portrait of my sleeping boyfriend (edit: now working on self portrait)

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  1. #1
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    portrait of my sleeping boyfriend (edit: now working on self portrait)

    Here is a drawing I did today of my sleeping boyfriend in PS CS5 with an Intuos 3 Wacom tablet. Took me all day.

    I'm hardly getting any comments in my sketchbook thread, so thought I'd post this here for critique on what I may be doing wrong. How could I make this better? Does the color look off? Does it take away from it that I color picked from the photo, should I come up with the colors myself?

    Thanks for looking. I would really appreciate any critique.

    Name:  final for deviantart.jpg
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    possible other color scheme:
    Name:  final for conceptart 2.jpg
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    here is the reference:

    Name:  reference for conceptart.jpg
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    Last edited by magicnmyth; September 13th, 2011 at 06:43 PM.
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  3. #2
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    This is one of the reasons why an artist shouldn't just copy photos.

    Photos lie about many things, color among them. The easiest way to spot a copied photo is by looking at the color. If it looks like something a camera would produce, instead of something an artist designed, it's 99% probability to be copied off a photo.

    In this case you've got a rather low-quality photo, too.

    Do yourself a favor and work from life. It's not really possible to get good results working from photos, if you don't have a lot of experience in working from life. Reading a photo is a skill too; you can't just copy, you have to be informed about a ton of things - from how light behaves to the differences between color registration by a human eye and a camera.

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  5. #3
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    This is one of the reasons why an artist shouldn't just copy photos.

    Photos lie about many things, color among them. The easiest way to spot a copied photo is by looking at the color. If it looks like something a camera would produce, instead of something an artist designed, it's 99% probability to be copied off a photo.

    In this case you've got a rather low-quality photo, too.

    Do yourself a favor and work from life. It's not really possible to get good results working from photos, if you don't have a lot of experience in working from life. Reading a photo is a skill too; you can't just copy, you have to be informed about a ton of things - from how light behaves to the differences between color registration by a human eye and a camera.

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    Thanks so much for your advice. I really appreciate it and would like to apply it to my artwork once I can figure out how to.

    Sadly, these are things I should know on my own; all of my art professors at RISD told me not to copy from photos. I didn't listen, even though I should have.

    Like you, they all said to work from life. However, it's hard to get someone to pose for me for the length of time it would take me to complete an artwork; say, 15-20 hours. I had problems finishing with 6 hour in class poses because it would take me forever to work from life. It still takes me forever to work from photos, too, but they sit still for as long as I need them to.

    Do you (or anyone) have any solutions to this? I'd really love to take your advice and work from life, but I just don't know how to get over the problem I mentioned above. Do you just lay down the basis for it and do it over multiple sessions? Do you lay down the basis for it and then do the rest from memory? Or something else?

    Is this drawing salvageable if I mess around with the colors more? This one meant a lot to me, as it's my boyfriend. Unless, maybe I could do it over and ask him to pose for me?

    edit: Played around with the color based on what I've learned about light sources. Is it any better? I think it probably still looks too much like photo colors
    Name:  conceptart color.jpg
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    Last edited by magicnmyth; September 13th, 2011 at 06:03 AM.
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    If speed is your downfall, you should try practicing gesture drawing. I remember seeing a site that set up lessons for you, but I can't remember what it's called...

    Found it, http://www.pixelovely.com/gesture/figuredrawing.php This really helped me focus on the movement and language behing the pose rather than getting stuck with te detail. Even though my art is more cartoony, I think it shows when you learn the fundamentals first.

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    The problem with colorpicking is that you turn off your brain and trust the machine to do the work for you. And manipulating what you have with adjustments and/or filters is doing the same thing. Look at your subject and try to figure out what's going on and why. Working from life trains you to be able to do this, so that you can work from photos mindfully and efficiently.
    Remember, color is the result of the interaction between the light and the surface. So, every time there's a color change, either the light is changing (ex; cast shadows), the surface is changing (ex: patterns), or the relationship between light and surface is changing (ex: plane changes). You have two light sources in your picture, a cool, diffused skylight from the left, and a few patches of warm, dappled sunlight from the right. Because this isn't clear in your mind, you get situations like the odd warm splotch on his upper arm that doesn't really relate to anything. It's only there because you sampled from that area on your photo, but you didn't paint it with any indication of why there's such a color shift there. When you just colorpick from a photo and put down brushstrokes without regard to describing the form, all you're doing is the same thing a digital filter would do, but more slowly, less efficiently, and less accurately. Engage your brain, don't turn it off.


