WIP 7th Update*

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    WIP 7th Update*

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    no more photo bashing, drawn most from my head some references to clouds and so on.
    So far its a just a background, so how should I go about drawing the dragon? And are the fundamentals ok so far?
    Name:  dragon.jpg
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    Last edited by HaoningW; August 11th, 2014 at 12:18 PM.
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    Name:  dragon.jpg
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Size:  1.21 MBi wanted it to be a young dragon. ended up more mature than i need.

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    Hey friend!

    Very beautiful scene, I feel you can do a lot with this picture and setup!

    So let’s step back and get those values, forms, and the composition working a little better before worrying about color. I think the picture could benefit from a little more visual interest such as, for example, a tree off to the side or some more variety of vegetation, etc.

    I think it needs a stronger sense of foreground, middle ground, background, and when you get those worked out it’s going to change the contrast order of that light on dark you have going now. One big problem this will cause (if you stick with the mid-day light) is that you now have that white dragon sitting on top of a light background, which isn’t going to give you very strong contrast even if you add stronger daylight shadows to the under-planes. Now, you have him sitting against the darker mountains, but in reality those would probably be much lighter because of the time of day you chose. Playing with shadows is one solution (clouds, thinking about the lights and darks). It’s difficult because lake reflections give you all sorts of lights and darks.

    I am still not convinced by the placement or pose of the dragon, I feel you could push is a lot more and still keep the serenity of the scene.

    Great work so far,

    Good luck on completing your picture!

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    Thank you. Alot of aspect from piece is influenced by Miyazaki's films, particularly Castle in the Sky.
    WIP 7th Update*
    There's a sense of tranquility I wanted to achieve with this painting, and I 'm afraid my artistic endeavor are near their limits. It looks like composition and lighting is the issue here, I will try my best to find a solution.

    Last edited by HaoningW; August 3rd, 2014 at 05:41 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaoningW View Post
    It looks like composition and lighting is the issue here
    Namely the absence of those, yes.

    Your piece lacks depth (it's layered in a way that makes it look flat: A strip of grass, a strip of water,m a strip of mountain, a strip of sky- nothing reaches into the other layer etc.) and there's no discernable lightsource and thus no form.

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    The lack of forms and lighting. How would we address lighting if its generally scattered? I've been painting with one dimension lighting for quite sometime now, either from sunset or from up top. I hope not to sacrifice the white tones on the dragon in order of a proper form.Name:  dragon.jpg
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    Hey again friend,

    The sun wouldn’t be showing in rays like that. The lighting is not scattered, I think you might be confusing it with something else? Or maybe I’m missing what you are saying.

    Not to sound rude, but if basic sky lighting is something you have an issue with, I think you need to take a few steps back and study lighting from life to properly understand how it works. In this picture, you have a lot of elements to work with. Form on this creature consists of applying light to planes: key lighting, core shadows, highlights, reflective light, and more.

    Your light source here is the sun. I am not sure what you mean by one dimension lighting.

    I have attached a picture of a white dog that is being subjected to sunlight and a cast shadow of the tree. Can you still tell the dog is white? I hope the answer is yes. However, if you take the color picker and pick out those colors in the shadows and lights, you will see that no part of him is actually white (blue in the shadows because of atmospheric light, and since the sun is orange/yellow, the main light will reflect that). I also attached a picture of a wolf that has less intense light (I found that one on google). Notice again that the animal has form, but you still know it’s white. Color is relative. When you say “I hope not to sacrifice the white tones...for proper form” I think you are misunderstanding how light and form work White is a VERY reflective color.

    I hope that helps,

    Good luck!

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    Hi, i want to say that the composition, the way you cropped it most recently looks a lot better and it looks very tranquil, although the human is currently standing on top of the water. I dont think you need to necesarily take steps back, but before painting the white dragon maybe do a few quick studies of white coloured objects to see how painting white things work.

    I say this because in the shadows of the dragon you are using gray probably because it is 'dark white' but the painting will have some much more life if the shadows reflect the water and colors of light hitting it.

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    Hi HaoningW,

    Thank you for posting your work for critique. Here are my thoughts…

    I think you are getting a bit ahead of yourself with what is important at this stage of the drawing. You are focusing a lot on how to render the scene properly, when (arguably) there are still problems with things like the design of the creature, design of the environment, and character posing. I know it’s difficult, but please try to focus on those things first.

    For character design, I think the creature is a bit weak. To be brutal about it, it looks to me like a scarf with a head. Check out some real life animal images and take some inspiration from them. Notice that the animals have actual distinctive features apart from just their body and fur. Take maybe one or two bits of inspiration from them, just keep it simple. Get a few variations going.

    The environment design is also not fantastic. Mainly I just don’t find it very interesting. Look at that Miyazaki reference you posted—the landscape has unique features, little quirks up close and far away. In contrast, yours is about is cookie-cutter as it gets. Apply some creativity to it. It’s not all about rendering. Use references, but then enhance using your imagination. Again, create quick variations.

