Critique appreciated - tracks in the snowflake

  • Hello community,

    This month I’m not honestly sure if I can commit to finishing this piece, but I would like to practice using Procreate, and I think this will stretch my mind a lot... so I will try!

    The twist on the prompt is that Will is looking at a giant paper snowflake that Grandma has intricately cut from paper. I’d like the fireplace to shine through the snowflake a bit, hopefully giving a nice effect.

    I’d definitely appreciate help please, along the way, with any thoughts and critique you are willing to share.

    I have some questions...

    Does the piece read well? As in, can you tell what’s going on? Since I’ve only shown one composition option, I know it may be hard to critique, but your impressions of the composition would be helpful. Grandma is supposed to be sitting in a chair, and the boy on the floor.

    Secondly, I’m having a hard time figuring out what color white paper would be in this picture, especially in front of the fireplace.

    And then there are the other colors... I’m going for a really cozy vibe. 🙂 Some reference pictures are included to show what I’m going for. Any preference about the color of the boy’s clothes?

    Thank you all for the help!


  • Cool and unique idea! I love the color palette you've chosen so far. I did think grandma was standing at first look but then when I looked closer I saw the chair. I think with all those orangy reds the boy would look cute in like a turquoise blue pajama, but green could be nice too.

  • I think your piece is very charming. I really can read the warmth that comes with bonds from a close family member, this is not only cozy but incredibly sweet. I think your composition is looking very nice so far. I especially like the string of snowflakes above the fire, as they act like a guiding line.

    I would encourage you to finish this piece, because I think you will learn best from the struggle you stated that you had been facing. I know from my own experience that the best lessons are learned from overcoming fears and that avoiding them really halts not only your learning but your confidence as an artist as well. I would recommend painting on a layer over your line art. As you place colors, think about the shape more than the line. It looks like you have already put in your large shapes, so focus more on the smaller, form-defining shapes. I recommend looking at the work of oil painters such as John Singer Sargent and observe the shape of their brush strokes- I use him as an example because his work can be read as being very tight overall but with loose brushstrokes.

    Sorry if my wording is very "matter-of-fact"- my spacebar is jammed so I feel like a robot as I type this lol! Let me know if you have questions about what I mean.

  • @KaraDaniel Thank you for the feedback! I tried the idea of the greenish bluish clothes and like it a lot. 🙂

  • @Kalimostlypaints Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to give encouragement and for the helpful recommendations. I do hope that I can finish this... your hopefulness means a lot! I have not considered looking at oil painters for inspiration for digital work, but I suppose the construction of a piece can be somewhat similar. I do like work that is loose but from afar has a believable look to it. Thanks again for taking the time to write your thoughts! Feel free to share more feedback as the piece (hopefully) progresses.

  • Here’s another phase... from completely loose to blocky shapes... I honestly have never done this kind of process before and am experimenting at every stage. I’m hoping that this under-layer can be a good base for adding more shading and texture. Does anything catch your eye that can be adjusted before adding more detail? I’m still questioning the color of the boy’s clothes. Also, I’m planning to crop this at the end.


  • @KathrynAdebayo This Looks great so far! The only odd thing I’m seeing is the angle of the fireplace, as the chair seems to be facing away from it which is a bit unusual for a living room.

  • @Kalimostlypaints Thank you for your comment. You’re absolutely right that the chair is in a weird place. Hmm... I wonder what other details could make it feel more grounded and less randomly situated. Any ideas?

  • 952D483E-6BF7-4851-86C2-0902BB3F113D.jpeg

    This is really fun... I can hardly stop even though I should 🙂 I’d appreciate critique, especially about where I could adjust values.

  • @KathrynAdebayo This is lovely! 🙂 I have noticed two things, which you might want to correct or not. I am not sure about kid's left arm (looks a bit longish). Second thing is more a question. How did you intend to draw grandma? Is she supposed to look at the child? At this moment she looks a bit melancholic and lost in her world, like she is deep in her thoughts about something else than the child. Anyway looks lovely. On the thumbnail I wasn't sure what the thing was as it looked like a piece of clothing to me. I didn't expect such a beautiful piece of art 🙂

  • @aska Wow, thank you for the super helpful suggestions! I would like the grandma to look at the boy, but I’m still not convinced that it looks like she is... Is this better? And great catch with the arm length...


