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Hello my name is Keith Decesare.
I am a freelance illustrator with a need for real critiques. Please let me know what I need to work on, what's actually working FOR me and where I should go from here.
P.S. If anybody wants to crit my website please do. It seriously needs a fresh start.
I prefer a lot your sketches than your illustration. This is cause you know much more the tool. Actually i think you're spending too much time illustrating than learning how to do it properly for your needs and your drawings tend to change because of that lack of knowledge.
Your goal is to learn how to render your drawing, spend more time on photoshop or whatever you use and learn a more fast technique for starting. When you know that you can spend all the time you want to make your paintings looks the way you want.
I have to say that you need a lot of material knowledge too, it's like you have spent a lot of time on line drawing and passed on color and painting recently (it's something i did too) and cause of that you only know how to render materials simplified as gradients of gray. Doesn't matter, it's a common thing, just study how light works on materials and you'll figure it out with time, it's not so complicated for someone that have a look for steampunk details
I enjoyed looking through your site. I will try to give you my opinion on some things. The front page could be slicker. The letterhead you have on the home page is really good and modern looking. The font chosen for the rest looks antiquated, and I dont like the drop shadow. Try to make the whole thing look more modern and sleek.
I like that you have that news thing with your most recent image(im guessing?). But you better keep it updated!
Now onto the artwork; most of your work suffers from confusing shapes and hard-to-read shapes. You put things of similar color/value behind things and its hard to see things. It also offers no punch. A thorn by any other name is my fav image and I'm sure its because it has punch. The light skin pops out. Puss n boots is also really good. He is against the negative spaces and it pops.
Robots vs zombies is an example of poor 'pop'. The zombies are all brown, and so is the background. There is no direct light on anything so it all just looks blah. You also dont have any dark darks. Why not make the zombies in the super foreground very dark? The two steampunk portraits also have no light source and no darks. It looks boring and it just looks off. Add more darks in front, and more atmospheric perspective.
You should probly also choose a style that you would say represents you. Does it have lines or not? Is it graphic or not? Start making your portfolio represent you, and start replacing your bad images with better ones. Never include a bad one just to have more images.
Your costumes are very good, and your painting technique is coming along. Try to stay away from shape brushes for leaves and grass. Use them as a starting point, but then you gotta paint over them and make the leaves different, the grass different, etc, so it doesnt look like a brush.
Ok good luck!
p.s. those items you have for sale are cool! The zombie valentine cards are clever lol.
Thank you very much for your crits!
Hitsu//San: I agree. Starting a painting is tough for me. I put down the base colors and "try" to do a value study before going into the details. I guess the best word to describe it would be confusing. Should I just do the rendering all in black and white and then go in with color?
Artfix: Pop is the problem! No matter how many pictures I put in front of Puss n' Boots, everyone loves that picture the best! I need to work on contrasting elements but I get myself trapped into using the whole canvas so-to-speak and everything ends up over rendered I guess. I absolutely agree on RvZ. I was experimenting with Gamut painting. That's why everything is the same color .
Which brings me to a question for both of you. I am confused about using dark darks and conversly light lights. Many artists say never use black for darks and never use white for lights. I follow that instruction but whenever I add a color to my shadows it becomes muted. Hence why everything of mine looks (and is) grey. I really need help on this.
You will have to find what works best for you. People work differently. You can look at my blog to see how I work. I do a greyscale rough and answer all questions about value pattern, contrast, and composition. Then I figure out colors as I'm going. Maybe you would prefer to figure out colors in a rough first--thats fine.
I did a couple paintovers. Actually, for the steampunk girl I just did a contrast adjust of about +8 and brightness -8. I wonder if your monitor is too dark, so things are looking dark enough for you. If your original steampunk girl doesn't look like there is a white haze in front of her compared to mine, then you might adjust your monitor.
And then I added some light source in the zombie pic. I made the foreground guys darker and the further stuff lighter. And that's all I meant for darker darks. You don't need black. You just need a pleasing and clear value pattern. The values need to make things read clearly, and direct people to what you want them to look at.
Hope that helps.
Artfix, What a difference an adjustment makes! Thank you very much for that!
I forgot to thank you for the website crits earlier. Thanks! I'll change a few things after I get a few projects done.