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    Quote Originally Posted by magicnmyth View Post
    However, it's hard to get someone to pose for me for the length of time it would take me to complete an artwork; say, 15-20 hours.
    Use a mirror and model for yourself.

    My Sketchbook

    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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    I agree with Elwell. All in all though, it's a well painted picture. Looks good from a distance.

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    Just checked out your sketchbook and DA. Stop with the colorpicked photo studies. Seriously. You think they look good, but next to everything you've done that's either traditional or not so photo bound, they're booooooooooring. There's no you in them. Considering that this one is no better than ones you did years ago, they're not teaching you anything, either.

    Last edited by Elwell; September 13th, 2011 at 10:55 AM.

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    You may draw objects too. They stands still and even the simplest/boring ones can be interesting if you try to understand where come those colors you see from. A portrait is very complicated, it's easier if you chose an easier subject and focus on colors and lighting. Take your time, observe and think, it's no problem if your end result won't be epic to anyone but you learned from it.

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    MuffinSeeker: That website looks amazingly helpful. Thank you. Gesture drawing is definitely a weakness for me, so I better get practicing!

    Elwell: Some tough comments from you that were hard for me to take, but I definitely needed to hear that. You are totally right about everything you said. Thank you for taking a look at my work and taking the time to comment. You gave me lots of helpful advice and lots to think about. I'll keep what you said in mind, and work from life more and learn about color and light before returning to working from photos. Thanks so much.

    manlybrian: Noted, I'm doing that right now actually. Thank you.

    Luskan: Thank you.

    shiNIN: I definitely will start doing more still lifes, as boring as they seem to be; you're right, you can learn a lot from them. Thanks a lot.

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    So, I'm working on a new self portrait of myself completely from observation, and I'm having a difficult time. I guess I've used photos as a crutch for too long . Can someone give their opinion of how it's coming out and how I can fix it?

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    I'm a noob with color myself and I probably shouldn't say anything, since I can't really give you advice on how to make this better, but I guess one thing to watch out for is to try and avoid muddying up the colors. You're using dark greyish browns for the shadows and it doesn't look too good. And I don't understand, why the dark splotch on her right lower cheek area? Any way, there are far more competent people than me to give you advice on this.

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    It seems like you'd do well to invest in a set of acrylics. With digital media, you can't mix colours the same way and tend to edge towards the equivalent of adding black to your paint. If you'd like, I could give you a list of colours I was told to buy in college.

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    I realize I'm late to this party, but...I looked at your sketchbook and you seem to have more "skillz" than these two pieces would indicate. Here is my advice:

    1. First and foremost: Do some kind of underdrawing in pencil (looking at your sketchbook, you can draw quite well), scan that in, and use it as a base for your digital painting. The main problem here, in my opinion, is that the contours aren't established well and when you slap down color with a stylus (which is a clumsy tool compared to a physical paintbrush anyway) you get some pretty strange results--your flesh in that self-portrait looks positively leprous. So you might want to get in the habit of doing a drawing first, at least until you get more comfortable with the tablet.

    2. Blend your colors. Everything is very hard-edged in all your digital work....it feels like fingernails on a chalkboard. The Smudge tool ("R" in Photoshop) is your friend.

    As far as working from photos: I personally like the intimacy and emotion in your photo-based work of people (I don't think it's boooooring at all) and it's hard for me to imagine how you could do it without using photos as reference, other than having your friends do multi-hour poses for you. (And with my friends at least, that's not something they generally are willing to do. ) But as others have noted, you'd do well to spend some serious time working from life so as to get a clearer understanding of how to depict form.

    As always, just my two cents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magicnmyth View Post
    Sadly, these are things I should know on my own; all of my art professors at RISD told me not to copy from photos. I didn't listen, even though I should have.
    Doesn't sound encouraging to me. You probably won't listen this time, too. But, just in case...

    Like you, they all said to work from life. However, it's hard to get someone to pose for me for the length of time it would take me to complete an artwork; say, 15-20 hours. I had problems finishing with 6 hour in class poses because it would take me forever to work from life. It still takes me forever to work from photos, too, but they sit still for as long as I need them to. Do you (or anyone) have any solutions to this?
    Yes, actually. Learn to work quicker.

    By the look of your brush strokes in this here picture, I can tell that you are overworking everything. You can work faster by improving your stroke economy. Make few brush strokes, but make every single one matter. Work with HUGE brushes to block things in, reserve smaller ones for detailing.

    At first you'll be just as slow, because it will take you a long time to ponder each stroke and probably redo it a few times. But it will gradually be less of an effort, and you'll work faster.

