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I don't know why but I feel my paintings always come out looking too flat, I don't know if this is because I don't use dramatic enough lighting or whether I just can't do backgrounds... If I draw a single element without a background then it does look 3d but as soon at I add in the background it becomes flat
Anyway this is the piece I just did for the teen challenge and I'd really like to know how I could improve next time. I rushed the horse and figure because the deadline was close but I really do struggle with people anyway Thank you (:
What was your process for working on this piece? Did you add the background as an after-thought or was it a part of the piece to begin with? Also, did you paint this directly or did you use thumbnails/roughs to start with and help plan your composition?
If I squint at your painting, nothing is really catching my attention value wise nor do I see any real separation amongst foreground/middle/background. The gray of the dragon and the gray of the forest behind him is very very similar and the only really bright, white objects are the pearl and the man's shirt. Everything flattens out to a dark shade of gray with near blacks in many places. I took your painting and put it into Photoshop and desaturated it to illustrate this point:
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I start with a rough line drawing with no values and then block the base colours in gradually adding the shading and textures as I go. I always thought the background would be a bamboo forest but I didn't add it until the dragon was about 50% complete. I just painted it directly which is probably silly but I'm really impatient
I know what you mean about the values that's why it looks flat but I'm always too scared to use really contrasting lights and darks in case it's too much. I really need to get out of bad habits here haha
It's not that you need to use more contrast; it's that you need to use the right amount of contrast for the level of depth. Typically the closer objects will have the highest range of values, and as they move back there is a smaller range of value. Also, try putting lighter foreground on a dark background or vice-versa; you need to show that these are on different planes.
I did a very quick paint over; I lightened and reduced the range of values on the background, but I gave objects in the foreground a wider range of value (mostly by adding highlights since it was very dark to begin with).
Ah wow that looks a lot better already! I'll see if I can edit the final piece and I'll bear that in mind with my next painting (: thanks