a long time. What you have here is a pretty decent value pattern, but we have a readability problem. The eye follows from the juggler's face towards the bandit and the stolen crown, but there's really nothing to suggest that they need to look up at the king. Rather, the teeming mass of people around the tree draws more attention. What I would suggest is separating each element more. Move the bandit's cronies towards move of a semi-circle behind the tree, and either bring the bandit or the king more forward.
In addition, I see a real lack of drama and the essence of the situation. Right now we have a lot of mad people and that's about it. By moving the background figures behind the tree, you could explore making them appear more cowardly and snide. If you bring the bandit king forward, you could have him stand up and appear as a more powerful and menacing figure.
Just my thoughts. I've only been drawing for a few months and you're way ahead of me, but I'd like to think that my research may be worth something. This is a pretty good thumbnail, but you should do (probably quite) a few more until you find one that you really like. Readability and drama should be emphasized.
July 8th, 2011 #5
Wow - to think that I pulled you from lurking into posting! I think you've given me some good things to ponder here. I don't know that I want to move the bandits behind the tree - at least, I don't want the viewer to miss out on some of the variety of activities going on. But I'll play with it once I have a better sense of the depth - thanks for giving me a whole range of variables to tweak.
In the end, I fear that dpaint, despite being a bit of an ass to me, is actually quite right. I need to fix the perspective. Let's see if that helps separate some of these elements.
July 8th, 2011 #6
Well, certain people on this forum have caught my attention, and I appreciate your ability to take criticism. So I figured I could break the ice here. Anyway, I'm glad I could help. =)
July 8th, 2011 #7
Hey Giffman, I think you've got WAAAAAAAY too much going on to be able to pull off at your current skill level. You just are really going to have a hard time with such a complex scene.
A bit of advice I try to offer is, a well rendered onion is a far more satisfying thing than a poorly rendered scene of a mechanical dragon attacking a horde of zombie warriors defending a futuristic castle. At night. In other words, you're trying to begin your journey at your destination...it just doesn't work.
As far as advice on this particular piece, get James Gurney's book, "Imaginitive Realism" and see what really goes into making something like this. Develop your observation and drawing skills and maybe keep this in development on the side as you learn more about the process...use it as a learning piece...and I mean over the next year...of drawing every day. That's what it takes.
July 9th, 2011 #8
Thanks for the book recommendation - that looks simply fantastic! I can see myself just pouring over something like that day in and day out, and I really wasn't aware that such a perfect book existed. I'm in Singapore for a month, so I'll try to get it delivered right away.
As for the rest of your comment, it does piss me off a bit - so gear up for round 345,643 of "artist gets mad at critic and critic gets frustrated by snobby little spoiled artist brat" fisticuffs as I explain why.
1. I have a pretty good sense of my own skill level at the moment, in that I've now finished four similar paintings. I'm attaching my last two here - do you really think the above composition is any more ambitious than these? I don't at all. I don't see this one coming out as any more of an eyesore as the previous ones.
2. I am an amateur - a 30 year old man with a family of five and a day job. It simply isn't an option for me to go to art school at the moment. Nor is it an option for me to suspend my hobby to work exclusively on a series of learning exercises for the next year while I improve. I've been improving all my life - and rarely more rapidly than I have been the last few years - which has been driven by this particular project. As a child, I would draw huge sprawling detailed scenes with hundreds of little characters - should I have been forbidden to do this because I wasn't "good enough". Nope - I will shout out G. K. Chesterton's cry of the amateur - "Everything worth doing is worth doing badly." Just because I haven't trained with scales for years on end doesn't mean I can't sing karaoke with my friends. Just because I'm no Peyton Manning doesn't mean I can't play football with the guys. Just because I lack the training I would have had if I had gone the route of full time study in art doesn't mean I shouldn't work on a book for my son.
Basically, I welcome your critique of all the areas I need to improve. I want to improve. I want to know where to focus. And I'm willing to work on it. I'm willing to buy a couple books. I'm willing to do some ellipse exercises. I'm willing to take reference photos. I'm willing to put in some extra time to get better. But I am not willing to put aside drawing things I enjoy until some magical day when I'm "good enough". I don't look at things I drew in high school and say "man, I wish I had waited to even start such a project because I was more skilled." Mostly I say "Gosh, I wish I had finished that project before I outgrew it". I realize that 5 years down the road I'll see the paintings here as vastly inferior. How encouraging that will be!
3. This is a personal project for my oldest son. I started it a couple years ago to get me into digital painting. I'm a little less than halfway done. He's seven years old now. He's already a little old for it already, and I have two more sons! I'm not shooting for a high-school graduation present here. So there are personal reasons why it matters to me that I pick up the pace, rather than put something on hold a year. Joining conceptart.org is encouraging me to speed up - which is really important.