    Another thing to make things happen faster is the proper working method. Go from general to detail, block in first, then add just enough detail and refinement. If you can abandon the painting at any stage and it will still look right (just less detailed), then you know you're doing it correctly.

    When you master all that, you can actually focus on increasing the speed.

    As for not having a model to sit for 20 hours... excuses, excuses. You can learn all these things from still life. Still life can't run away, and it has the benefit of being in the same space with you, so you can see the actual color and actual form. Which makes a world of difference, compared to photos.

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    arenhaus: Ouch. I feel attacked by you. I wish I'd never been honest about what my downfalls were. I voiced my legitamate concerns and asked for help. I did not ask to be attacked, which I feel you and Elwell did. I don't have a high opinion of myself or my work or I wouldn't have asked what I could do better.

    It's not that I didn't listen. It's that I had all these concerns about how I'm supposed to not work from photos when it takes me so long to finish drawings and paintings, and no one has ever answered that for me. The main professor who said not to work from photos gave me a C+ but never bothered to teach me. At all. I learned NOTHING from his class. I asked him questions that he didn't answer, and he NEVER critiqued me (he would critique the first half of the alphabet, spend tons of time with them or his favorites, and never in one class got around to me) or helped me until he slammed me with that grade. He made me cry during the final critique because I was so confused about painting and wanted to get better and he hadn't helped me. He ruined my passion for painting temporarily by his thoughtless behavior, and it's comments like yours that make me question why I'm in art in the first place, if all I have to look forward to is attacks. My painting the semester after actually helped me, taught me how to better work from observation, and I loved her for it. I got a B+ in her class and learned tons of stuff.

    So I thank you for answering my legitimate question of how to work faster, but I wish you would have been nicer about it and considered my feelings before so rudely attacking me. I'm not making excuses; you have to admit it's an uphill battle getting someone to pose for that long. Now I see that I'll be able to draw them quicker after practicing more. All I asked for was help, which you spent most of your post doing, and I thank you for that. I can see that the things you had to say will help me to work faster in the long run, and I can assure you that I'll put what you said into practice and spend lots of time thinking about it. I'll set up still lifes and draw them from observation, I'll draw me from observation, I'll go to the park and draw people from observation. I'll put it into practice.

    Giacomo: Thanks for your help and kind words. I'll definitely draw in my sketchbook and then photograph it and work on that from now on. I was thinking that the hard edged look made it look more like I painted it and not that I photographed it (which people have questioned in my work), but now I see that it just looks like you described, so I'll look to minimize my brush strokes in the future. I'll start another drawing of myself and make it look like I have normal skin and not leprosy haha.

    MuffinSeeker: That would help me a lot. Thank you!

    THEMike: Thanks for your help. I'll definitely start another drawing and try my best to stay away from browns. I was actually going for purple in the shadows since I know that warm colors cast cool shadows, but I'll have to actually pick out a better color in my next drawing.

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    Just FYI, if you're going to be working digitally you NEED a flatbed scanner. You can get one at Staples for under a hundred bucks.

    Also, if it makes you feel any better, windy condescension like "learn to work quicker" is meaningless bullsh*t and you should feel free to ignore it. My advice is to not worry about the speed of your work or the number of brush strokes. I know I improved tremendously when I started slowing waaaay down...going to the museum and spending an entire *day* on a single drawing of a particular sculpture was hugely liberating for me.

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    magicnmyth,

    There are two big dangers to using photo references:

    1. It flattens out the three dimensional form. Your eyes don't do that, since you see everything in stereo. You may wonder why this matters - since the end result is a 2D painting, but a deep understanding of the 3D shape you are painting is absolutely key - especially in lighting.

    2. It limits the colors to one optimized exposure - so that you lose the real brights and darks.

    Having said this, just because there are dangers does NOT mean photo references are to be avoided at all costs. My goodness - great artists use them all the time. It just means to be aware of the weaknesses.

    Here are some tips to counter the weaknesses:

    1. Take multiple photos from different angles, and possibly even paint a slightly different angle than any of them. The key is for the photos to be a servant, not a master.

    2. Desaturate your photos to black and white - just work from the form.

    Sorry you feel attacked. That's a shame. I know the feeling, and it's very demoralizing. Perhaps it would help to know that it's probably not the intention. For my part I think the colors in your self portrait are an improvement. I don't think I'd try to push it any further - I'd keep going with different studies. Additionally, I wouldn't discourage you from working digitally. None of your challenges will be solved by using traditional paints, in my opinion - they're solved by practice.

