Looking for Critique, especially on color and value

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    Looking for Critique, especially on color and value

    Hi everyone,

    This is the first time I've posted in this section, but I am working on this illustration of a girl and dragon, and would greatly appreciate any constructive feedback. I'm still in the early stages, and it's never too late to change something. If anyone could, I could really use some help with the color and value of this piece, to give it a strong mood and atmosphere. Critiques on the composition and anything else are more then welcome too though! I've shown my color comp and sketches I'm working from.
    Thank you.

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    Last edited by KDillon; February 18th, 2013 at 01:56 AM.
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    Hello

    I have a problem with the dragon position : I think you intended to use the shapes of the dragon to create a strong movement leading to the girl ? It is supposed to be a loop arround the girl, but the part on top makes a different bend that breaks it.
    I think it's sad we partially lost a part of him at the bottom AND the top in the same time. It looks like the cropped aera make you break the shape on the top. Maybe you should extend it a little more to show all the dragon movement ?

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    I agree that the composition is a tad cramped - not only is the dragon cut off by the top and bottom border, but you also have two large dark trees in the foreground, one of which is cutting the dragon off again and the other is claustrophobically close. Open it up and let them breathe a little. I like the dragon's shape though; it's creating a spiral that runs into and through the girl and is completed by the leg just to her left, and the end of the tail produces a figure-eight attachment that leads us back down into the bottom of the image. But the left and right wings of the image are just empty space, dead weight pulling the movement of your image down.

    For the values, I highly recommend going greyscale and doing a series of small thumbnails where you can experiment with different lighting schemes. Draw out the planes of the forms if that's helpful (or even simpler geometric shapes - cubes and cylinders, etc). Right now it's a little inconsistent with the girl being lit from the right, but the two horizontal sections of the dragon seem to be lit from the center. (The bottom section is lit on the top plane and the top section is lit on the bottom plane. There would be some reflected light on those planes, but not as brightly as you have them currently lit.) You could also make a simple model out of clay or paper or something and light it with a flashlight to find a more interesting angle for your main light source.

    And one last thing.. This might just be me, but I find the position of that back arm a bit awkward. I can't put my finger on why exactly. Have you tried the pose out yourself?

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    Zoom out, give your elements a bit more air. Why do you need those two big dark pillars (almost) symmetrically framing the image?
    As for value and color, what/where are your light sources? Answering that is the first step to solving your problems.


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    Maquettes

    Thank you so much for all of your feedback. I think you're all right about the composition and structure, and lighting as well. I've tried to address these issues by creating a small maquette in clay and trying out different lighting and camera angles. These are a few out of tons of pictures I shot while trying to find good lighting, but they are the ones that seemed to work the best so far. If any of these are working, I'll use this to re-work my composition and lighting structure. This really helps me see how light really wraps around the form! Thank you for the suggestions.

    And one last thing.. This might just be me, but I find the position of that back arm a bit awkward. I can't put my finger on why exactly. Have you tried the pose out yourself?
    I did try the pose out myself, but you're still right in that it looks a little awkward. After making the clay model I think it was because I had a weird sense of space - I wasn't sure where exactly the dragon's head was in 3D space, but now it seems off to have it connected to the arm.

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    Those Clays are really informative. I am confused by your setting, is it in a cave? or maybe a canyon? The starkly lit ones at the bottom and right look ideal. The other reason I like these clay arrangements would be that I don't particularly think she needs to touch the dragon head to show a link. It gives you more freedom to have her touching the lower part of the dragons body allowing the head to do what you prefer, (maybe even breathe fire!) Wings seem a bit unnecessary. they will fill up your page and cramp it.

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    A little more progress (hopefully), looking at my clay model and lighting again, here's a new value comp.

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    Love the maquette - just out of curiosity, what material did you use exactly? The variety of lighting is nice, but I'm kinda surprised you don't have any shots where the dragon's head is turned towards us, as it is in your original image. This might just be me, but I think that element was important for your composition and tying the two figures together. It suggested a kind of intimacy that I personally found very nice, and it lead the viewer's eye down to the girl in a very smooth, consistent arc. Also, you're still cutting the dragon off on the top. I would suggest pulling the image down so you're cutting the bottom of the dragon off a little more and giving the top section more space.

