Hello everyone, here are some thumbnails for Art Order's current challenge. The idea of this challenge is to create an illustration(s) based around your concept for a nymph, and the format I had in mind for both of these pieces is a wraparound book cover. The thumbnails are still kinda rough at this stage, and I haven't really decided upon any of the figures costumes or poses yet.
The first thumbnail depicts a group of traders/travelers making their way through a gloomy forest, where they stumble upon a nymph playing her flute. The theme of this piece is the contrast between the dark, thorny, unforgiving nature of the forest and the warmth and softness of the nymph with her flute.
Man, I should have known better than to skimp on process work. This piece took way longer than it should, but here is what I have so far. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on it.
I apologize for having to use an outside link to see the full image, but I just could not get this thing down to a 537KB jpeg without making the image too tiny and grainy to critique effectively. It's the first image on my blog.
Thanks for taking a look!
Last edited by dwilliams; February 27th, 2013 at 01:22 PM.
I'd have no idea what was going on in either without your lengthy explanatory text. Lest I seem like a total dick here, I will suggest that you work out the poses a lot more tightly in the thumbnail stages than you're doing here. Find some reference.Is the narrative for both clear?
I suppose you're right about needing to make them a little more clear. I wanted to see which idea people liked more before I spent more time on details but I guess it doesn't really help when nobody can understand what it is your drawing is it?
If you want to work professionally doing any kind of illustration, you need to get in the habit of being fairly invested in your comps and sketches--even though most of them will never see the light of day.
i disagree with giacomo (in his first post... damn that took quite some time to write up >.<), think the level of detail (visually) is totally acceptable here. id rather call it roughs than thumbnails though, theyre just too big and detailed for thumbs.
go smaller for now and fix the storytelling, composition and valuepattern related issues.
storytelling... to me it looks like a gang of mercenaries (due to the guy with a sword on his shoulder. someone whos not very adept in wielding a sword would want to keep it away from his neck, rather inside its sheath.) passing by a rather common situation. to exagerate it, like nowadays a group walks by a street musician and one of them is heading up to her/him dropping some coins in the hat. the guy with the sword aint impressed at all... he actually just looks back having already passed her... or at his fellow maybe? anyway... nymphs are mythological creatures, rarely to be seen. i doubt a group of travelers would approach her like that, and even if so, that she wouldnt behave like that, just sitting there playing her flute.
id rather imagine the group instantly stopping, becoming aware of such a rare sight. or if she just popped up, there should be much more tension especially in the swordguy, other than just having a look over his shoulder.
if you for now, crop to just the cover... it isnt much is it? could be two henchmen attacking her aswell. well then... is she dumb? shes not reacting... and so on. i think it would help, beeing more precise with the idea you want to illustrate, to narrow down the possible interpretations to something you are aiming for.
composition... you have several tangents in there you should try to resolve. i havent tested it, but i guess the swordguys back of the head would just touch the edge of the spine of the book. the quite symetrical triangle those 3 on the front cover create aint helping much neither. i like the visual progression leading up to her though.
valuepattern... well its pretty much a mess .
storytelling... to be honest, without the explanation, this doesnt read at all. i had to take 3 looks after ive read the description before recognizing a dragon in there. silhuette aswell as value melts it with the flames/rock-formation. and those rocks... first thought it would be giant hounds, but after i read that theres dragons in there, i first thought that those rocks are dragonheads and they somehow guard (same direction means beeing aligned) this strange group.
the warrior... well hes as static in his pose, it takes some mindbending to bring him into the equation of action. maybe having him above a (clearly defined) dragon chopping his head of... whatever.
the urn-woman.... where is she getting this (whatever is in there) substance? and how is it later on transformed into that healing substance? shes coming from the dragon... from where there is destruction. why? this makes no sense.
make sure you effects read even at this stage. what is it that happens? grass growing back and flowers blooming, moss, mushrooms, trees...what? not saying you should aim for a visual representation of grass blades, but make sure the idea reads as far as there is an effect (whats its value and shape?). the effect is your storytelling vehicle there... not a woman pouring whatever onto dead soil.
composition... see how the warrior and the urn-carrying-woman hug the spine? really bad tangents again. there might always be some tangents happening, but never ever let anything hug the frame of your picture.
the flames mimic the rocks in their movement, almost parallel to them, and they create a tangent with the dragons back.
valuepattern... and those flames have the same value as the dragon. thats why it doesnt read as a different shape/matter, let alone a dragon.
im pretty commited to the idea, that thinking in valuepatterns, is a really powerful tool. reduce anything to its local (for thumbs > no form, no details), and reduce your whole picture to 3 to max (only if really neccessary) 5 values. now think in degrees of importance. put your highest contrast at your focal point (storytelling wise) and go down the chain from there. where do the edges have to be?
reducing it to such a limited valuerange helps to identify weak points in your composition, and having to make a decission for every element what its importance is, raises some interesting food for thought .
good luck, i hope im brave enough to participate aswell .
