I've been doing portraits for a while and recently delved into learning how to do environments and backgrounds. There are a couple things I've found particularly challenging: 1. Not having the background take away from the focal point of the painting (in this case the face and bird) 2. making the character and background looking cohesive (I added a bunch of green to the shadows of the skin) 3. making realistic looking trees, leaves and grass (i.e. replecating a texture rather than exactly what you see). The picture is supposed to communicate a sense of wonder and curiosity from both the fairy and bird.
Comments on other things that might not look right, but are unrelated to above-mentioned concerns are also appreciated
Really nice piece you have here, I love the characters and scene
So the first issue is the composition: the picture doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a portrait or an environment. You have a huge empty space in the upper right that demands attention but gives the viewer nothing to look at.
So, I broke this picture down in two ways, depending on where you wanted to go with it. The first small thumb below is just working out those forest colors - I took out the figure so as not to distract. The other deals with the relationship between the figure and the hummingbird and how to use lighting to solve your issues.
The problem with forests is that everyone thinks that forests are green. They are not - there is a huge variety of colors. Colors are relative to their environment, and one thing people often do is they put down a pure green for, let’s say, the grass, and then they try to do leaves with either the same green or they try to push it even more toward saturated green. You can make things look green without having to really use a lot of green by surrounding it with other harmonic or contrasting colors/saturations.
In my figure-less paint over, I brought in some browns, grays, and gray-blues. As far as rendering goes, I would work on getting everything to communicate within the environment before worrying about rendering, because you can waste a lot of time going into a ton of detail only to realize the picture as a whole is not working. Just suggest lighting and color, it will be more powerful than spending an hour rending the grass.
You can solve problem #1 but thinking out your light source and cropping the picture more so that the characters dominate it. Below is just my suggestion on how I would handle it. I would make the light source coming right down on them and let the background fall back into darkness (of course, you could always add more trees and bring in a little light, I just wanted to simplify things as an example). Here, the viewer goes right to her face and the bird. Please note: you don't have to crop in on her, but at least re-think the composition (maybe have her sitting up on a log or something) and think about the space around her and how she fits in it.
I might suggest looking at how lighting reacts to skin in an environment. You’ll get bounce light and sub surface scattering and all kinds of fun stuff.
I'm far from an expert on grass. I paint grass by making quick and relatively random strokes. That works quite well and if not, I can fix most of it later.
You could also paint the blades in variable values. This is a tutorial about drawing grass, I find quite usefull.
Ah and welcome to CA!
#2 Hi, sorry for the late reply. I actually finished the painting within a couple of days of posting, but I just wanted to say thanks for the advice even though it might be a bit late to do so. It was really helpful (at least I think the painting looks a lot better now). I tried to implement those of your suggestions that wouldn't require me to completely re-do the entire thing, and to just keep the rest in mind for the planning stages of paintings in the future. So this is what it looks like now.
I had a quick effort is PS to see if there were any fixes you could apply directly to this image without necessarily needing to reconsider the whole thing.
1 - I didn't feel like the girl was actually looking at the bird, which kind of undermined the narrative of you picture. Rather than try to repaint her head, I just moved the bird slightly so they look like they are actually engaged.
2- I did a bit of an anatomy sketch on top. The only things really I changed were I slimmed down her wrists and repositioned the elbow on the nearside arm. I drew in the rest of her torso and the tops of her legs/hips that are obscured by her dress. There is a mass of white dress around her ass that kind of felt a bit indistinct, didn't seem to conform to the shape of her body as implied by the pose. It also helped dictate the direction of the folds in the material which will help you sell the form.
3- I colourised the background. A bit... brutally really and definitely @jademere's advice here is better than mine. But I thought It did help lend a little bit of separation, and made your bird stand out a bit more.
4- I might be lazy but I use leaf and grass brushes to render in a lot of the environmental stuff, so that could be worth exploring...
As always this paintover is for you to take or leave or whatever. Just ideas