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    great work on the maquette. i think the lighting regime in 12 is very good. nice rimight and bounce light. i see you moved on with that one, i agree with that decision.
    maybe try using that regime again and taking more shots, and rotating the model too.

    alternatively get one of the free 3d programs and use it to make similar maquettes, this is a really useful technique allowing you to quickly model and then explore the space of your image. the models dont need to be toystory 3, sausages blocks and blobs work just fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dierat View Post
    Love the maquette - just out of curiosity, what material did you use exactly? The variety of lighting is nice, but I'm kinda surprised you don't have any shots where the dragon's head is turned towards us, as it is in your original image. This might just be me, but I think that element was important for your composition and tying the two figures together. It suggested a kind of intimacy that I personally found very nice, and it lead the viewer's eye down to the girl in a very smooth, consistent arc. Also, you're still cutting the dragon off on the top. I would suggest pulling the image down so you're cutting the bottom of the dragon off a little more and giving the top section more space.
    Thank you! :] I used Roma Plastilina clay to make the maquette. I definitely see what you mean about the dragon's head, so I'm working on adjusting that in my next comp. Is it working better, or should I change it more? I also changed the crop of the image to give more breathing space near the top. Though, now I wonder if there is too much room at the bottom of the picture plane.
    Thank you for your critique again, I really appreciate the comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Velocity Kendall View Post
    great work on the maquette. i think the lighting regime in 12 is very good. nice rimight and bounce light. i see you moved on with that one, i agree with that decision.
    maybe try using that regime again and taking more shots, and rotating the model too.

    alternatively get one of the free 3d programs and use it to make similar maquettes, this is a really useful technique allowing you to quickly model and then explore the space of your image. the models dont need to be toystory 3, sausages blocks and blobs work just fine.
    Using a 3D program is a really good idea too, I didn't even think of that! I'll play around with the position some more. Thank you for your comment! I'm also glad you thought the 12th version worked well, I had really liked that one too. It was fun and informative working with the clay model.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KDillon View Post
    I definitely see what you mean about the dragon's head, so I'm working on adjusting that in my next comp. Is it working better, or should I change it more?
    I think you should try another variation where the dragon's head is in the same position as your original wip so you can compare.

    Quote Originally Posted by KDillon View Post
    I also changed the crop of the image to give more breathing space near the top. Though, now I wonder if there is too much room at the bottom of the picture plane.
    I agree on the last point. I think it's important that the dragon's head isn't cut off as it's a central figure to the image, but on the other hand, now you're not activating any of the edges. You basically have an oval-shaped dragon with a static black border around it.



    Something else you need to keep in mind as you experiment with your values and composition is - what are your focal points, what is their order of importance, and how are you emphasizing those points in the image? The girl and the dragon's head (respectively) are the obvious answers to the first two questions, but I'm not sure about the third. In your original wip, you have four different lines pointing in towards the girl (the dragon's leg, head, tail, and the crystal shards in the bottom left), which make her importance to the image very clear. But she lacked the high contrast of the dragon's body, which made her fade in importance. With the help of the maquette, you've improved the lighting, but you're gradually losing the lines and shapes that emphasized her and made your image visually interesting.

    It's common to place your focuses opposite each other (often on a diagonal, or in a triangle if there are three, etc) compositionally to encourage movement throughout the piece and add a sense of balance. Your image is a bit different because you have the two focuses so close together that they almost become one, and you don't really have anything on the other side of the piece to balance that. In your first wip, the left side of the dragon's body stands in as a second focal point because it's large, close to us, brightly lit, and decorated with some interesting texture, but you lost that in your later versions. I kinda like the idea of giving the dragon something else there to draw the eye, like a wing (though I don't think the wing works very well in your reference photos, partially because the paper cut-out doesn't really demonstrate the structure of a wing), or maybe a decorative item, like a sash (just throwing out ideas here). The crystal shards in your original wip also helped.

    Also consider the shapes the dragon's body is making in the composition. Yes it's largely oval, but having that oval tilted or lop-sided can make that shape much more interesting and dynamic. You also have some versions of the composition (I'm counting drawings and photographs here) where the dragon's body varies in thickness which suggests depth and increases dynamism, something else you've lost in your most recent version. And lastly, keep an eye on your negative space. Having lots of negative space isn't necessarily a bad thing, but what kind of shapes it's making and how it's balanced in the image can be a clue as to whether your composition is visually stimulating.

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    tld;dr - Your initial image had nice movement, dynamic shapes, and it emphasized your subject well, but it had inconsistent lighting, claustrophobic cropping and static negative space. You've improved the lighting and given the subjects room to breathe but accidentally centered and stabilized your shapes while de-emphasizing your main focus, the girl.

    Last edited by dierat; February 19th, 2013 at 12:44 PM.
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