Brutal honesty and love requested...

  • SVS OG

    Chris, I understand. I left the critiques last night thinking, "These are all really good pieces, but I have no idea where mine fits into the mix and what I could have done better." Maybe it's the people in the middle, the ones who are the hardest to critique, who need it the most!

    And yes, while participating in the forums I have been both on the "Something is off with x's submission, I don't know what it is exactly and the morning is escaping me, so I'll pass," side as well as the, "Hey, I want some feedback before moving on and I'm not getting any!" side. Being in Europe where most of you are asleep when I start working probably doesn't help. I do try to give feedback whenever something clear occurs to me. I have spent so much time writing on the forums lately largely because I badly need community and critique, but it's cutting into my work. I hope to participate in the next round of SVS portfolio reviews. It looks like that might help you as well.

    I didn't even think of all the things some of the other people replied to you, but when I read their comments, I thought, "Hmm, that's true!" As a former oil portraitist, I think part of the problem is indeed that you are trying to pull off a realistic style and so that absorbs a lot of the energy that could be put into the more big picture, design aspects of illustration.

    So, here goes:

    First of all, you are in Atlanta? If you are committed to a realistic style, have you ever thought of going to a Portrait Society of Atlanta meeting or taking a class from one of their senior members? I learned a whole lot from them when I lived there years ago! I don't know if Marc Chatov still teaches (I would imagine so) but he taught me a ton about color. And there are plenty of other good teachers, too. It was a great community when I was there. (Don't laugh. I'm so old! It was back in the 90s!)

    Here's what strikes me: Your boy has a bit of what Will calls "old man syndrome." That happens when the face isn't simplified enough or when the expression calls for some facial distortion, but in our attempts to emphasize it, it ages the character.

    The pose makes him look uncomfortable in a stiff way. Of course he's scared, but he looks more rigid. I see why he might be turning back because he hears something, but the 180 degree angle makes it hard to pull off. Maybe he shouldn't have to do a complete about face? The body is still a bit too flat on the bed despite your attempts to give it volume. And yes, the hand is large. I think a solution for this particular problem would be photographing the pose or getting great reference while also studying figure drawing.

    Technique-wise, oil is hard to pull off digitally. You might try some of the Kyle oil brushes with temp layers (any more than a few strokes tend to go to mush, so they require a lot of layers that you flatten later, and therefore I have been avoiding them lately). They are hard to handle skillfully, but if you think about each shape, you can achieve a less airbrushed look. The main thing, though, if you want to go this route, is to study traditional oil painting from life.

    If you want to either redo this piece, or do another one for another occasion, in such a way as to concentrate more on concept, character design, composition, lighting and color, you might try simplifying your process (cut down on detail) at least temporarily. I share your interest in painting relatively realistically, but as you see, a lot of the chosen pieces are quite elegantly simple and focus on concept and design. (I'm making that note to myself as well.)

    And no, the flu doesn't help! But you are not coming off as a whiner. It's a serious question and you are wanting serious answers. That's courageous.

  • @chrisaakins I feel the same way as @NessIllustration. I have seen your WIP for this piece. But I have a hard time giving critique.
    I feel like it is hard for me to critique a more realistic style because I have a hard time painting realistically (I plan to do more studies on that). I always believe in what Lee says "do not let your weakness dictate your style". So I admire that you are so dedicated working on this quite realistic style.

    What I noticed now by re-visiting your WIP thread is the process you paint. It seems that you paint one object at time in the process. I find it much easier to tackle a painting when you paint the entire image at the same time. Here is an example (I took this example from Lee's painting class, I hope he would not mind me sharing it here) to show how to approach a painting.
    Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 10.05.03.png
    You might want to give this approach a try to see it helps you to keep the painting more coherent in terms of value and color.

    Hope this makes sense. As @Laurel-Aylesworth said, I will also try to make an effort to comment when others ask. We are all in this art journey together.

  • @xin-li thanks! That does help. Is that from one of the video classes?

  • I definitely fall in the camp of not feeling like I know enough to critique sometimes and not wanting to upset people. If I'm not pointing out some technical flaw that everyone would agree with like the perspective being off or something then I worry I'm just giving my subjective opinion and why would anyone want that!

    After reading this thread though and watching yesterday's critique, I think people's emotional reactions and general impressions of a piece can be extremely useful. That's the level of reaction/ engagement that everyone in the wider world will have. They'll glance at a book cover and decide whether to pick it up based on a fleeting first impression. So actually, I would welcome that subjective level of comment on my work and I'm going to try and give it more to others.

    Here's mine for this:

    I felt a bit disappointed when I first saw this. Everything I love about your art (as beautifully illustrated in your three wise men mice piece), the fluid linework, the lovingly crafted characters, the delicate shading and colour, seems to be missing here. It looks heavy and a little lifeless. But I saw that you said this was your first experimentation in digital so perhaps it is purely a matter of practice. Try some different brushes, etc.

