I'm stuck! Shark Charmer...

  • I have been doing this piece for a contest, and posted it a few days ago to get feedback. Pretty much every person looked at it and said, I should make her look more afraid and the shark look more scary. So I replied that my intention was actually to create this double take on the image - where at first glance you see a tiny mermaid girl and a looming shark - but that the girl was actually in control and was intentionally luring the shark in and wasn't scared at all.

    I thought I could do this with her facial expression and the posture of her hands looking like she was casting a spell. But even after I posted that answer, everyone has said that they still don't see the narrative I was going for. So I have spent the last week brainstorming, sketching, thinking and eventually feeling just lost on how to fix it.

    I would like to avoid repainting her or the shark as I really do like the way the painting is rendered so far and the composition doesn't leave room for any large additions. So in my mind, that leaves small props and visual clues. Some things I have considered: shark teeth jewelry, glowing red blood magic, glowing blow magic around blood, glowing eye of shark to match magic glow, and glowing knife/hook shaped magic. It bothers me that the only things I can think of are glowing things, as I wanted it to look somewhat realistic and yet how do you paint magic realistically?! other than to just show the effect...

    So, I have tried painting in some of these to hopefully stumble on one I like - and yet everything I try I don't like. I feel like it ends up looking more like game art rather than classical painting... any feedback/advice/critique/suggestion/idea would be super helpful right now as I am just spinning my wheels at this point!

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  • oh and here are some of my attempts to 'show' the narrative - there are a couple different ones that could be separated and deleted or enhanced - the shark teeth jewelry, the glowing blood, the glowing eye. (none of which are actually rendered - just blocked in)

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  • @Jeszika-Lee I think and I could be wrong, but her stance looks defensive. If there is anyway to have her upper body more upright and chest out so that she more like she is in control. It's a beautiful painting! Good luck!

  • @Thrace-Shirley-Mears hmm that's an interesting point. In my mind I had thought to have her leaning forward, like she was focusing and pushing the spell towards the shark... but I can see how it could read as more hunched down and arms raised defensively.. I wonder if I were to raise her chin up and out more if that would make her look more confident, maybe even arrogant?

  • @Jeszika-Lee if she's casting a spell could she have some form of a wand in her hand?

  • @Jeszika-Le Firstly, what a great narrative. I love how you the surface of the ocean cuts through the piece and how dramatic it looks.. I can see you have added gills to her sides, would it be too cartoony to show a hint of a sharks fin too, so you know she is with them and not against them. Also, what if her arms were palms open. That could suggest a beckoning rather than an offence. One last point., the shark in the distance looks like he's going to attack. Maybe have his eyes glowing too. I love the concept and love seeing your work on here. Have a lovely day.

  • Hi Jeszika. The concept is really awesome, and I think you ve done very good so far. If you would make her more defensive, maybe she should have a more angry look. her face doesn't have enough expression. thats what you are probably aiming for, so you also can show more 'face', and the shark should come from the front more. It looks like she is swimming to the front-left, but you want to let her face the shark. another small thing , The arm of the sirene looks a bit strange. The rendering, light and shadows are very beautiful. love the look and feel. GOGOGoooo, it wil work out beautifully, Iam sure!


  • @Leontine-Gaasenbeek Wonderful painting.

    I can see how you are frustrated with this piece and the idea of her 'taking control' of the shark. Here is my 2Cents. I feel it's the hands of the mermaid. They should be turned up as if demanding/inviting in the shark. When hands are down and crossed no less, it's defensive. Not any real way around that intuitive reading of that position. If you don't want to redo the hand then I'd bump up the blue spell glow of the hands and shark.

    Also you have the shark coming up from behind her. Like she surrounded and doesn't have control at all. Take that shark out? Or have it in a sparkle spell as well?

    For example Bobby Chiu has a great Spell Sparkle on this creature. Go big or go home I often say!

  • @Jeszika-Lee I really like this painting and you got such skill in rendering, it's beautiful. I personally think luring is a pretty tricky scene to illustrate without showing any some sort of trickery or traps. The only suggestion I could think of at the moment is to make make her has a little bit of evil smile line at her end lip, in such situation it should make her look as if she is in control. I am not very good at anatomy but I would also revisit her right arm because I just thought the gesture is not as strong as the other hand (that should make her a stronger figure in the fight). Love the shark fangs idea, if you increase the amount of shark fangs it will also gives the viewer a little more hint as if she is a collector or hoarder. Great piece!

  • I would also make her eyes that turqoise green colour as well. It shows a connection.

    I also did this quick paint/draw over.

    Essentially I brought in more blues, changed some of the anatomy. I also changed the direction of the tail. It just helps it flow better.

  • SVS OG

    Wonderful image!! If you want it to read "luring" I suggest you have her hands flipped around...right now she looks like she is pushing away instead of pulling in. Maybe change the color of the spell? when you see red and sharks, you think danger. and give her a smile, showing confidence and no trace of fear whatsoever 🙂

  • Great rendering, as most people have said, I think the girls focus is not looking at the shark. She needs to. If you open her mouth a little it will give a slight impression of her being scared. In order not to alter the girls head or position. You could more the shark (or draw another one) in the bottom left of the picture. and reduce or scale the shark on the top left. Nice going.

  • Oh my goodness! Thank you so much everyone for all the great, thought out feedback! What a wealth of ideas!

    @Thrace-Shirley-Mears hmm maybe - something to show she has the ability to use magic...

    @Peter-Jarvis that's an interesting idea. I was thinking more eel when I painted her tail... but changing her to look more shark-like might be enough to make her look less like dinner. I am glad some of it is working at least! 🙂 I love painting water so that is encouraging.