  • @KathrynAdebayo no problem. I think it's better 🙂 Grandma stil seems a bit absent and melancholic, but maybe thats what you want? However if you are not convinced if you achieved planned effect, you should explore a bit more. Take one day break and look again.

  • @aska Thank you, great advice!

  • More details... this is still way too fun.


  • SVS OG

    @KathrynAdebayo I love the idea, love the warmth of the colors (you really researched this piece well!) and I do like the constrasting cool colors in the clothes. I love the boy's tender profile and gesture. I also really like the pattern you added to the pajamas!

    I don't know if this advice will be too out of the blue or whether it will be right for your style (I've seen some of your work but don't have a good feeling for the whole yet), but I noticed that the boy's profile, especially, lost something when you started to paint in the details. If I had to say, it's that there is a lot of contrast in the values in the figures' faces and limbs, especially in the reflected light. The result is that they lack some the unity that they would have otherwise.

    An easy way to try out a change would be to put in some kind of fill layer over all the skin and then take town the opacity or change the layer mode to see if you like the effect. (Or if you still have the underpainting, you could make the layers of paint on top more transparent so you can see the underpainting.)

    Also, the snowflake is gorgeous (I just now noticed the track motif!), and it is the center of the painting and therefore some sharpness and contrast are warranted. And I suspect that you're still going to take down the value a lot. But there is something of the gorgeous softness of the snowflake in the 3rd color study that it would be a pity to loose. Also, I really suspect that a paper snowflake that large would bend a bit more. Not as much as a lace tablecloth, but it wouldn't be flat either.

    I hope it doesn't feel like I'm picking your illustration apart. In fact, I really relate to it, and the former portrait painter in me especially relates to the warm realism of it. I think for that reason I can hear my former portraiture teachers' voices in my head and am passing on the same advice they used to give me, especially about subordinating the details to the whole. Portraiture has some specific rules that don't apply to all illustration styles, so if you like that kind of painting, it's worth a Google search! (And yes, Sargent is one of the great masters!)

  • @KathrynAdebayo grandma expresion is perfect 🙂 However boys left arm looks a bit too thin in the upper part. I i think t's a small repair. Good job 🙂

  • @KathrynAdebayo looks like a precious memory, I love it.

  • Awesome painting so far. The boys left arm looks like it’s bent at a weird angle to me. I think in this pose the elbow should be pointing down and toward the fireplace. Other than that it looks great!

  • @LauraA Oh Laura! I’m so happy to get your feedback! Thank you so much for your very valuable advice. Actually, of all the people who I see regularly on this forum, your work is probably closest to the style of this piece, so I am honored to receive your critique. I usually take each monthly contest as an opportunity to try a new style, so this is a whole new ballgame for me this month.

    I really want to understand what you were saying about values of skin tones. I looked up some portraits by Sargent and started to perhaps notice the unity in skin tones that you were mentioning. I put another layer over my characters’ faces and tried some new colors... is it an improvement? I feel happier about it for sure.

    I appreciate your comments about the center snowflake. I’m still mystified by how to color it and have yet to look up good reference photos. I did warp it a bit more to help it look less stiff. I hope it turns out looking natural! A challenge for sure! I did look back at my color studies again as a reminder of the effects suggested there.

    Thanks again for the help. 🙂

    @aska & @Zachary-Drenski Hi! Thank you both for the encouragement and the input about the arm. You definitely brought something important to my attention! I tried a new position for the boy’s arm and hand. Any better? Thank you again for taking the time to comment. 🙂

    @KaraDaniel 🙂 Happy to hear you enjoy it so far.


  • SVS OG

    @KathrynAdebayo I wish I had time to just paint what I am talking about, but I've got some distractions at home. Instead, I'll post this video here that I hope will explain it well enough. I think you could simplify even more! Also, forcing yourself to use a larger (and more definite) brush in the beginning stages helps. That's what they always told us to do in portrait painting classes. It forces you to define the shapes within the larger shape. Again, Sargent is a master of this.

    As for the snowflake, I think you could take it even further both with the deepening of the color and with the bending! After all, the light source is coming from behind!

    And I understand what you said about style, because I am still trying out a lot of styles and media as well, and at times it makes each piece feel like reinventing the wheel!

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