WIP - Composition Help

  • There's a creek on my wife's grandparents land where kids love to catch crawdads and that gave me a couple of ideas I wanted to explore. I know I struggle with composition and wanted to get some feedback on that and anything else. Is it working? Do I need to shift or change something all together? Behind the building is a mountain. At the top are leaves from a shade tree the boy is under but I'm not sure if that's reading right. Above the mountain and behind the boys head are clouds. I just noticed that based on the fence the horizon line might be splitting the image in half so should that come down or up? Thanks for looking!


  • It works for me. I personally think the fence is ok where it is as long as you down play it a bit when your render it.

  • @jon-anderson I agree with @TessaW with the fence is ok where it is. If you were to move it I would move it up. But with keeping it where it is and the perspective of it, if the boy was to stand up next to the fence it looks like it would only be at his waist. Would that be the correct height of the fence? I used to have a wood fence like that growing up and it would come up to my chest. Suggestion to maybe make the posts in the front a little taller? I could be wrong on that.

  • Thank you @TessaW and @Chip-Valecek for your feedback. I did make an adjustment with the fence to adjust the size and depth while hopefully not drawing too much attention away from the boy. I did some quick value studies and threw in some color. I wanted to try the digital pencil technique with this but I keep getting frustrated with my bamboo tablet. Again, advice is welcome. Thanks.
    0_1528319966834_Crawdad Color.jpg

  • @jon-anderson fence works much better now. What happen to the shade trees? I liked those and that would have played well with some cool lighting on the boy.

  • This is shaping up well, the drawing looks great and the composition works so far. Personally, I would loose the clouds and re-introduce the tree branches. Framing or blocking the corners is a very old and successful composition device and I think it would work well here. I would also tweak the proportions of the boy a bit. He seems to have a very massive torso compared to the legs and arms and the back leg is quite a bit shorter than the front one. His expression reads scared and surprised at the moment - maybe it could move more into the direction of „cheeky and proud“? He has already caught a few crabs, so he shouldn’t be scared or surprised by a new one. Is it a stream in front of the boy and you’re going to add the water during rendering?

  • @chip-valecek Thanks for your feedback. I took the trees out because I was having a hard time fitting some other trees in the background and the shade tree out because I wasn't sure if it would make since without other trees in the comp to reinforce it. I really liked the idea of it and the challenge of dapple lighting but took it out anyway. As you and @smceccarelli have mentioned they were actually working I'll explore putting them back in.

    @smceccarelli I had intended the dirt at the bottom to be just a dirt road where the boy has stopped for a break after leaving the creek with his prize but after reading your comment I'm wondering if making that a creek would make more sense. I also see what you mean about his expression. I was shooting for a surprising interaction with the crawdad but that's probably not going to read well unless it's a closeup. I like the idea of a happy or gloating expression. I did struggle with the proportions and thank you for being honest with me letting me know I still need to work more on that.

  • @jon-anderson Yes, I think in terms of narrative clarity it would make more sense if it was a creek. Otherwise the story of the image gets very complex: „the boy has been to the creek to fish crawdads, but now is on the way home, he got tired and sat down under a tree and he’s looking at his catch and something about it surprises him“. It´s tricky to convey all of this story into a single image without confusing the viewer. „The boy is at the creek happily catching crawdads“ makes for a much clearer, simpler and impactful narrative.
    Proportions are tricky in children and it´s easy to make kids look too old. I don’t know what your target age is - maybe 8-10? If you look at photos of kids of that age, you’ll see that they still don’t have large muscles (they come with puberty), their shoulders are narrow and their ribcage tiny. Arms and legs are thin and don’t have a lot of muscle definition (I sometimes wonder how my daughter can stand and walk on those sticks). It can be really hard to get kids to look the right age, especially if you’re more used to drawing adults.
    Looking forward to see the next phase!

  • I really took those suggestions about the trees and proportions to heart. Are the tweaks I made actually improvements? Does the path now look more like a still creek? I also added the boarder guide after the instructions @smceccarelli gave in another thread and for some reason PS loves to snap to them so this explains the hard lines at the bottoms and sides. Those will be edited as I progress.
    0_1528391976623_Crawdad Test.jpg

  • I like the composition a great deal but the way the boy is holding the crab is a bit odd. It may be what works best for the view you have but it's been my experience that boys will usually grab a crab by the body. Just a thought.


  • @jimsz That is a great point! There was a story/interaction in mind when first designing and I have since abandoned it in favor of a more natural scene. I totally forgot about changing the crawdad to fit the new direction. Thanks! Do you suppose the single finger and thumb hold as is works or would a two finger grip look better?

  • @jon-anderson if you go to the menu "View" there is an option to turn off snap. I usually turn it on when I am doing web design but when I draw in photoshop I make sure to uncheck it.

  • Seeing this through. I started rushing to paint and knew I shouldn't have so I slowed myself down and went back to tighten up the sketch. Posting the progress. Now I'm ready to paint.

    0_1528926380016_Crawdad Test.jpg

  • Wow! Much improved. I'm looking forward to seeing it painted.

  • @jon-anderson looking good, its going to be a great piece when you are finished!

  • @jon-anderson
    I think the composition is looking good! I agree with the other comments and you've done a great job at following their advice.

    Something that I would say could still use tweaking is the chest and waist. Kids are very straight in the torso. I think you could bring in the top of the chest all the way to where the arm/armpit line starts, and go straight down to the butt from there. The skinny arms look good for an active boy. This kid's expression is great! You've done a good job on the hands and feet as well.

  • I'm trying to fight off all my rookie painting desires and do things in the proper order. Specifically, I'm trying to follow Will Terry's digital painting format. I've gotten as far as shadows and tone and I think I like the direction it's going, though I may go back and lighten the sky a bit if not the overall tone.
    0_1529353688334_Crawdad Test.jpg

  • @jon-anderson This is looking really great! His foot on the left is looking a little awkward, it feels like it would be really hard to sit with the foot so turned out. You did a great job on the perspective if only his body lined up with it. I think more of a profile view of the foot would look more comfotable

Log in to reply