    I agree with most of what everyone else has said about his hand and face and adding texture, etc. but I think I would go back and flesh out the story you're telling first. I see there is a monster falling off a roof in olden times but that's all really. Are we in a specific time period? Why? How can you make this clearer? What was the monster doing on the roof? Do monsters roam generally at night here? Do they eat children? Or just steal their socks? The story feels a bit generic at the moment and so I'm not sucked in, wanting to know more.

    I think it's easier to give general critiques on sketches. Once a piece is looking finished I tend to think that the creator must be happy with the fundamentals of the idea / design and they just want suggestions for tweaks to the finish.

    Finally, I think there's a category for forum posts called "serious critique" but no-one seems to use it much. When I first joined the forums I assumed that people must mostly want nice comments and likes rather than serious critiques if their work is not posted under that category. But now I think maybe people don't realise it's there or just forget to use it?

  • SVS OG

    @chrisaakins hi, Chris! I apologize if you feel a bit unseen lately. I’ve been too busy lately as well. I’d love to give you so feedback. So I think your piece has a great concept. However, what I think is dragging it down is its values which are too dark, your character’s bland expression and his slightly wonky anatomy. please excuse my bluntness. I personally think you have good perspective and composition. I’ve attached 3 pics below. 2 details the parts I think you should work on while the 3rd on is a repaint I did.

    Please don’t be discouraged. I can’t speak for everyone but sometimes we can’t give feedback because we’re just too busy, sometimes we ourselves don’t know what needs fixing, sometimes there’s too much that needs fixing that we don’t know where to start. This piece lies a bit on the third for me. But you will improve eventually just keep at it and don’t let our silence derail you. I hope this helps.





  • A possibility is to take one of your mice pieces from inktober and paint it. Possibly using multiply layers or combo of multiply and normal layers. There's likely some of those pieces of yours that fit a nighttime theme. So then you're working on the painting not the drawing for the next week or two.
    Repainting an inktober piece was what I did for this month although it was unintentional LoL. I did a lot of multiply layers to leave the inking visible. But at the end I decided I wanted to have the mouse a little more realistic so I used a normal layer on top and covered up some lines as I painted.
    Just a possibility
    Hope you are getting well

  • @chrisaakins It is from a live class with Lee in last year. But I think he is putting a lot of the same ideas into the new foundation course. If you take a look at the "LIGHT AND SHADOW FOR ILLUSTRATORS" course - It is basically the same idea there, except he only uses greyscale there. Hope that makes sense.

  • Hey Chris! because you asked for love and it's Valentine Day, I am sending you love from Down Under! Now, I haven't seen your piece on the forum, I just saw it on your IG and I could not really tell what's story the illustration conveyed. However, now I read the prompt, I am very puzzled about the prompt itself, haha! keep the good work and don't feel discouraged, you can only be better by making!

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz wow Nyrrl that looks amazing! I totally get what you mean. Thanks a whole bunch!

  • @chrisaakins I skimmed through the replies and so many resonated with me. I think most of us not at a pro level do not feel confident that any criticism we offer will be as helpful as what I find from so many others on this forum (I don't want to leave anyone out, but @TessaW @Nyrryl-Cadiz @NessIllustration @Braden-Hallett come to mind immediately).

    I have viewed you as a pro because of your background and I only offer positives (or informational) to pros. I have not been on the board recently because of a family situation, but I remember seeing this piece and thinking I thought the boy looked old (I gave Will one of my "old kid" drawings to use in a critique, so I recognize that 😉). Unlike the pros, I couldn't say how I would "fix" it.

    I think people like me should probably look at requests for criticism by pros as a kind of dream portfolio exercise, trying to identify more specifically what we like about a piece instead of just posting "like it". Maybe then it wouldn't feel so intimidating (like "who do you think you are" commenting on this? kind of feeling).

    I have to add that when I posted a cry for help with a logo (just-say-no-to-logos btw🤣) under serious critique wanted, the response was incredibly helpful. I never would have been able to complete that ill-conceived commitment without this group!

    I was blown away by your inktober mice concepts compositions, especially in awe of your perspective! Have you thought about (and maybe you did it but I missed it) going back to some of those so that it's just the digital painting you're working on?

  • Thank you @BichonBistro It's flattering that you considered me a Pro. I am still a rather new art teacher (I taught chemistry before that) and I am very much a newbie to illustration and digital art.
    I don't think anyone on this forum feels like "who do you think you are." Even completely non-artistic people(like my wife) have good eyes with things that they like or don't like. They often give the best feedback because they are more likely to be blunt about it. A good solid "He looks like an old man" would have helped me for sure. Please don't feel like you have nothing to offer. Your dogs are amazing.
    I haven't really thought about the Inktober pieces like that. I did mess around with some colorizing. Maybe I can give one or two a go in the future. Do you have any requests?

Log in to reply