So that's my situation. Does that make sense? Given this, do you see why I totally welcome a book recommendation and observations of where I'm lacking, while at the same time am a bit offended at detailed instructions of how I should adjust my personal schedule around my training? I know my situation and personal goals better than you do - so offer your critique in such a way that I can take it and fit it into that. In short - don't tell me to put my project on the shelf for a year - that's presuming too much about me personally. Tell me what I can do to improve, and I'll try to fit that into the thousand other variables that make up my life.
Oh well - I hope that explains things clearly without totally burning my bridges with you Jeff. I value your input a lot, and I daresay I can learn from even blunt and abrasive critiques like dpaint's (though I vastly prefer polite ones). Can you also then continue to help even touchy artists, who nevertheless do indeed listen to critique and strive to improve?
July 9th, 2011 #9
July 9th, 2011 #10
I'd be careful with the king's expression. In your rough sketch, it appears to be mad like "take me out of here! > " instead of one more similar to your profile picture.
By the way, I love your compositions. They are so narrative. I could be staring at them for a few minutes!
July 9th, 2011 #11
Ok after taking a look at this, I would have him pointing to the King. That way we have a reason to look up there. If both his hand and his eyes point to the bandit the king might as well be a dangling fruit for all we care.
Also it doesn't look like he is juggling with the other hand but rather getting ready to throw. What is the attitude you want the juggler to have? Casual assuredness? Juggling idly with the one hand making what seems like impotent threats? Or more commanding, or what?
July 9th, 2011 #12Registered User
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Just a suggestion - this would be not wormview but at least small dog view lol:
Drawing from such extreme ancles however exceeds my limits, which is sad since they are worth a lot for dramatics, especially in storyboards.
The king's picture again then would be better with a bird-view imho.
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July 9th, 2011 #13
I think I'll do a couple of these thumbnails varying the horizon line and the height of the top vanishing point. Even in this dinky one here is a vast improvement on the initial one - I think it really helps with the dangling king. Sorry about that, guys, but for some reason my initial sketches always have pretty sloppy perspective.
By the way, Jeff - I've got the Gurney book beside me as I type. Turns out they have Borders in Singapore - though the prices are rather insane.
Last edited by thegiffman; July 9th, 2011 at 01:08 PM.
July 9th, 2011 #14
very good post #8 is!
my "educational resource" recommendation would be Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig Vol.1. his approach is great. the other volumes are great aswell, but id definitely get the 1st at least.
and Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color by Arthur Wesley Dow, im pretty sure recommended by dpaint (to give the full line of credit ). its a great book, and for me brought certain things into perspective when it comes to the importance and hirachy of certain picturemaking elements.
my crit is that i dont see much exploration in your "thumbnails".... how about changing the view to a birdseye view, just beyond some of the guys nesting in the branches looking down on the juggler. something like that or totally different. thumbnails are of no use imo, if you keep repeating the same thing over and over with little alterations.
try to explore more when changes cost you little instead of rushing in and having to sacrifice precious details, once you recognize youd have to change certain things to get the picture where you want, impact-wise.
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July 9th, 2011 #15
But first...I appreciate knowing a little more information about your personal life and also the posting of the finished works. Three things to think about though...
1) You're absolutely right that I don't know you or your work or situation to any degree at all really, so I'm just basing the critique, advice and recommendations on one very rough image. So you kind of have to remove that other stuff from the equation when considering the critique - because I can't possibly know all that and therefor can't take it into acount - that is often where the "critiquee" needs to give a little slack.
2) In the end the critique should be objective anyway, and about the piece itself. Remember instructors, art directors, etc. have NO interest in why you didn't get the assignment finished or didn't put your best into it.
3) I had no idea what your finished work abilities were, or even your process. That is actually outstanding work if you want my opinion, stylised sure, but actually professional level. That did not come across in that sketch. So again, that needs to be considered, the fact that we haven't seen your finished work.
OK, into the most perfect segue anyone has unintentionally set up...
On point #2, being an "amateur". A really important misconception is that there is somehow a different path, process or approach for the beginner or amatuer than there is for the professional, or even "advanced" amateur. It is all the same. Jimmy Page's guitar(s) all have six strings. The football Peyton Manning is throwing is no different than the one you throw around with your friends. The level, training regimen, discipline and dedication are the only different factors...not the football, not the guitar, etc.
So, not to belabor the point, if the pros use approach "x", then that is probably a good indicator that amateurs should use approach "x" as well. One of those, "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me" kind of things.
OK, that said, I didn't mean to wait a year, or to achieve a certain level, before visiting this piece again, I meant use it alongside studies and keep it in development as you gain skill and competence with the fundamentals - usiing your new-found insight to make it stronger. However, that advice was based on the one rough (and with a mistake or two in perspective vocabulary) and I don't think is applicable. You are perfectly capable of taking this piece to a very high, professional finish so you can ignore that advice.
