March Contest WIP critique welcome


  • SVS OG

    This is a piece that I did last year and since it fits the theme for the March contest, I thought I'd re-do it. It is OK but I was never super happy with it, mainly because it is too dark and too digital looking. I'd welcome your opinions and advice, particularly on color choices and digital technique but really, on anything at all.

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  • @demotlj Fun piece! I'll throw out some quick impressions and suggestions, just to help you brainstorm.

    1. Light background- less contrast between light and dark.

    2. Have the trail of destruction go behind the bison(?), on his/her side, instead of on opposite side.

    3. More drama in gesture. Play with kicking the bison's legs back or arching the back more. Put the fowl more in the air maybe.

    4. More destruction- things flying in the air, things spilled on the floor, some flames from the candles being put out, etc.

    5. More clues to why this bison is charging around, and who the fowl is. Maybe it's a kid bison, and it's parents are in the background looking horrified? Maybe he's not used to "fine culture"? You could clue this by accessories- bow ties and jewelry for the other animals and a trucker hat for the bison? Lol.


  • SVS OG

    @TessaW Thanks for the start. The original idea was that it was a dancing bison (based on some actual pictures of bison kicking up their heels in the field), but I definitely need more cues to that and I agree that given the prompt, I definitely will need to add more chaos and things breaking.

    I had a lot of problems figuring out where to put everything when I first did this. When you say, "Have the trail of destruction go behind the bison(?), on his/her side, instead of on opposite side," so you mean move the bison the the right and flip the tables to the left? I'm not visualizing what you mean. Maybe I need to change the canvas size to get a better composition.



  • Oh, the dancing thing makes a lot of sense and I love it even more. Yeah, so the tables would be on the back leg side of the bison. It will imply more of a direction he's dancing in- coming from the back and working to the front, causing chaos in his wake. That might totally throw off the balance of the piece though. It's just a thought. Maybe you can indicate that music is being played to drive home the point that they are dancing- maybe have a few couples in the background dancing or a couple of musicians playing instruments.
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  • @demotlj I love @TessaW 's draw over. I agree about the bison. I think that even if they cannot biologically do it I would still have the bison's leg more splayed out. It would be believable and would create more of a chaotic movement in your piece. I did a draw over to show you what I mean.
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  • SVS OG

    @chrisaakins @TessaW Great ideas! And as a musician, I love any excuse to draw instruments 🙂



  • I agree with @TessaW and @chrisaakins comments, but if you think it's too digital looking I would A) try not to use brushes with very soft edges, especially air brush-like brushes and 😎 scan in some paper with a texture to it, like some cold press watercolor paper and just put it on the top layer and mess with the blending modes until you find something you like. I feel like the texture helps break up the unnatural looking smoothness of digital work.


  • SVS OG

    I’ve decided it takes longer to revise a painting than do a new one especially when life keeps getting in the way. In the interest of time, I decided to leave the characters on the right where they are but I’m going to try adding some dancers and servers on the left (that’s what the scribbles are.) I did work on the bison though.

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  • I think the changes make a big difference! It's much clearer that they are dancing. Love the adjustments you made to the bison. Possible tangent with the back foot?


  • SVS OG

    @TessaW Thanks. There are some other tangents too I have to clean up. There’s a lot of lines in this one!



  • @demotlj Looking good! I think this is a real improvement in composition. I wouldn't crop the foot though.


  • SVS OG

    @chrisaakins I agree about the crop. I uncropped it after I put this up which also gives me more room for the other dancers I’m putting in.


  • SVS OG

    Is it clear now that the bison and other animals are dancing? If so, I think I’m done with the linework unless you see any issues. There are still a few tangents but I’ll trace it again when I put it onto watercolor and fix those, and try to make the line weight better.

    Then comes the agony of choosing colors :|

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  • @demotlj looks great!



  • I have been enjoying this thread. the re-start on this piece is absolutely wonderful!!!! The characters are very endearing too.


  • SVS OG

    @Coley Thanks so much. It took me so long to do the piece the first time around that I wasn't sure I wanted to come back to it so it's encouraging to know it's working better.


  • SVS OG

    Do either of these color schemes work? The bison and prairie chicken will be warm browns and all the other animals are mostly cooler browns so I wasn’t sure whether to do stay with a analogous colors for the dance hall or go with the complimentary greens. If neither are working, let me know and I’ll go back to the drawing board.

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  • @demotlj Great job so far in your reworking. I'm having trouble judging if the cool green color scheme works better because that foreground bison is soooo dark. How is this piece matching up with the value thumbnails from your planning stage? Also having trouble because the black working lines of the background details are so stark right now in the all-brown version Maybe you'll have an easier time deciding if you temporarily tone down the line drawing a bit? I love your characters' gestures BTW.


  • SVS OG

    I made the bison that dark in the color study because I'm going to do it in traditional watercolor and I always have problems with my watercolors being too pale so I pushed the sketch so I'd remember. I'll try lightening her up as well as the lines tomorrow and reposting. Thanks for looking at it.



  • Color is so subjective, but I like the brown version between the two. I think a green background could look just as attractive, but for my personal preference, I'd like a warmer green.


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