    The posing of the characters is another issue. I don’t feel like they are expressing any interesting emotion, which makes me wonder why drawing this interaction between them if of any interest? If the creature and human have a bond, try and think of how that can be portrayed through their body language. Same if they are strangers meeting for the first time.

    ---

    The main underlying problem you’ve got is a very common one. You are just not putting enough effort in to make sure your designs have points of interest.

    Look again at the Miyazaki painting—I can literally write a list of the things that make that environment interesting: huge floating island, gigantic plumes of clouds rolling in, a maze of canyons winding along a valley, funny little plants, mossy boulders and rocky hills lush with vegetation. And do you know why those things are there? It is because the artist sat down and thought each and every one of them out. Whether it was in writing or just mentally, time was dedicated to invent those features. The same goes for the character design/posing.

    You would do well to dedicate some time like that to your own work. And if you cannot write out a list of things like I’ve just done, then you can bet the work will look generic and be perceived as okay at best.

    So let’s see some design thumbnails if you are really wanting to improve this piece

    ---

    Although I do not think you should go any further without revisiting the designs, here are some rendering tips to hopefully ease your frustration a bit.

    1. If you want to create an effect similar to the Miyazaki painting then you will need to increase your color contrast quite a bit, and the value contrast as well. That painting has very bold and vibrant colors and it uses all the values from the brightest bright (little blots of it) to the darkest dark (again just minor blots). Yellow is used as the main highlight color and blue as the shadow color.

    In the future you should try to work this into your painting from the very beginning. For this one, you can try just increasing the saturation digitally—really crank it up and you will see the improvement right away.

    2. You mentioned that you are having problems with multi-source lighting. To make things simpler, try doing the work in phases, one light source at a time. Focus first on the sun. Absolutely without a doubt peek at references. Make sure the creature has some cylindrical volume to it, as it currently looks very flat. Next choose another light source—say the water, which reflects the sunlight. Treat that as just a very dim light and again shade like you would with one light source. Don’t worry about how the sunlight and reflected light interact. Nothing odd happens. If you want to add a third light source, you could add ambient lighting, which will appear like it’s coming from the opposite side of where the sun hits the object. It’s a very dim light, barely visible.

    Lastly, do not forget that for some materials, such as fur, the light actually goes through them, so things like that would never get super dark.

    3. As has already been mentioned, do not draw fur in thin little trands. It clumps and each clump is like a fat, pointy paintbrush, just not as dense, more fluffy. Paint the fluffy clumps, not the individual strands, especially if the creature is far away. You can do a practice exercise if you want by just drawing a ball of fluffy fur.

    Edit: Forgot one thing. Note in the dog and wolf referece posted earlier that the shadows within the fur are not actually gray. The hairs are creme colored, which creates a beige shadow going towards brown in the darker areas. You might try that in combination with the plain gray you are currently using.

    That’s all I guess. Good luck

    Last edited by alex_86; August 3rd, 2014 at 11:11 PM.
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    Wow, such detailed explanation. Thank you so much for devoting some time into teaching me, I focused so much on rendering that I forgot about what creativity is, although I had the idea I've never really expanded upon the small distinctive details. This is an eye-opener and I will definitely push my brain a little further.

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    I went back to my notepad to do some quick doodles.Name:  IMG_20140806_183655.jpg
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    I personally like the sketch of the dragon with the human right in front of him between the eyes (where you see the dragon's face straight on or 3/4th view). I feel if you're going for the dragon-human interaction, this gives the viewer an immediate sense of the relationship between the two characters. Dynamically, it's interesting and it communicates what you want it to The one of the side view is nice, but it's more passive than the other. Not sure if you're planning on turning this into another full illustration, but if you are that one has my vote.

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    the side view is what I had in my head and tried to recreate, although that i couldnt quite capture the mood. I am mixed between wanting to recreate or change to better capture the momments.

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    I like your line work with the dragon and the figure in the first photo very much. I'd get rid of the background entirely (too busy), at least temporarily, to see how your figures look without it. You've lost all the really great lines you had in the dragon once you painted it. It looks like its legs disappeared. The whole body is rounded more like a snake.

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    looks like I am a sucker for side views.
    Now how do I go about with the lighting?
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    I like the comp. As to lighting, one option for light in general would be to build a maquette (real or in 3D). Another would be to look for refs with the kind of light you're trying to reproduce.

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    ended up with the traditional scales instead of furs. Am I doing the arms right? Isn't closer objects tend to lose saturation? I did it with the further arm instead. Name:  dragon_s.jpg
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    Objects and scenery in the distance get lighter, more blurry. Less rendered. The sky at the top of a painting would be slightly darker more saturated, because even though the sky is up high, it's somehow in the foreground perspective wise. I think. Your front arm need not be darker if it's a light color, but it would be more detailed, which you have done. The arm behind it there would not be the white around it, it's edges need to be blurred slightly. The arm in front will cast a shadow, but only a small line of shadow going across where the arms overlap. (If the light is coming from the front right) So the whole arm shouldn't be all grey the way you have it. I think you might darken the shadow a bit just where the neck turns into the chest.