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    Magicnmyth -

    There is a rather long thread here in the WIP section about accepting critique. You *really* need to read it. But a few points:

    First, you are not paying Arenhaus or Elwell to critique you. They are doing it solely out of the goodness of their hearts. So you don't get to complain that they didn't hold your hand and give you lots of positive strokes.

    Second, they were in no way critical of you personally or attacking you. They were succinctly pointing out errors in your work and process in order to help you grow as an artist. To be honest if you viewed their comments as attack, it really makes me question the accuracy your characterization of your old teacher.

    Third, nobody likes to hear why it is *somebody else's* fault that your skills are not what they should be - it makes you look like a whiner.

    So: if you want strokes, go back to DA. If you want help, get over your hurt feelings and follow the advice you were given. I wish you all the best and hope to see more of your work in the future.

    D'Arcy

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    Don't want to start any drama here, but you gotta learn to take all critique as an impersonal thing. They're not judging YOU, they comment on what they see. Sometimes harsh critiques do hurt, but they can also be the most useful because they're so direct and not fluffed out with, "No offense" or "But I do like your style".

    Now, my acrylics are in storage at the moment, so I don't have the full list. But iirc, you need the following list AT LEAST. Do NOT buy any black. You will not need it unless you're doing black and white stuff or have mastered painting.

    • Burnt Umber
    • Raw Umber
    • Crimson
    • Cadmium Red
    • Cadmium Yellow
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Phthalo Green
    • Aquamarine
    • Cobalt Blue (?)
    • Titanium White


    I think that's all of them. As you can see, no blacks in there!

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  32. #22
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    MuffinSeeker: Thanks for the list. Really appreciate it. It looks similar to the list I got for oils in my classes. Acrylics are foreign to me, so I look forward to working with them.

    justa: Sorry it came across as whining or blaming someone for my not up to par skills. I didn't mean for it to. I'm grateful they took the time to critique me. So, thank you to Elwell and Arenhaus. It just hurt me because I have a tendency to take things as an attack on me. It's just hard for me not to do. After having been in an art school environment, I should be used to it, because I got lots of critiques there. But I haven't gotten critique in so long, I've forgotten how to take it lol.. I need to work on that, I know. I am going to listen to their advice. I've already spent the day drawing from observation, so I'm taking it already.

    thegiffman: Thanks for your helpful advice about the downfalls of working from photos and how to use them better. Much appreciated!

    Giacomo: Thanks again. I'll get a scanner asap. It's also nice to know I'm not alone in wanting to spend a long time on art. Your kind words helped me feel less hurt.

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    Meh - I've been on this board a little while now, and am getting a feel for the culture of critique here. For the most part, I commend it - it's the best art forum I've seen. But that doesn't mean the community doesn't have its rough edges.

    I do want to push back on the "because critics are doing this for free, that means the artist needs to always respond 'thank you sir, may I have another'" trope. I can go to the cnn home page, pick up any story, and get plenty of opinions for free in the comments there. All of these fine citizens of the world shared their thoughts out of the sheer goodness...well...out of their heart anyway. But that alone doesn't make their comments worthy of anything above contempt.

    Now, most of the critiques here are deeply deeply valuable - that is true. But they are not valuable simply by virtue of being critiques. Saying "your picture looks like you barfed all over a canvas and took a bad photo of it" doesn't warrant appreciation by any artist - even if the thing vastly needs improvement. I don't care if that's "honest" - being a sincere jerk doesn't make you any less of a jerk.

    In this particular case, I think comments along the line of "your past record doesn't give me hope that you'll be mature now either" and "your attitude causes me to doubt your story" cross the line from objective appraisal of work to judgment of character. There are ways of speaking to the same issues without being personally presumptuous. Why not use them?

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  35. #24
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    For what it's worth, it wasn't intended as an attack. It was intended as a jolt to make you even more aware of the bad practice you've described. Cruel, but not malicious.

    I'm happy to see that you've taken it in a constructive way. Feel free to chide me as long as you're still switching to the good practice.

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    Hi magicnmyth,
    I've been in the same problem of referencing photos before, spending too many hours to make it perfect. The result may indeed look better than what's done without reference, but the satisfaction is different Lately I've been trying speed painting and I found it very fun (plus, it's not as time-consuming). Maybe you could try going on a speed painting spree ?

    By the way the left eye & brow in your self portrait is placed a little too low. Your colors are lively, I like it.

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  37. #26
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    Sometimes the line between criticism and critiquing is fuzzy around here. Usually it's best to just shake it off, consider the advice, and move on.

    My Sketchbook

    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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