Open Critique Friday #8

It's time once again for another Open Critique Day!

If you have a HeroMachine illustration or another piece of artwork you've done that you'd like some help with, post a link to it in comments along with your thoughts on it -- what you think is working, what you're struggling with, etc. I will post my critique of the piece, hopefully giving some tips on how to improve it.

Of course everyone is welcome to post their critiques as well, keeping in mind the following rules:

  • Make sure your criticism is constructive. Just saying "This sucks" is both rude and unhelpful without giving specific reasons why you think it sucks and, ideally, some advice on how to make it better.
  • Each person should only post one illustration for critique to make sure everyone who wants feedback has a chance.
  • I will not critique characters entered in any currently running contest, as that doesn't seem fair to the other entrants. You can still post it if you like for the other visitors to critique, but I will not do so.

That's it! Hopefully we can get some good interaction going here and help everyone (me included!) learn a little bit today.

(Image © Doug Savage, "Savage Chickens".)

30 Responses to Open Critique Friday #8

  1. Jeff Hebert says:

    Very nicely done! I like the general design of both the character and the background. The way you shaped a custom collar is cool, too, nice job there. The crescent moon and the unusual colors on the water, as if of reflected light, is neat.

    Random interlude: When I was a kid we had a Bible Stories coloring book (don’t ask), and I colored one of the Egyptian slaves hauling Moses out of the water (wouldn’t “Hauling Moses” be a good band name? Wow, a digression inside a digression!) with dark brown skin and blonde hair. My sister was incensed. I am glad to see someone else flaunting conventional colors in the same way!

    OK, we’re back. The areas that I think might make the illustration stronger are also related to color. The red outline color of the belt is, I feel, too strong or bright. It makes the belt look like it’s glowing or a power ring construct or whatnot. I’d go with a very dark red there instead of the bright color you have. For some reason it doesn’t bother me on the bustier at all, and only a little on the hand wraps, so those could probably stay. It’s just the belt that seems off.

    The other issue for me is the shading on the wings. I think that needs to be the radial gradient instead of the linear one you’ve chosen. The wings are cupped, but having a flat shading pattern makes them look odd.

    Otherwise though, nice job, you got us off to a good start!

  2. ajw says:

    this is a picture of a kel dor I did for my own jedi council
    I like the face but the background sucks what do you think?

  3. Vampyrist says:

    Here is the favorite of my characters, Alpha.

    He was an assassin created by a subversive organization. He is half demon and has the ability to summon any weapon he comes into contact with. He was raised to believe he was killing bad people, but after killing some rather innocent kids, he changed his viewpoint. Alpha ran away from his creators to be right his wrongs. He became a hero with the civilian name of Alex Patten. He uses firearms in his pursuit for justice, alongside it several types of Ammo which are useful in all types of scenarios.

    I would like to hear your opinions on him, if you feel like it.

  4. Captain Kicktar says:

    Losvir is the May Lord, may being mu eta in Greek. Lord of Anti, keeping the other antis in check. He is the Anti-Dragon.

  5. Jeff Hebert says:

    AJW (3): Well done! I agree, the face is great. The only part there that’s not clear to me are the “ear” portions on either side of the head. They seem a little puffy or balloony, whereas the rest of the head reads as hard and chitinous.

    I wouldn’t worry about the background, as the sketch is about the head. Doing too much more than a plain color or gradient or whatnot back there would take the focus away from the head, where you want the viewer’s eye to stay.

    Good job, thanks for sharing it!

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist (4): Nice job! As always, your use of color and the composition of the background elements are spot-on.

    Given the way he’s flying off to the side, though, I wonder if there’s a way to get the trench coat bottom angled off to the left? It might help the sense of movement. And I’m not crazy about the mouth placement, it seems a little low or something … the bottom of the face basically looks a bit pinched or narrow. I think just moving the mouth up 5 or 10 pixels would alleviate that.

    Anyway, I like it, well done!

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (5): Interesting! Those pants work particularly well with the gargoyle type of legs you chose, well done. All the monstrous pieces actually fit the figure well, which is hard to pull off sometimes. I dig the purple and blue over gray colors, as well.

    I think the wings tend to blend in with the body too much, though, partly because they’re the same shade of gray and partly because the pattern is the same on them. I’d probably go with the circular gradient pattern on the wings instead, which would push them back from the figure a bit to separate it out from the body (especially around the hands).

    Similarly, I think the patterning on the face makes it hard to distinguish features. I’d leave it off completely there, which would let the facial features pop.

    Finally, I think the red in the hair might be a bit too lurid to make for convincing head-cover. It looks more like an enamel on a helmet or whatnot … I’d tone that down a bit, maybe go for something in a darker tone of the red family. Right now, especially surrounded by cool darks, it just leaps off the page too much to make it a harmonious part of the overall image.

    But having said all that, I like the construction and general choices you made, keep it up!

  8. Myro says:

    My entry for the Bad Guy character contest.

