Road to Fantasia

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  1. #1
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    Road to Fantasia

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    Painting I did today in about 4-5 hours in Photoshop. Critique and slay away.

    Here's a speedpaint of it too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHHbSeGB-dg

    Name:  Jared Hudson - Road to Fantasia.jpg
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  3. #2
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    I can't really offer a professional opinion since I'm still a novice myself, so what follows is more of an opinion and less of a clear-cut 'do this'. ^^

    One thing that immediately stood out to me was the saturation. The vividness is a little overwhelming. There isn't really a clear resting point for the eye because all the colors are screaming 'look at me, I'm important!' It might be beneficial to have some areas that are a little more washed-out. This will help direct the eye to the parts of the image that are still full saturation.

    I would also experiment with using colors other than black for the shadows. The black looks unnecessarily harsh and at odds with the bright colors. Sometimes in real life the shadows are nearly black, but surface details can usually be seen. Because the viewer is to some extent looking directly at the sun, there should also be more fuzziness or halo around the elements that cross it. For example, in this photo, you can see how the tree branches that 'cover' the sun are nearly invisible in its glow, and there's a heavy loss of detail on the branches nearest the light.

    The composition has some good continuity, leading the eye down the path. To that extent I find the hills in the background very distracting. I'm never sure whether to read them as hills or as part of the sky. Focal dropoff is very important. As things go farther away from the viewer, they become lighter, less saturated, and often more out of focus. I also feel like the darkness of the sky in the corner is competing heavily for attention.

    I would also like to see some more fullness and softness in the trees. The tops seem squished and the leaves too sharp, like paper. In comparison, the grass has a softer, fuller appearance and is quite detailed. It might be beneficial to add some branches to the tree trunks for a more varied and tree-like appearance.

    Some of the edges could be sharpened up a bit as well, notably the fence posts nearest the viewer.

    Sorry for the wall of text, I hope it wasn't discouraging or unnecessarily harsh! I think this piece has potential and I like the idea a lot ^^

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  5. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beakyree View Post
    I can't really offer a professional opinion since I'm still a novice myself, so what follows is more of an opinion and less of a clear-cut 'do this'. ^^

    One thing that immediately stood out to me was the saturation. The vividness is a little overwhelming. There isn't really a clear resting point for the eye because all the colors are screaming 'look at me, I'm important!' It might be beneficial to have some areas that are a little more washed-out. This will help direct the eye to the parts of the image that are still full saturation.

    I would also experiment with using colors other than black for the shadows. The black looks unnecessarily harsh and at odds with the bright colors. Sometimes in real life the shadows are nearly black, but surface details can usually be seen. Because the viewer is to some extent looking directly at the sun, there should also be more fuzziness or halo around the elements that cross it. For example, in this photo, you can see how the tree branches that 'cover' the sun are nearly invisible in its glow, and there's a heavy loss of detail on the branches nearest the light.

    The composition has some good continuity, leading the eye down the path. To that extent I find the hills in the background very distracting. I'm never sure whether to read them as hills or as part of the sky. Focal dropoff is very important. As things go farther away from the viewer, they become lighter, less saturated, and often more out of focus. I also feel like the darkness of the sky in the corner is competing heavily for attention.

    I would also like to see some more fullness and softness in the trees. The tops seem squished and the leaves too sharp, like paper. In comparison, the grass has a softer, fuller appearance and is quite detailed. It might be beneficial to add some branches to the tree trunks for a more varied and tree-like appearance.

    Some of the edges could be sharpened up a bit as well, notably the fence posts nearest the viewer.

    Sorry for the wall of text, I hope it wasn't discouraging or unnecessarily harsh! I think this piece has potential and I like the idea a lot ^^
    No offense taken. I knew what I was getting into submitting this for a critique. One thing I didn't say which might help the extremely vibrant colors is that I was gearing towards a more Thomas Kinkade Disney-esque style. My goal isn't necessarily straight up realism, but more of a fantasy storybook feel. However, I know there are issues.

    I agree with most of what you said, and some of it unfortunately slipped my mind while working on it. Believe it or not, the shadows aren't actually black, but a very dark purple, but may not appear so. I've made strong habits to avoid direct neutral colors as much as possible unless they're absolutely needed.

    The tree leaves and branches could use some work, and think they're a bit glossed over compared to the grass on the right. Leaves are one thing I'm trying to get better at and currently use specific leaf brushes, but am interested in a more intimate approach to doing them by hand if there's a better way.