Anyway, if more people could respectfully articulate their points, and even pissed-offness as well it would sure make things easier.
And of course on the last point, as long as you remember to cut me some slack for not knowing everything going on behind the scenes.
The Gurney book will be great for you. I might also recommend "Drawing Scenery" by Jack Hamm...it isn't terribly expensive and is great for composition.
Looking forward to seeing this piece develop. Now.
July 9th, 2011 #16
Contrasting this thread with the currently ongoing battle vixens thread is a good illustration of How and How Not to intelligently handle criticism. Originally, I wanted to reply on TheGiffman's behalf to Jeffx99 about how I felt as though he didn't understand TheGiffman's process, but white knighting wouldn't have done any good so I held my tongue. I'm glad I did.
Not to subtract anything from the wisdom and maturity presented in this thread, I think that it would be best to get back in topic, lest we forget about the piece in question. I'm afraid I must back up everything that sone_one posted. However, I feel as though more elaboration about the thumbnail process would be helpful. Consider the following images.
What makes the first image a pretty bad thumbnail process and the second image a better one? There's basically no real difference between any of the drawings done. It's all the same perspective, same elements, and no real exploration and discovery of new ideas they could use to express their ideas better. The second image (Although it's not really THAT much better) shows much more exploration about what sort of landscape would be most appropriate for their setting. So it's not about "same but different" kind of exploring, but really trying to find something perfect.
Last edited by Strato; July 9th, 2011 at 05:22 PM.
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July 9th, 2011 #17
there is a different path imo because they are aiming for different goals. ones goals is to get his ideas across in an acceptable manner, where the other approach is rather along the lines of beeing able to realize someone elses idea meeting certain standards.
while i agree that every bit of information you are able to pick up, is going to make your pictures stronger, i feel that a focus on what is "right" has more negative than positive potential. whats the right way for one aint neccessarily the right way for anyone else.
for myself e.g. form is way less important to be considered when it comes to picture making, than notan or composition, yet im aware that i got some knowledge under my belt if it comes to form and at the same time ive been neglecting other important ingredients. i have some learning to do to bring those up to par. maybe that knowledge of basics enable me to think about those factors... maybe not. were not neccessarily operating by the same logic.
what im trying to say is, to point someone in the right direction, we should not assume, but know where he wants to get, or (in a worst case scenario) not say anything at all.
ive seen people beeing hurt by doing an overpaint, because i made it my picture instead of helping theirs, not considering what they were aiming for.
Last edited by sone_one; July 9th, 2011 at 05:17 PM.
July 9th, 2011 #18
on the thumbs you posted... while they are exploring different ways of focus and importance, you are not exploring entirely different concepts. thats what ive been trying to get at though. its not just about make that bigger, or the other one.... its about real exploration.... maybe make us look at those giraffes through the tree.... try upright frames aswell as landscape... go wild.
if you miss the go wild part during the thumbnail stage, its pretty unlikely you get a second chance for numerous reasons (deadlines, details you got fond of, timeinvestment,....).
July 9th, 2011 #19
You're absolutely right. I had a better example of a thumbnailing that I unfortunately lost, and the "better" illustration was merely the one I could find easiest. =P Bad form on my part.
Edit 2: Oh, and thank you for the explanation on attachment manager. The second image was simply way too large. I forget that not everyone has gigantic monitors. I shrunk it down and it uploaded just fine.
Edit 3: Ah ha! I found the one I wanted to use in the first place. I'll attach it to this post for better continuity.
Here we can see a clear evolution from the first step towards the final step. This is closer to what a good thumbnail process would be like, although they still missed the opportunity to play with perspective, time of day, changing the setting from a pine forest to a temperate one, etc. If somebody has an even better example of thumbnails, then by all means feel free to post it.
Last edited by Strato; July 9th, 2011 at 05:31 PM.
July 9th, 2011 #20
It's nice to have the back story of what you're doing and why. The biggest problem that I see ahead for you is that you listen and keep improving, as you did on your previous picture, and you'll have to go and do all your earlier stuff again to get it up to the same level.
I hope the king hasn't been stripped of his rich clothes as that'll be a big hint as to who he is amongst the ragged band of bandits.
July 9th, 2011 #21
July 9th, 2011 #22
July 10th, 2011 #23
I'm a bit confused by your different goals statement...and I think you may be talking about personal work as opposed to illustration or commercial work? Even then I see no difference in the fundamentals and how to approach the design and execution of a piece.
Anyway, maybe a topic for another thread.
July 10th, 2011 #24
Wow - lots of conversation since I left. I don't suppose I mind rabbit trailing in the thread - as long as it doesn't get in the way of good critique once I actually post something.
