Belly dancer - composition feedback

  • Hello everybody!

    I've been working on a composition featuring a belly dancer. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone has some thoughts as to how well it works and what your first impression is.

    The story of the piece, if you will, is that the three people to the left are the band playing for the dancer. The middle person is a young boy who is playing with the band for the first time and he is very entranced by the woman. The musician to his left is smiling down at him knowingly, remembering his own first time. The last musician is off in his own world. There may or may not be one or two additional musicians behind them.

    Does it seem weird that you cannot see any audience? They would probably be in the direction of the camera.

    Does the angle of the background work with the foreground or should it be more level?

    belly dancer.png

  • Hello! Here are some first impressions of the composition.
    It sounds like seeing the reaction of boy in the middle is one of the most important things. Right now I think my eye goes back and forth between the 3rd musician and the dancer's belly, and not so much to the boy. Maybe that's something that can be emphasized with value contrast, or with adding more musicians that blend in and frame him?

    I'm not sure about the audience question. I guess it depends mostly on the story, and if you like how the space looks. I do think that maybe the diagonal of the background is a little too steep right now- the musicians seem a bit tilted to me.

  • @Valerie-Light
    Thanks for the input. Now that you mention it, I definitely agree that there was not enough focus on the boy. I've tried to highlight him, and make the dancer's hair point back towards the boy again for a bit of two way connection. I also pulled back the rightmost musician a bit. I'll get some more time to work on the piece tomorrow, maybe try it with a few more musicians. Also straightened the tilt of the diagonal which does seem better.


  • Cleaned up the sketch a bit and fleshed out the background. Will probably need to move the two front pillars so they are clearly visible. I'm actually not sure what instrument the kid is playing - I do think that he has forgotten all about playing it though 🙂

  • May I ask what sort of publication this illustration is directed at? The first thing that strikes me is the belly dancers missing head.

  • @erinrew
    I'm still just learning while maintaining a full time job, so this is only for myself. I recently did the Creative Composition course and I'm trying out some of the practices here. So I guess my goal is to create a drawing that works well when viewed without any particular context. The decision about how to "cut" the dancer was just what came out of the thumbnailing session - it felt like something that could work for the image.

  • Looking at the two pictures I think the first one looks better with the musicians seated on the ground. In the second one they look more like audience members, or people less connected to the bellydancer.
    I’m trying to look at different angles, but I don’t know if I would have identified the person in front as a bellydancer if I hadn’t read your explanation first. Maybe it’s a question of styllistic choice, but I feel the current image is a bit to cryptic about the half-naked woman in the foreground the child looks at (feels a bit like oggling). Sorry if I’m coming of as blunt.

  • I would encourage you to include more of the belly dancer, including her head. That way you can incorporate more of her costume and make it more clear who she is. It will also humanize her more and maybe soften the message that the little boy is “ogling” or objectifying her. I also think the musicians sitting on the floor is a better composition.

  • @Niels @erinrew
    The reason I changed the musicians to be sitting on chairs is actually based on feedback on how such events are performed in the real world, at least for Egyptian belly dancing. I know what you mean and it was some of the reason why I chose to initially make them sitting on the floor. I'm still not sure how I wan't to balance realism vs creative freedom, but I will keep it mind. A working drawing should trump a correct drawing.

    I'm definitely aiming for a light hearted piece, so if it ends up feeling like the boy is ogling her I will have failed in achieving my goal. I have very little experience drawing people, so I don't know how well I will be able to hit the proper emotions to communicate the point, but maybe this is also the reason I have gravitated towards hiding some of the dancer. I suppose it is something of a pitfall to hide essential details because you as the illustrator have a clear understanding of the subject.

    Thank you both for your comments. It's great to get feedback from someone unfamiliar with the subject. I'll consider sharing compositions without an explanation in the future, to get the raw impression of what others see.

  • Here is a couple of variant dancer placements including audience. As I'm posting this, however, I realize an issue that has been bothering me. The dancer is not in the same perspective as the rest of the image making her disconnect from the rest of the scene 😞


Log in to reply