Most artists say to not use pure black or pure white cause in nature is really hard to find that situation. You can find pure black in caves and pure white in sun or some kind of fire reaction. With technology is different, you can find pure white in artificial lights as well. The problem is that you need to know where and why you can use this high range of colors. I've been talking so much about value separation in here, seems that most people don't know the theory behind it. Essentially when you're applying colors you need to keep always in mind value separation (which is the range between the most White color in your image and the most Black, from 1 to 100 in photoshop), generally a good rule to follow is to put lighter objects far and darker objects near the camera. This will create a good sense of depht, the second rule is to have a huge scale of values in your paintings (if you use a scale like from 30bw to 40bw your image will be super lighted, if you use a scale of 10bw to 80bw it will be realistic).
Now thing will get ugly when applying colors... but i don't have the time to explain that right now, it's freaking long and i have business to do so maybe we will save it for another time let me know if the value separation is clear, i really need to make a post with the explanation of it. You can surely find me talking about that in at least 2 topics. Search it, if you can't find it i'll do it for you later, sorry about the hurry man.
I really love your last one, so much action and so dynamic!
It looks like you use a lot of grey and same toned color for shading. (By same tone, I mean using darker red for the shadow on a red dress). While it's a valid method for coloring and can even turn out to great result sometime, I suggest avoid using grey/black at all for shading, and if you can, also avoid same tone shading.
Grey/black shading tend to muddy up the color, and same toned shading tend to make the color look flat and boring.
Do you start off on a toned background? If not, give it a try. Starting on a white background tend to offset the contrast a lot, which result in a more washed out look.
And lastly, dont use too much white and black. You are doing good with your black usage, but you apply a lot of white highlights, try only apply the white to a couple of spots instead.
Hitsu//San and Look, thank you so much for helping me with this!
Hitsu//San, There was an article in Imagine FX no. 80, Making Great Compositions with Dan Dos Santos. In one part he was talking about using three degrees of value as a compositional tool. Is that close to the same principle?
Look, Thanks for the crits! Yes, I do use a toned background most of the time. I will try to back off on the highlights. I think though that my monitor problem is getting the best of me again because I don't use white in my highlights. I mostly use a yellow or whatever color the light is supposed to be. The monitor fix should help with that.
I started to use the color of light to shade my subjects. Like this:
Note: this wip was done before the monitor fix.
I used the direct light (yellow sunlight) and the reflected light for the underside. Is this right or am I still barking up the wrong dragon?
Artfix, Don't look at the leaves. I'm not done with them yet.
Yeah i'm sure that Dos Santos was talking about Background Middleground and Foreground. The background have to be an indication and it have the lighter color, the middleground is your subject and it's the best refined part of your drawing and the foreground is the darker part of your drawing and is the closest to the camera (or the viewer of your image) and must be an indication too (sometimes more loose than the background, sometimes a little bit defined). This is a general rule, obviously you could break it if you know perfectly what you're doing but following this steps you'll end up doing a good work.
Let's make an example, i hope you don't mind (i changed the colors a little bit to enhance readability) in this case the dragon is so close to the camera to become a mix of middleground and foreground (we have already broken the rule as you see) but value speaking is correct, background is lighter, middleground is darker and it reads well. In your original value setting midground an background have almost the same values:
Hitsu//San is right it looks much better with his adjustments. In photoshop you can use a "selective colors" adjustment layer to tweek the colors of your shadows and highlights. I personally think its one of the best photoshop features because it can do all of the color and tone adjustments in one shot and if your make it a layer it can incorperate other layer affects for further control.
I have to say this dragon is huge improvement over your other work posted in here. You're starting to apply the advice that they have given you and its paying off. Looks like its gonna be awesome!
The dragon does look terrific. That's the realistic rendering that people are drawn to. Time consuming eh?
I noticed you said that you deliberately used the same color for the direct light and reflected light. Those two sources are just as likely to be different as they are to be the same. If someone is wearing a red shirt and the sun is shining on them. That red shirt will bounce red light up onto nearby surfaces. It will make a much more interesting image if your light sources ARE different. Usually warm and cool looks the best.
I remember something from school that stuck with me. I THINK it was Gil Elvgren we were talking about--the instructor pointed out that Gil would often paint the scene with very even and ambient light, with no direct light source. Then he would add a very very bright light or rim light at the end. Suddenly, the entire painting which was not lit by this very bright light, is now in shadow. Except this shadow is extremely light! That's an easy way to think about how to add informative shadows.