    @Leontine-Gaasenbeek Thank you! 🙂 yeah - I was hoping to make her look very focused and predatory in her expression but not her appearance... so I think I have failed in that regard. I am definitely going to try and push her features more to try to make her look more fierce. Also, I didn't see it at first, but now I see what you mean - she looks like she is looking slightly out of the canvas - but the shark is looking at a complete profile line... And yeah, that front arm is driving me nuts! I can't quite get it to look right. And thank you for the kind words as well. This one is really love hate - I love certain things about it but despair of being unable to fix the subtleties that are ruining it.

    @Katrina-Fowler I can definitely see what you are seeing - and it seems like a lot of other people are saying the same thing as well. lol - it's funny - the hands were really what started the whole painting. I saw a photo of a girl holding her hands that way and wanted to create a painting that told a story around that pose. I immediately thought casting a spell at something... and that is the part now that is fighting with the painting. I need to learn to not start with little pieces! That picture you posted is awesome, by the way! And yeah, I see what you mean about go big or stay home! You've giving me a lot to think about! Thank you!

    @Naroth-Cow Thank you! That is really kind of you to say! 🙂 Yeah, I feel like I chose a really bad narrative to try and illustrate here. I agree, that arm is not right. It needs more work. And yeah, I was hoping more teeth would be a good clue that she is not in the peril she seems to be. Thanks 🙂

    @Javier-Diaz oh wow - thank you for that! I actually like the glowing eyes on here a lot more than I do on the shark! Also, the gesture of your line for her body is so graceful. I really like that. I am definitely going to try to experiment with that! Also - I think if I stick with the glowing effects, the added areas throughout the water you made - make a lot of sense as well. You have given me a lot to think about - thanks!

  • @Lynn-Larson - yeah - a lot of people agree with you that the hands should be flipped to be palm up! In my mind I was thinking she was pushing the spell out of her hands - but I can also see the idea that she would be pantomiming the action she would be trying to create... I think changing the color of the spell is a really interesting idea. I had initially chosen red because thematically I felt it fit really well with the sharks - like that was the obvious color for a spell to catch sharks... but maybe the automatic assumption that what ever looks to be bleeding is going to be dinner is just to overpowering for the scene.. I wonder if I changed it to look less red close to her arm but have it turn red as it got near the shark.... hmmm. I am going muse over this for a while! Yeah - it seems her facial expression is really not reading well either. It's maddening - this painting feels so close and so far away at the same time. Thank you for all the feedback - very thought provoking!

    @Steve-Young Thank you! Yeah - I can see now that her line of sight is not really reading well to be facing the shark exactly. It's weird - it looked just right to me before but now it definitely looks off. I see what you are saying about adding another in - I can definitely visualize it. Funny thing is I have actually enlarged the shark a few times because he kept reading as too small and unthreatening compared to her in my mind... now I have the opposite problem. I am going to play around with these ideas and see what turns up!

    Thank you so much to everyone - for giving me such thoughtful feedback and advice. It is really helpful to keep me pushing forward instead of getting frustrated and giving up! I felt like I was going in circles in my head but now I feel like I have a lot of ideas to play with!

  • Good luck cant wait to see what you do!

  • @Jeszika-Lee what helps when i have anatomical issues is that i make a new sketch over on top of the original, opacity turned down on the original layer with 50%. Maybe it works for you. Then hold on, at the end you 'll end up with a wonderfull piece! Do you know Loish? Its a Dutch artist, she's an amazing inpirationimage.jpg

  • @Leontine-Gaasenbeek oh wow - that is so beautiful! I love it! Thanks for sharing it! No, I never heard of her before. Really cool! And thanks for the advice on method - I am very new to digital so I am always trying to learn how best to use the medium. Usually I just paint over what ever is there since I am used to oils and so that's my goto method - but I will try your method if I get stuck! 🙂

    Ok - so sort of admitting defeat on this one and sort of forging ahead. The more I looked at it and the more feedback I got, it became clear that there were so many things I had to change to tell the narrative I was going for, that I might as well just paint it again. But, I really wasn't willing to scrap 100 hours of work to start over and I have had very little success in the past once I start repainting the figure and taking and adding things in the composition and then having to change the size of the image to compensate for the changes of comp. The last painting I tried that on, I got well over 300 hours in and am still not happy with it.

    So, I have been wracking my brain where I want to go from here - and I decided that I wanted to find a way to make the image work visually with as much of the present painting 'intact' as I could and I was willing to let the narrative shift if it made the painting read better. So, this is what I came up with: I've changed her tail to have a more elegant curve as suggested. I've removed the shark behind her to make her look less doomed, I've added an eel protector. And I have committed to the red being actual blood instead of poor represented magic. Also, I've widened the canvas to give me room to try and align the line of sight a little better between the shark and the girl. Many of the changes and improvements I have made (other than the eel) have come from everyone's wonderful suggestions on here and I am really grateful to everyone. It really helped give me the information I needed to make a decision on what to do with this and how to. So - hopefully this reads better, even if not true to the original narrative:

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    also - I love painting eels 🙂

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    I think it reads great now! The eel is a great addition, and i love how he curves around her, definitely reads protector!

  • better, but I still think she is looking the wrong way, But it is better.

  • @Jeszika-Lee Wow! This is such a cool concept, and your rendering is gorgeous as always. I've learned a ton just reading through the replies on this thread!

    One thought, since you don't want to repaint the girl. You could eliminate the crossed arms be removing her right arm and painting so that it looks like the eel is obscuring it. Not sure if that would work, or if it would just look like the shark had bit off her arm!

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