    The distant mountains are definitely something I could've kept working on. In the video, you can see me going over them at least 2-3 times during the development. I've done better with distances and landscapes in the past, and I slipped on this. The dark sky was a little rash, since I thought it was going to be an even lower light scene. I ended putting some stars in the top right, but you might not be able to see them. I also meant to texture the wood a bit more

    If there's any other pointers on an approach to some of these elements, I'm all ears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fxscreamer View Post
    No offense taken. I knew what I was getting into submitting this for a critique. One thing I didn't say which might help the extremely vibrant colors is that I was gearing towards a more Thomas Kinkade Disney-esque style. My goal isn't necessarily straight up realism, but more of a fantasy storybook feel. However, I know there are issues.

    I agree with most of what you said, and some of it unfortunately slipped my mind while working on it. Believe it or not, the shadows aren't actually black, but a very dark purple, but may not appear so. I've made strong habits to avoid direct neutral colors as much as possible unless they're absolutely needed.

    The tree leaves and branches could use some work, and think they're a bit glossed over compared to the grass on the right. Leaves are one thing I'm trying to get better at and currently use specific leaf brushes, but am interested in a more intimate approach to doing them by hand if there's a better way.

    The distant mountains are definitely something I could've kept working on. In the video, you can see me going over them at least 2-3 times during the development. I've done better with distances and landscapes in the past, and I slipped on this. The dark sky was a little rash, since I thought it was going to be an even lower light scene. I ended putting some stars in the top right, but you might not be able to see them. I also meant to texture the wood a bit more

    If there's any other pointers on an approach to some of these elements, I'm all ears.
    Ahh! I can definitely see a Disney influence in the meadow now that you mention it.

    Haha, funny that you would mention the shadows are actually purple! I was going to suggest using purple for the shadows ^^ My monitor does tend to make darks darker so that might be part of my issue.

    I agree that leaves are very tricky to paint. However, with a semi-realistic style like this one, it's often more effective to have a full shape with just a suggestion of leaves on the edges and highlights, rather than trying to show every leaf individually. I'll usually take a big rough brush that looks like a paint splatter and block in the shapes and colors of the canopy. I'll get my lighting and shadows in there. And only then will I take a leaf or small brush and add details. When using the blocking method, this also allows you to create depth by simply not adding any leaf detail. Those with detail will naturally come forward, while those without will recede. Of course, a lot of this is subject to personal style and the nature of the piece, so take from it what you will ^^

    Texture on the wood and bark would add a nice polish to the piece, for sure! As for the mountains, even making them a bit softer and a bit grayer would likely help. I think part of it is also that the highlights on the mountains are nearly the same color and strength as the ones on the field. This flattens the scene because it places the background and the mid-ground on the same plane.

    One more thing that I forgot to mention is the light rays. They work really well in a forest because trees and leaves will naturally split the light like that. Out in the open field it doesn't read quite as well. They should probably be a little bit softer and less opaque. They're also sitting right on top of the mountain, which may be where some of the depth issues are coming from. It's almost like the rays are dragging the mountains into close association with the end of the ray, which is in the field.

    That being said, I like the meadow more every time I look at it. I can easily imagine an animated film being set there! Very whimsical ^^

    Last edited by Beakyree; July 14th, 2014 at 02:20 PM. Reason: fixed derpy spelling
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    Good call on the sunrays. I kind of overdo those sometimes and need to constrain myself. It's a cheap trick. I actually did texture the trees a little, but didn't do the fence. Perhaps I should take it further and deeper. As far as the leaves, I suppose old methods are still tried and true. It sounds like you're doing a Bob Ross method of painting trees (which I've done before), but have tried to get snazzy and use some digital brushes in Photoshop. I'll have to figure out what works best. The mountains could've been hazier too. I did make the base of them hazy, but not their entire figure.

    Anyway, thanks for the help and comments.

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    Ooooh yeah, I hear you. I've used so many sunrays in past paintings it's not even funny It's really hard not to when they make everything bright and shiny and magical...

    I do use a lot of stamp-type brushes as well, just don't find them useful for painting the base shape of whatever the thing happens to be ^^ I have a horrible time with painting trees and if I can get away with less detail I usually feel better about the end result, haha.

    No problem! It's always a pleasure to offer crits to someone who genuinely wants them!

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    If you truly want to get better, you're focusing on the wrong things. Artistic style isn't high on the list of things you should worry about. Getting your light to affect your scene believably is. That takes knowledge of perspective and practice painting light from real life.

    You've got light coming from all directions and a super bright light source that indicates clearly where the light should be coming from. Take a moment and look at the fence. The diagonal poles are top-lit, the vertical poles are lit from the front. Then the cast shadow of the fence is coming from a light source close to the sun. You've also got a tree canopy shadow coming from directly above (regardless of the lines leading to the bases of the trees.) This shadow is pasted directly over the fence and the dirt, and is flattening out your image. Finally notice where the light hitting the trees is coming from. It's coming from a lower right direction. The clouds are top-lit, and the mountain thing looks side or front lit. And the big tree thing below the sun is top-lit. Finally, the grass seems to be top-lit as well.