    Admittedly, compared to the finalists, this one didn’t seem to pop as much. Curious as to what I might have done to bring this one up a touch more.

  9. Jeff Hebert says:

    Myro (9): First of all, you should know I consider you one of the “top tier” creators who posts here regularly. You consistently do top-notch work, and this one’s no exception. So I am going to be more nit-picky with yours than with some others, because you’ve mastered the basics and I know are ready to hear more particular criticism. So don’t think I don’t like this one, because I do!

    But I think you nailed the basic problem that needs to be addressed — it didn’t “pop” as much as some of the others (including others you’ve done). I think the main areas to address that would be in the background.

    The big one is the carpet. The very dark shoes against a carpet with black chunks in it is that it becomes hard to separate the feet from the rug. They’re positioned right on top of two black outlines, making the “meshing” even more prominent. Visually speaking, he’s nailed to the floor. I’d lighten up the shoes, or change the black in the carpet to some other complementary dark color that’s not terribly close to that of the shoes.

    The other problem area for me is that he looks like he’s been stood up against a wall to be shot. That makes for a very static composition, especially with the big globe logo behind him. You get the plane of the wall, the plane of the sign, then he’s standing in another parallel plane. It’s like slab-slab-slab, and again that sort of traps the eye. The metallic door almost looks like he’s in a warehouse, but then why would a warehouse have that nice carpet?

    I’d probably either do a totally different background treatment (maybe one of the “room” ones, like the command center with the desks) to add more depth behind him, or keep the current one and try to pose him as if he’s taking a step forward.

    The last nit I want to pick is the mouth. I get a bit of cognitive dissonance because he’s standing in this rigid pose with a rigid setting, and yet he’s screaming. It’s like this one area of his body has life, and it’s HUGE life, while everything around him is stuck.

    See what I mean — it sounds awfuller than it is! It’s still a very good illustration, but since I put you on a high level, the work merits serious criticism. Hope that helps and isn’t too off-putting …

  10. Captain Kicktar says:

    I’m happy to say that I agree on all the critiques you gave me, I’ve been thinking of going back to him since I found a better pattern that is what I used in my 2.5 antis. I’ll probably end up posting the other antis every week so I can fix them all up.

  11. pdubbs says:

    this too is the character I entered into the bad guy contest. It didn’t get a nod and I don’t care about that I was just hoping to get some reaction. By no means am I looking for a justification I just want feedback because I was trying a lot of different things with this and I have my own issues with it and I want to see if we share the same ones.

  12. Rosco says:

    In my brief time on these fora, I’ve never seen anyone take you up on the “other piece of artwork” part of “HeroMachine illustration or another piece of artwork you’ve done,” altho I guess I mustn’t be the first. Anyway, I suspect I’m not alone in have made my own Heromachine in photoshop layers full of stuff I’ve made myself. I get around my lack of drawing skills by doing everything in pixels, so if it looks wrong, I just have to move a dot one space, and if it still doesn’t look right, etc…

    So this is one of the outfits I made that is a favorite. I actually didn’t use to like this shirt, wondering how it could possibly stay up, but my roommate got a catalog th’other day with pretty much the same shirt, so I feel better about the whole thing.

  13. Myro says:

    Thanks Jeff. As always, much appreciated. And I’ve gotten used to you harshing on my designs during OCD, because the more in-depth criticism is what I need to hear to improve. Although the praise you give in that first paragraph is very encouraging.
    This one, well, let’s call it what it is. I got lazy due to time constraints, but a lot of those details you pointed out I could have improved were not things that I really noticed until you mentioned them. I’ll try to keep my eye out on that in the future. Maybe if I hold my entry back one additional day after I finish it, so I can take a final look at it with hopefully a fresh perspective, I might notice those things too.

  14. Rosco says:

    (guess I don’t look very carefully, since others submitted their own artwork in this very post, altho to be fair, when I opened this window, there were none, I just got distracted before I hit “post”)

  15. Tuldabar says:

    You have no idea how many times I had to save-reload to get the chin masking to stick. But here it is. any comment?

    I call it: Reverse Shien.

  16. Jadebrain says:

    Here’s Ga’eid, a character in the game I sometimes mention.

    I don’t particularly like the way his eyes came out, though.

    Despite being a thief, Ga’eid is actually one of the heroes of the plot, and also a veteran of a revolution. He lost his hand during his adolescent years, and had it replaced with a blade magically enchanted to not shine in direct light (so as to be stealthy). During the revolution, he served the rebel forces as a spy and guerrilla-type soldier.

    After the war was won by the rebels, he led a life of peace until a corrupt official, who was capable of manipulating memories and used his abilities so that no one knew that he was corrupt, captured Ga’eid and forced him into a slum, then spread rumors that Ga’eid was dead. Now, he is the leader of a guild of thieves trying to get revenge and expose the official as being corrupt, so that the king, who is dedicated to fair government, will remove the corrupt official. Even in his relatively old age, Ga’eid is still a capable thief and combatant.