Last edited by sone_one; December 20th, 2012 at 05:50 PM.
Thanks for the responses everyone. I'll admit sometimes I can get a little hasty with thumbnails on my personal pieces and want to get to the fun parts right away, consequently making some silly mistakes in the initial stages of my work.
Anyways from the critiques so far it sounds like the first thumbnail has the better/clearer narrative, plus I'm in the mood for painting trees more than I am barren wasteland, so I'll be going with that one. I made some adjustments to the poses of the two travelers to make them seem more surprised that she's sitting there, as well as moving their position around a bit so there's fewer tangents with the spine. I roughed out more of a merchant costume for the guy in the rear, and storywise I'm thinking the guy with the sword in front is like his guide/bodyguard as he goes through the forest with his horse and goods. I took out the figure on the far right, as I don't think he was adding very much to the piece. Overall the values throughout the piece are dark and lower in contrast, as I wanted the nymph to be the focal point of the piece rather than these two guys, but if the point of interest looks a little too simple I could try lightening values up in certain areas more to spread the interest to the illustration.
I'm not exactly an expert in this, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but it still looks weird that she would just show up randomly in front of those guys. Perhaps you could place the two men a bit farther off in the distance behind the nymph, as if they had already seen her, but she hasn't noticed them yet?
You've brought up a good point about the nymph appearing. I did more reading on nymphs and forest nymphs, called dryads, often have the ability to appear from trees and other plants in nature, so I revised her pose a bit to make it look like she's appearing out from the giant plant she's standing on, and the bottom part of her is still viney-looking. It helps the story make more sense, like she wasn't standing there playing her flute when the travelers approached her plant, and then she suddenly appears, catching the two men by surprise. I'm still fiddling around with the pose though.
I think the pose is good as it is. And the viney looking thingy behind her is shaped in a way that it made me think that was a harp, I think that may be a good addition but it may take away from your planned story as it contradicts the scenerio where the nymph just appears out of nowhere. And one more thing, the reactions of the merchant and the bodyguard are a little weird. The merchant looks shocked by what he has seen while the bodyguard is just like " meh, seen better". And of course I'm a newbie so I wouldn't take my advice too seriously.
Might be the angle of the guard, the silhouette doesn't offer a lot of visual information for his emotions. I'll play around with his pose some more as well.
Updated the first post. Please critique, if you have the time!
1) There is a huge tangent with her green sash and the green branch behind her. They blend into each other too much.
2) Is she supposed to have a harelip? If her face is supposed to have some not-quite-human features, then I'd push it further so it's more obvious; if not, then her mouth area needs works.
"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it" -- Confucius
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" -- Albert Einstein
She's not supposed to have really inhuman facial features, and I've been having some trouble with the mouth making it look like she's playing her flute. I got references of people playing flutes, but I guess I"ll have to continue working on that a bit.
Here is the revised version. I made some changes to the face and lightened the value on the sash, as well as a lot of other small fixes. What do people think of the edges in this piece? When I've had my portfolio looked at by the pros a number of them commented that there weren't enough hard/sharp edges in select areas, and I'd like to know what people think here. I sharpened and cleaned up a lot of the edges around the nymph and arm of the mercenary in the foreground.
Since I couldn't get my image to be any bigger than that, here is a larger version-
I really appreciate everyone's help so far.
Looks OK...the dude's face at left still looks pretty derpy. If it were me, I'd find some reference and repaint it.
It's obviously a big can o' worms to open, but I wouldn't say the problem is a lack of "hard/sharp edges in select areas," it's more a general lack of attention to detail overall. Just to pick one thing at random from many: the foreground figure's sword. To me at least, it doesn't look like metal at all (either the handle or the blade); the handle doesn't seem to quite line up, perspective-wise, with the blade; and (this is admittedly personal) the design of the sword is sort of bland and mundane (if it were me I'd try to give it some kind of character.) I could make similar critiques about the trees, the costumes, the lighting, and on and on. If you want the piece to "sell" better, I'd suggest working out all that stuff in advance, in pencil--because it's a lot more tedious and uncertain to do it as part of the rendering process.
As always, just my two cents.
Thanks Giacomo, I appreciate your input. I'll keep that in mind next time when I'm starting a piece.