    For you to decide if the arm structure/foreshortening is right or wrong, depends on how you view the construction as a whole and the feeling you want this dragon to have. Is it plump with short legs, or whatever. How do the legs support its weight. How does it walk.

    There are no absolutes, there is no mouse with ears like Mickey Mouse, nor do they stand up on human legs with big feet (how on earth did Micky Mouse come about??? lol, what a crazy idea) you see dachshound dogs with the heavy hot dog body and little legs that somehow keep them waddling around. So, it's all a little subjective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Benedikt View Post
    Where is your lightsource? Did you build a maquette? Are you using any other kind of ref? It looks like you're just guessing.
    I don't have access to 3D render nor is there a definitive guide on the lighting situations. At best I got some references like this
    WIP 7th Update*
    or
    WIP 7th Update*which, I am not gonna lie, still needs some work.

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    The last two are your references or yours? If the artist had a definite light source, say, lit from above, you would see it in the picture. But let's say the moon is shining from above, and that casts light on some objects and scenery, but....there is a man on a ship, carrying a torch. The torch is going to cast light on the areas that are in shadow based on the position of the moon, and so you will have lit areas on an object that is otherwise in shadow.

    If you want to place your main light source the way you see in a reference photo, fine, but you have to decide where that light source is coming from to apply it to your own picture. In general, the more you can practice rendering in black and white (it's the best way to go about it, because with color you will be dealing with hue and intensity and so forth in an attempt to render three dimensional) the better all your work will be -- objects, people, scenery and so forth. You can still do illustrations, because those are your ideas and you learn a lot about placement, composition, a million other things, but in the end you have to do some side study of value.

    Unless you go the way of Japanese wood block prints, where everything is line and flat color. The wood block prints, with only the line, can do a wonderful job indicating some perspective by way of overlap, thick to thin lines. I think the colors are generally the same intensity, the perspective if any would be indicated by line and overlap. I study much, draw so little, so thorough intellectual knowledge of rules is over-rated, in my case anyway.

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    ok let's pretend the light source is mainly up top horizontally from the left, shining down to the dragon, but are generally scattered. Then how would I go about it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by HaoningW View Post
    ok let's pretend the light source is mainly up top horizontally from the left, shining down to the dragon, but are generally scattered. Then how would I go about it?
    Paint from life. A lot. Until you understand form and light & how they interact. Then extrapolate from that to paint stuff like this from imagination.

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    HaoningW -- you're joking, aren't you. In the scenario you just described, you can go about it any way you want. Get 20 darts. 10 red, 10 blue. Pin your work to the wall. Throw all darts at random. Where the red darts hit, paint a shadow, where the blue darts hit make it really light up. Problem solved!

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    Looks very good. Nice job.

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    It's obvious that you're still just guessing at both form and values. Over-saturation aside, which could always be a stylistic choice, your tonal structure is just all over the place. The reason is that you're not aware of how light works and resort to symbolic use of colour to represent it, prime example for this is the dragon, which is supposed to be "white", so you paint it in "white", which goes completely against the other values in the painting, particularily the sky. Unless the dragon is emitting light, it cannot possibly be lighter than the sky since the latter is the lightsource iluminating the former. This value relationship is turned on its head in your painting. I did a quick OP to show you what the value structure should look like (both in colour and in greyscale):

    WIP 7th Update*

    As I've said before, you can learn the theoretical side of this in books (e.g. Gurney: Light and Colour), but the most important thing is for you to start painting stuff from life. There is no way around it- you have to study real life extensively if you ever want to paint from imagination with any measure of proficiency.

    Last edited by Benedikt; August 11th, 2014 at 01:46 PM.
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  35. #28
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    I know where you're coming from, and I know what I am doing is not going to help in the long term. But I am going to try and bring this painting as close to your paint over as I can whiles staying true to miyazaki's line of work.

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    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't trying to tell you to stop working on this. It's never to early to test your limits and just try and see what you can come up with.
    I'm just trying to impress upon you what it takes to substantially improve the skills needed for an illustration like this =)

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    Haoning. Here is what you got to do. First devout 80% of your time to studying form life, books, etc. So ideally Linework, Value, Colour, Anatomy should be studied 80% of the time. Again studied, not guessed. During this phase you have got to be a sponge. Drop the idea that you know anything and be humble for every drop of knowledge you receive.

    Put aside 20% of your time for your creative work like this. This will result in your studies naturally seeping into your creative work, whilst you improve at a rapid pace. The creative fun time will also ensure that you upbeat throughout the journey. This is my opinion and this method of approach has helped me tremendously.

    Fundamental trumps all.

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