Not disheartening at all!!
@Gary-Wilkinson and @evilrobot thank you both! I truly appreciate you taking the time to make insightful comments, they are greatly appreciated (I'm in a 'leveling up' stage and really want good, honest feedback).
@Gary-Wilkinson I had to laugh at your comment about it being dragons - the real reason is that I like dragons. The more complicated reason is that animal and fantasy creature characters are my thing, so right now I'm working on using those elements (which I have more fun with) to create illustrations to work on my technical skills. I also play lots of D&D and the older a dragon is the more intimidating they are - so the idea of a granny dragon showing the wisdom aspect of an ancient dragon was a fun idea to play with. HOWEVER - your comment is spot on because I struggled with whether to make them play chess or some imaginary game. In the end I thought chess would be a relatable activity for 'old mentoring young' (plus I used my social media fanbase to give me the actual chess board setup - a little easter egg for those who might look closely at it). I will think more about how I can make the setting and game situation integrate with the characters being dragons.. I have a couple of ideas percolating already!
You were also spot on with the linework comment - I am really struggling with how I want to develop that. I'm drawn to line (not great at it, but drawn to it to the point that I am starting a graphic novel project to learn more) so at the moment my goal is NOT to try to retrain myself to full digital painting, but rather figure out the best way to use my linework without having the entire piece in full, lined detail. I liked the outcome for the piece below and was trying to recapture some of that feel. I think the lighting and contrast were stronger in the piece below, and the linework not as heavy handed.
And lighting. So important! So not my strong suit!
I think it's time to go redo some of the SVS courses on light and make sure I'm really doing the work and not just passively watching!
Thanks again! All further feedback is greatly appreciated!
(LOL - nobody commented on the fact that the chess pieces are all leaning a little bit to the right... which I ~just~ noticed now).
(Also - @Gary-Wilkinson I love your 'Octopus Selfie', it made me literally laugh out loud!)