  17. Rosco says:

    Jadebrain: Nice character. Is his apostrophe just there for a dash of exoticism, or does it have some meaning (like in Hawai’ian or Arabic) in the language of your game?

  18. kruger says:

    I’ve tried to make some characters for the contests, but or the program crash(dunno why) and i lose inspiration(and patience), or i dont get an idea.

    But, some i’ve made some random characters, and this one is one of my favorites:

    My idea was to make she a ‘saint’ or some kind of divine chosen. But i didnt like much the wind onto her feet, trying to give her some movement.

    Other thing i didnt like is the star-shaped effect onto her back. i realy like it was bigger, but dont remember one that was big enough.

  19. Jeff Hebert says:

    pdubbs (12): I’m running behind, so I’m going to try and do quick hits on these.

    I like it overall, particularly the flags, burning buildings, the chain collar on the guy, and the female character in general.

    I think the areas that could use some work are the male character’s forearms (look a little elongated); the flames’ line color (black just makes them look less like fire); and the globe in her hand, because I’m not quite sure what it’s supposed to be (snow globe, energy effect, literal planet, or what).

    Good job overall though, it’s a nice scene! Well, not NICE, but you know.

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rosco (13): Nifty! I like it when people put up their own artwork, and you’ve got a nice one here.

    The top definitely makes sense, I’ve seen a lot like that both in the modern world and in reenactments of medieval times. It’s a cool look. The belt corset is great, too.

    The illustration overall has a very stylized, distinctive feel, I could totally see it in a video game character creation screen or whatnot. I like her face particularly, the shading is excellent and she has a real personality about her.

    Thanks so much for sharing it and keep drawing!

  21. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tuldabar (16): First of all, congratulations on taking on a very difficult task. HM definitely isn’t built to do either a profile nor a back view, and you have tried to do both. Kudos for bravery!

    The black cape was a good gimmick to get around having to deal with the trickiest torso and waist bits, very clever. And the angled walls leading up to the perspective door also work, that part is quite convincing.

    The feet and legs, unfortunately, sort of bring the effect to a bit of a halt. They just don’t look right, which isn’t your fault — like I said, the program is simply not built to do that. The horizontal leg in particular looks atrophied, and the opposite foot too squashed.

    The face in profile also seems a bit off, particularly in the ear (should be a bit further back) and the eye (should be a bit further to the right).

    Finally, the stairs could be more convincing. Maybe if you were to use one of the plainer floors that’s in similar perspective to the wall as the flat part of the risers, that would help. The gradient was a good idea that just falls short somewhat.

    But it’s pretty darn close, I am surprised you were able to get the effect you did, nice job!

  22. Jeff Hebert says:

    Jadebrain (17): Wow, some really great stuff on this one. I’ve always hoped people would get more use out of that cup-hand as an attachment for other objects to make neat looking one-armed pirate type guys, and this is a good one. Those boots on those legs are spectacular too, love love love those. The moon with the colors you chose works perfectly too, that’s one of the nicest treatments of that object I’ve seen.

    The only potential areas for improvement might be first, the leggings — I think a darker color other than red might serve better there to separate the loincloth from the cape. Maybe black?

    Second, I have never been a fan of those clouds since I drew them. Not your fault, it’s a crappy drawing. But I’ve added some clouds in the meantime that I think would look better. That one’s on me.

    Good job, he’s neat looking character!

  23. Jeff Hebert says:

    kruger (19): I like it! I think it’s a nifty idea and you did a good job with it. The outline-only glowing wings work great, and I like the idea of her singing. That’s very angelic.

    I think you’re right about the blowing effect and the star, they’re both not as effective as they could be. I’d frankly just lose the star, I don’t think there’s a good way to get it to show up that’s not going to conflict with the wings and whatever else is going on back there.

    I think the wind effect and her riding on it is a good idea, though. Some similar things were attempted in various contest, particularly Character Contest 46: Holy Moley” and Character Contest 47: Weather. Take a look through those Finalists, I think there are some great techniques there that might help you get the effect you want.

  24. Jeff Hebert says:

    OK, with that I’m going to draw my participation in this Open Critique Day to a close. Thanks to everyone who submitted artwork, I very much enjoyed seeing them!

  25. pdubbs says:

    thanks Jeff

  26. Malfar says:

    I missed all the fun again.

  27. Jadebrain says:

    Rosco: It’s a linguistic thing, but it’s also there to separate the syllables as a pronunciation guide (Ga’eid is pronounced “Gah-AYD”)

  28. Tuldabar says:

    I appreciate the help, Jeff. I can’t believe it came out as good as it did, and I can see what you mean by the things I need to fix. Thanks again, and I’ll see you around (or you’ll see me and my work :-p)

  29. Connor S. says:

    Well, hopefully I can finish a pencil-art drawing before the next one, and upload it onto my ImageShack, because I would really like some critiques from an actual artist, not just from my friends who can’t even make a decent stick figure.