Feb Contest "night portal"

  • Hi guys, for the February contest I've been playing around with the idea of a 'portal' that hangs in the air and which you can go through to get to the night. I'm trying to get the composition right and also decide what elements to include...for example, should the character be opening the portal with a wand? Should there be a bat flying out of it? Any feedback on which thumbnail you prefer or other ideas would be greatly appreciated!


  • I think it depends on what story ur trying to tell. The first one looks like the portal popped up while the second one looks like the character opened it himself but either one works. I like the less detailed background in 4 but with the layout in 1 or 2.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Neat idea! I quite like the bat flying out of the portal, though maybe not so big. It could also be an owl, as a bat is normally associated with a creepy mood. I think I would explore a couple more compositions: 1,2 and 3 crop the character weirdly (ankles, wrists and neck are places where you cannot crop a character or it looks like he has a severed limb: something that photographers also mention), while in 4 there‘s a tangent between the portal and the edge of the page, and the portal seems too small.
    Do you know a Pixar short called „Day and Night“? Your piece reminded me of it - it‘s worth watching!

  • @smceccarelli I hadn't seen "Day and Night" before you mentioned it, but I went and found it and it is amazing! So creative.

    I've finally had a chance to do some more work on my thumbnail, and would be grateful for anyone's feedback. Getting a good composition is something I've struggled with in the past, so I've been iterating a lot on this one before I start making the final image.

  • I’ve also been toying with the idea of adding a path...does that add to the story?

  • Pro SVS OG

    Yes, the path is a good idea - gives a suggestion of entering a new world, exploration and adventure. The composition is good content-wise, but a tad unbalanced. The boy is very close to the bottom right corner and there’s not much going on anywhere else. The castle could balance him out if it was more to the left. I’d try to increase the size of the portal, move the boy closer to the point where the third lines intersect (the imaginary lines that split the image in thirds - the crossing points of those lines are the classical focal points) and move the castle to the left to balance him out. Just some suggestions - it also depends on the level of details you’re going to bring into the landscape. I’m very much a narrative artist, so I always think set characters or action in the focal point, but there is art that has a more decorative feel, where the characters are not necessarily the focus.
    Also, I know this would need more thumbnails, but an image were we see the main character from the back is always weaker than one where we see his face. It’s ok if it’s one or two in a whole book, but on a single image it’s not optimal. Just food-for-thought: I’m not sure you want to re-design your concept.

  • @smceccarelli this is all great feedback! I’ll experiment with expanding the portal and moving the castle to the left...the only reason I was hesitant to do that earlier was because I’m worried if the portal is too big i could lose the idea it being a portal at all, ie the whole thing could end up feeling purely like a night scene. I’m also pondering adding something to the day part of the painting to add more balance, although I’m not sure what it would be, maybe something here?

  • Attempt at a more balanced composition

  • @Braxton I know these are studies but I am not really getting the portal aspect. Are you going to put some sort of magical border around to let the viewer know that its a portal and not just a random night circle (because you see those every day, right? 👀 ) Also, is there a story to this portal? How are you planning on conveying it? Right now it looks like there is no interaction with the portal beyond the kid looking into it. Is he afraid? excited? How can you convey with his body language the answers to those questions? These are the kinds of questions that I don't always ask myself and I should when creating an illustration, but when I do it usually goes much better than when I don't.

  • @chrisaakins those are great questions. As to the story aspect, I’m imagining the kid and the owl are about to start the final stage of a long quest, so they are excited and determined. I’ll have to see if I can convey that with body language (for both characters). As for the portal, I was planning on seeing how it looks once it’s a little farther along. The two references I have in mind are the windows between worlds in His Dark Materials (which imagine as just hanging there in space without a border), and the portals in Dr Strange (which have a golden shiny ring), so I’m not sure what the right approach is. It in any case I have to move out of the sketch stage or I won’t finish in time!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Braxton Well, nothing stops you from changing the size ratio of the image or the way you crop it. If you make this more of an horizontal image, you can make the amount of space you give to the night or day as big or as small as you want. As mentioned every time one talks about composition, the image frame is your main compositional device: just because you started off with a squarish image does not mean you have to stick with that (I’m assuming this is a personal image, right?).

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