Last edited by Artfix; April 6th, 2012 at 02:30 AM.
Yeah, that's the power of value composition and pure white. If you do an entire illustration with a value range of 40-60 bw which is pretty average color tone then add a 100bw rim light the entire illustration will be in shadow tones cause the difference from a single color to light is more large than the value range.
First off, let me jealously slobber all over your talent. You do such beautiful work! I enjoy all the various things you're able to do, especially the color work, which I have troubles with.
You asked for critiques, and I do have some. Please note my slobbering above; here are some contrasting opinions:
Especially in your paintings, your faces & figures seem to be missing any essential 'weight', when it comes to presenting any solidity or gravity to your characters. Just because the hair is blonde, or the woman's skin is light, doesn't mean that anything couldn't use some contrasting values that would give the illusion of weight or of being substantial. This applies to clothing and everything else.
Overall, there is a 'softness' to most all of your paintings that I see. To exaggerate my point, it's almost as if everything (hair, metal, wood, clothing, guns) were made from the same Nerf material. If the metal of a robot has the same 'feel' as the grass or trees or clouds or hair, then does it really 'read' like a robot? If you can (subtly or otherwise) depict these various textures and forms (metallic vs. wood vs. cloth vs. hair vs. etc.) contrastingly, then everything you do will have all the right contrasting distinctions that would make your work that much more believable, or convincing.
This sameness even shows up with your penciled/inked women you did. Ink lines are ink lines, but when every line makes the hair of the tsunami girl look the same as her tunic, as her hand, as the sword... well, you have a drawing that is amazing because of all the fine detail (LOVE the tattoos), but a bit more bland than it should be, due to how uniformly the same all the lines are to depict the hair, which looks like a huge curly/wavy hat with highlights that look like 'chunks' or 'patches'. The linework seems to have very little emphasis (thick to thin/thin to thick lines that represent weight, tightness of cloth, something sleek, or something course) that would add to the 'character' of your illustration.
The most important thing overall has to do with how your work has very little kinetic quality. Meaning, your characters are all posed. They don't look alive, as if your illustration caught your characters freeze-framed as they were in motion. There's a huge difference between your characters being alive, or just laying there on the page, not really moving, even though they're in a moving kind of pose. I'm not sure if you're just overworking your illustrations, or what. But overall, they're kind of like illustrated statues.
Also, if you wish to present yourself as a concept designer, your work needs to show more and more how you understand the process of presenting concept art to companies. The more you're able to make your finished work look like they were already used in a movie or animation project, the more people would consider you for other work.
Now back to the slobbering. There is so many wonderful things about your work, and I wish to hell I had half the ability you do when it comes to digital painting.
After changing my monitor all the examples from you guys look really good. Again, thanks for suggesting that!
Hitsu//San, after your paint over I went and changed all the settings and now I realize what you were trying to tell me. Thanks!
Shorinji_Knight, Thanks for the advice about the ajdustment controls. I have used them before but could never really get them to do what I wanted them to do.
Artfix, Thanks for the Gil Elvgren info! Sorry for the miscommunication, I didn't say I used the same light color for both. I used a warm yellow direct light and a cool green for the reflected light. ( You can kinda see it on the chin and around the horns). I learned that from James Gurney's book Color and Light. And yes I am a detail junkie which really sucks sometimes. I wish I wasn't, I work so much on a picture that I get bored with it.
magnut, Thanks for the props! The weight problem is something I'm working on. I think I can defeat this with the greyness issue I talk about below.
The kinetic problem IS because I'm overworking the paintings. I totally understand this and I'm really trying to not do that.
You and a few others have talked about my "sameness" of materials (metal, flesh, wood ect.). I'm actually confused about this. I render objects with realizim in mind. I give metal reflections and highlights, I render wood with grain and texture and I make flesh soft and pink. I'm kinda stumped about how to improve on this. Maybe it's my edge work? Please help.
I also realized why everything of mine is grey. The way a mix colors is the problem. I would start with whatever colors and eyedrop from each, paint at 50-30% opacity and then re-eyedrop from the new shade and yadayada. You do that enough and eventually everything goes blah.
BTW here is the full dragon pic.