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    Hi fxscreamer, here is a review of your piece with some suggestions for improvement.

    First, some of the main issues that I spotted…

    • The use of vivid color and contrast is uncontrolled in this piece. That may be okay for a more abstract painting style, but for a conceptual design, you’d want to use vivid colors and higher contrast up close and more faded colors for things farther away. This creates a sense of distance between parts of the scene and helps the viewer better understand the 3D world they are looking at.
    • Your use of light and dark appears to be somewhat arbitrary. Instead of using it primarily to communicate the 3D forms of the landscape, there is just light and dark all over the place. I think this may be partly due to having chosen a difficult lighting situation. Consider something simpler, like an overcast day, or a sunny day with less going on in the scene, or a sunny day but draw the scene from far away instead of up close.
    • The trees on the left have a very unnatural, man-made look. A lot of them are leaning to the right slightly, as if in some kind of orchestrated bow, and none of them have much in the way of texture or branches, even up close. This is inconsistent with the grass, which has a lot of detail in it up close. The leaves of the trees also appear to just be hanging right off of the trunks, as opposed to spanning out in bunches.
    • I feel that the fence diminishes a bit too much in the distance. The foreshortening between the posts looks right, but the height of each post would not shrink quite so much I don’t think. I would make sure they still have some height to them as they wrap over the hill. Also, I think you may be missing one post up close on the very left. Lastly, they are leaning to the right and lack texture just like the trees.
    • When you take a photo of something against the sun, the subjects tend to get silhouetted. You’ve missed that effect in your painting.
    • The far background feels very disconnected from the foreground. I can sort of tell that it’s two hills, but the shapes are very unclear, so it lacks any depth. It’s actually almost abstract looking and could very well be a painting on a giant wall just over the hill. It has no visible connection with the foreground, which does not help.
    • The subject in this piece is unclear. The main focal point seems to be a road that leads to nowhere. Even if the technical aspects of the painting were executed perfectly, it would still not be as good as it could be, because there’s quite simply nothing interesting being captured in the scene. When you have an idea, it’s critical to think about how best to represent it. I would argue, whatever the idea was in this case, there are better ways to show it. Thumbnails may help with this.


    The time-lapse video helped to see your process, so thanks for posting that. Here are some additional comments based on the video…

    • You are applying texture far too soon, and without consideration for lighting, creating those arbitrary dark areas I was talking about. Get the lighting right first, then add the texture. Or even forget about textures for now, just make sure the shapes in the scene are lit properly and the light curves around their 3D forms as it should. Use reference where needed.
    • One major flaw in your technique that I would recommend putting an end to immediately is using the soft brush to draw over top of textures and other details. It makes everything look foggy or muddy and thus very unclear. It’s a bad technique that produces a very unprofessional result. You then end up covering it up with more of the same, and by the time you’re done, all readability of shapes has gone out the window. I really can’t stress it enough, you should never do that.


    Lastly, I would like to recommend a more common process for you to follow…

    • Think about what super interesting focal point you want to show.
    • Create quick thumbnails to figure out the best way to frame that focal point. Pick one that is interesting yet simple to paint.
    • Start the painting with large blocks of solid color, making sure the major 3D forms are correctly lit by the light source and there is a sense of scale and distance by using less and less contrast and more and more muted colors as you get farther into the distance. Have at least three levels of contrast—one for foreground, one for stuff sorta far away, and another for far background.
    • Apply layers of rough details across the piece by hand, not through textures, using still fairly bulky brushes. Ensure that the background “stays far” by adding fewer details and sticking to lower contrast and saturation as mentioned previously. You can also sparingly use a soft, very large, sky colored brush at about 5% opacity to push things just that little bit farther into the background if needed, masking off foreground areas with the selection tool.
    • Continue applying additional layers of detail, adding it mostly to things that are closer and/or part of the focal point of the painting.
    • (Optional) Once you reach a point where drawing certain textural details by hand would get too tedious, consider very carefully how you might apply and blend photo textures into the piece (hint: not with a large soft high opacity round brush).


    Apply this process carefully, and I will be damned if your painting does not look at least a bit better

    Good luck to you!

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  14. #9
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    Thank you for the very in depth critique. I can tell you definitely took your time. It amazes me how many things can be glossed over on one's own work because you're staring at it all day. There's some things you said that I kind of knew (shame on me), but there's a lot I haven't thought of either. I definitely know what you're saying about the round soft brushes. In the video I ended up erasing the originals because I knew it was blurring out detail. I did it again, thinking it was better, but in fact is simply a big "nono" haha. I'll definitely keep a lot of your tips in mind when attempting my next landscape painting.

    Thanks again!

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