I feel a little bit silly doing another critique so soon after my last one; I’d like a little time between these critiques to show studies/general practice. This time, though, the main thing I felt like I was practicing was just learning to finish a WIP file without nitpicking every detail and dragging it on for weeks. This one had started before Inktober (!) and languished far to long in my work-in-progress folder untouched, so it was high time to finish it.
What I enjoyed:
Having an illustration with a background and actually finishing it. I’m happy with how the feeling of depth/atmosphere worked out, especially with the clouds. In the past I’ve struggled with digital illustrations that have a background; I want to push myself to practice scenery/environments.
Creating a fancy costume! I just love making up details and choosing bright colors. I actually dialed back on some of the detailing because I realized too much was taking away from the composition (where does the eye go first when everything starts feeling extremely detailed?)
What I’d like to work on:
Saving time by making decisions early on. OMG, so much wasted time on this one, redoing so many things – the costume, the hair, the background! I really learned the importance of not wasting brush strokes…the hard way. I painted over soooo many brush strokes. So. many. If I’d had a better plan (thumbnails/composition), had better lay-ins of paint (based on the planes of the forms), and had color palettes, I’m predicting this would have taken much less time than it did.
Save the details for last and work on the painting as a whole. No, really. Patience makes the painting process so much easier. It is worth it to be patient. Mostly just to avoid rework, like mentioned above, but also because laying in the masses/shadow shapes will make the piece more realistic and impactful.
There is something so disheartening about completely painting over a section you thought was “finished”, only to realize you were off on proportions/shading/whatever.
I thought I was keeping a balance between working holistically and wanting to work ‘faster’ by getting some details “finished” early on: for example, blocking in the dress/skirt overall all, feeling like the overall shadows/light were right, and then detailing. But later, when I added in the long sleeves, I realized my skirt folds were off. And then I realized I wanted the colors to be different. Different parts of the composition can set off changes you wouldn’t expect. I think that’s a good thing: paintings are like tangled, living creatures that like freedom to adapt as they grow. Building up the pieces together allows you to be flexible in changes without as much rework.
I tried “finishing” the details on the face and hair like three times. The more I ended up starting over on parts of the painting, the more enjoyment got taken out of the process and it started to feel less energetic. I’m sure that lack of energy has an effect on the final piece and how a viewer reacts to the illustration, even if subconsciously. And I do feel this painting became a little too stiff/tightly detailed. I am happy overall with the painting (fancy costuming! Glow-y fireflies! Pastel clouds! Yay!), but it’s something I would pay more attention to next time.
Not to mention, when working on a figure and scenery, the whole visual effect is what matters. Nothing exists in isolation, if you’re going for realism. Light reflects, colors reflect, shapes cast shadows, etc. Working on the whole and building all it’s parts up together rather than piece by piece allows you to create a better illusion of reality.
Studying longer hanging cloth folds. The skirt just felt confusing to try and render. I had a couple of references but they were only loosely similar in cloth style/cut, so I didn’t really study them as carefully as I could. I also think working on top of an older work-in-progress file really made figuring out the skirt shape more difficult than it needed to be.
Other possible things to explore:
Speed paintings of landscapes. I am so ready to do some speed painting landscapes or simpler paintings for a while to build up my ability to save time and keep myself from getting too detailed early on.
A more detailed piece like this has me wishing I could practice dozens of different subjects and techniques in the next month, but I am trying to learn how to focus my energy and time. It’s far too easy to get scattered with my attention.
The challenge of working a full-time job while squeezing in painting (and illustration/sketching in general) on nights and weekends (while balancing all of life’s other little habits like going to the gym or dance class or housekeeping) is daunting. To make the most of the time I have to practice art, staying focused is an invaluable tool.
Next up on the docket is focusing on the practice topics I identified in my last digital painting self-critique before moving onto the items listed above.