I think I can tell you what all the materials looking the same comment means. I'm no stranger to this cause I was told the exact same about my work awhile back. Even though I painted materials with realism in mind, it didn't work. I just read your description of how you paint and that is exactly what I was doing too. I had to have it pointed out to me and it took awhile to get it. The problem comes from painting with too low of opacity. It softens all of the edges. Start painting at about 75% opacity then smoothing rough spots with lower opacity. The other part of my problem was not shifting the color hues (not talking about saturations) for shadows and highlights. I think you're falling into the same pitfalls I am still trying to climb out of.
I like the dragon picture. I realize this is just a wip and it doesn't do justice to your final vison, but I really prefered the original cropped version... or maybe a wide angle crop to keep the tail and neck. The area around the dragon's lower body kills the composition. If you don't recrop it, it needs something because all of the angles there draw the eyes away from the scene. Its like all of the others angles draw you in and frame the scene except for the far side of the dragon.
As you're trying to be convincing or believable in your paintings or penciled/inked drawings, remember to keep in mind that you're not painting or drawing anything real.
You are painting or drawing things that are an illusion of being real or convincing. So, when you're illustrating a woman dressed in armor, then you're manipulating your visuals to 'read' the way you want them to. This challenges you to push beyond only being realistic with how you augment the glint of the armor; how you get a bit loose and suggestive with the woman's hair, highlighted in such a sexy way...
See what I mean? When you draw anything, you're trying to 'sell' a concept or an idea. Within that concept or idea, you're having to 'sell' on a whole other level of smaller details that help serve the overall illustration. You need to make hair look a certain way for that character, which is different than for the other characters in the picture. Your various textures need to 'read' as the distinct objects they are, which requires that you need to expand your 'visual vocabulary', being able to apply various distinct looks to the various objects in your illustrations that - wait for it - 'read' as the things they're supposed to be!
Not drastically, unless that's what you want to do. Sometimes it's all in the subtleties. They don't all have to be realistic. They can have exaggeration, or extreme emphasis, or however you wish to describe it.
If all you wish to do is realism, that's great. Maybe the subtle approach is good. Adam Hughes is the BEST at this!
Sometimes, to get a more kinetic look and feel to your work (like you get with John Romita Jr.'s, Jim Lee's, Walt Simonson's, Leinil Francis Yu's - AND MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, Klaus Janson's work), maybe you need to shake up your approach! You have the skills, and you painstakingly detail everything. What if you cut your production time in half? That would certainly force you to be more instinctive in your work; possibly forcing you to be more spontaneous. More kinetic.
It's not always about what you're doing. It can be about how you're doing it. How much time you're doing it in. What tools you're always using to get the same results vs. shaking yourself up and out of your comfort zone a bit, so you can discover your true(er?) instincts.
Last edited by magnut; April 13th, 2012 at 04:10 AM.
And obviously Hitsu//San does know the scientific reason why you don't like it It's called peripheral vision and in short is the things we see out of focus around us. As animals our brain constantly monitor the peripheral vision to have the spacial awareness of moving things and non around us. When peripheral vision is taken away from you, immediately you start to feel uncomfortable and oddly sick because our brain is still working and still catches shapes and stuff around our focus point but this time there are too much details cause our eye lens can focus much more. Try to put your hands as binoculars in your eyes (like you do when you play pirates or indiana jones as a child) and you'll notice right away what i mean.
Back to the image, everything is in focus! There is no peripheral vision here and we feel uncomfortable about it. The example Shorinji made about the cropped version is a proof about that... look at the cropped version: focus point + peripheral vision around it = fine!
Talking about a different topic Skektek you may be working hard to render surfaces but you're not doing it at all. I mean that you're surely trying but not in the right way. It's like you're trying to render surfaces by yourself but not looking at the real thing. I can say this cause almost nothing you're drawing in reality looks like your picture of it, this is not cause the way you're rendering it, it's cause the way you're remembering it. Our brain is very good at storing shapes and colors but it's really bad about fine details. We do know that they must be there but we can't remember perfectly how they are made. This is one of the most valuable trick an artist can learn, i can make your brain think that a bunch of strokes are something really fine painted if done correctly
Oh i'm talking so much today... in short: look at references! A LOT! You'll eventually remember how to render something properly if you do that but you'll never catch it by guessing trust me.
Uh another tip about the dragon image, the horizon line is off and perspective is bad (or maybe your trees are grown tilted? can be but it's really odd ^^), this is another thing that our brain catch as strange and make your painting not likely. Try to put a perspective grid on your image and you'll notice right away how bad it is.
Ok enough, sorry about the long speaking
The samurai one is insane