Just to clarify, Jeff - I assumed that you knew some of this info since I linked to my previous thread in the OP. But now that we're on the same page, I'm glad that you like some of my past paintings. Posting on this board has been huge for me - very very energizing as people interact with my process. It's, quite simply, awesome.
Strato - thanks for the thought of coming to my defense. But you shouldn't feel obligated to. I like to think at this stage in my life I've been around the block enough to stick up for myself when I need to, and brush off stuff when I need to.
Regarding the thumbnails themself - you guys are fundamentally right. I need to do a bunch of them. However, there are storyboard issues that make me want to avoid an overhead shot. Quite frankly, that angle is just too tempting for me! I've done it in 3 out of the 4 illustrations so far, and have one planned for illustration 6. But I could get at least 5 or 6 good ones from a low view I'm sure.
Sone_one is absolutely right - My process absolutely lacks in the planning stages - giving me loads of extra work in the later parts. But at least part of the problem is that boards in the past have had people who didn't really seem to comment much until the later stages. Here you guys really jump in early - so I should take advantage of it and do things right to begin with.
Black Spot is thinking the same thoughts I'm thinking. I already see loads of problems in some of the earlier pictures. I think, once I'm finished, I'll post each here in turn and try to fix at least the low hanging fruit. But all the more reason for me to hurry so I don't improve TOO much. ;-)
All right - enough talk from me. I'd better go whip up some thumbnails!
July 10th, 2011 #25
"They tied him atop a great tree as a jest, they left him his tunic and stole all the rest."
No easy helpful hints for you poor viewers, I fear! Ah well - it's just that much more of a challenge.
July 10th, 2011 #26
Further derailing ahoy:
The point is that there really isn't any standard way that guitar players learn how to handle their instrument, and the closes you come to really covering most bases with the instrument and musical theory (being trained in classical guitar and jazz guitar), is more of an exception than the rule, because it's just not an option for most people who want to play the guitar.
I think I'm done now.
July 10th, 2011 #27
Ok, here's a couple thumbnails with my thoughts.
#1 - This one is decent - I like being able to see the juggler head on, while being able to get close shots of interesting activity by all the bandits. It may be my favorite. It will be tricky, though, keeping things G rated with the poor king though. ;-)
#2 - The original. It's good, I think, though it is really really awkward trying to see the faces of two people facing each other in the same shot.
#3 - Here I give up trying. Not sure if it's worth it.
#4 - Oh dear...The phallic implications are endless...
#5 - Just focusing on the juggler. It would be an interesting challenge, but I really hate to miss all the activity on the part of the bandits. I'm stronger at shots with lots of interesting characters I think, rather than at perfecting just one in detail. Maybe that means I need the challenge, but, well...I don't know.
#6 - Bandits in the eye's reflection? Meh...Sounds really easy to screw up and hard to pull off well.
July 10th, 2011 #28
By the way, does anyone know a way to update the thumbnail on the main page? I'd like it to change as I work, if possible...
Actually, really it would be a great feature in the WIP forum, if there could be a "master image" that auto updates as you add new replies. Don't know how much of a pain that would be to add, but it would be nice to have an easy way to see the current state of a given WIP.
July 10th, 2011 #29
thegiffman: Hehe, you certainly can defend yourself. I didn't feel obligated to, and like I said I'm glad I didn't because it lead to a fantastic discussion. I think that you can change the thumbnail by changing what image is attached to your first post. I'd include the original in one of your other posts though so that others will be able to see where this all began.
Thumbnails are looking good. #1 is my favorite too, for whatever that's worth. Very dynamic and dramatic, especially compared to your original. Glad to see you took everything that people told you here to heart. =)
I have a few comments that might help you when thinking about your composition process and thumbnails, and determining what will be the most effective tools in your toolbox. Your first one has the potential for a great tonal pattern and will allow you to guide the viewer's eye where you want to. Just make sure that your large foreground elements (the non-bandit leader bandits) are all the darkest parts of your image. That way people will be more likely to look up the tree and towards the king instead of at the cronies surrounding him, which was one of the problems I saw in your first image.
#2 and #3 aren't really that bad either. The perspective makes a huge difference, because the lines of the tree change from being parallel to converging right on the King('s crotch) The others that you've made aren't really all that good for a stand-alone piece, but as I understand you're making these as a part of a book? If all of your drawings are bigger scenes, then an opportunity to see a close-up of a character should be taken at some point. As it is, I don't know what you've made and plan on making though, so I can't make any suggestions there.
I like what I see here. I'm glad I'm helping/contributing in some way. =)
July 10th, 2011 #30
First attachment in first post. Edit - Go advanced. Make it small for new comers.
The tunic the king is left with could be light, while everyone else is dressed darker.