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.
Thank you. Alot of aspect from piece is influenced by Miyazaki's films, particularly Castle in the Sky.
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 Aotix; August 3rd, 2014 at 04:41 PM.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 10:11 PM.
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.
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.