Friday, December 11, 2009

Ninja Mountain 44 - Critique THIS!

We've talked about the power of critique, we've extolled the virtues of giving and getting good crits, and now we step into the crucible ourselves! Each Ninja offers up one piece to be examined and discussed by the panel, and nothing is spared. Patrick, Socar, Jeremy and 2nd-time guest Drew Baker share pictures and opinioins and maybe, just maybe, learn a little bit about love in this very special episode. Oh, and we laugh about yaoi. (A lot).

So come on in! Listen to our idea of good critiques, in this weeks awe-inspiring NINJA ART THUNDERDOME!

Subscribe on iTunes, or we'll be forced into drastic action. And nobody wants that.

The Pictures!

Socar Myles - Mr. Mole in the Wild Woods

Socar Myles - Mr. Mole detail

Jeremy McHugh - Dragonslayer

Drew Baker - Bullywug Attack original

After the critique session, Drew went back and made some changes to the initial piece. Here's his update - see what you think!

Drew Baker - Bullywug Attack after updates

Patrick McEvoy - Blasphemer

We invite you to post your own comments, as well as your own pieces for critique, in the message section below. Let's have some fun!



Jan said...

- aaaah, you're all saying "yaoi"! Damn, your Japanese pronunciation is bad! ;) I was wondering why you wouldn't want to talk about "Yahwe".

- it's interesting what you guys said about body language and animal expressions. I can't help it, I see a very happy mole grinning and dancing, waving his arms around. :D (Jeremy has a point with the tree offering the mole some candy)

- I actually like how saturated colors are in Jeremy's piece. The lighting is great, nice contrast. But Socar also mentioned two of my three favourite things about it - the dragon skin texture and the dude's anatomy. The third are the dragon's nostrils for some reason. :D
What I see with the rocks is the fact they're segmented into pieces of a similar size as the dragon's scales and other stuff in the painting. Maybe a longer vertical structure would make it look more like a unique surface.

- uhm, not much to say about Drew's toads. I've seen it on ArtOrder I think, liked it a lot. The changes helped. ;)

- fire effect awesome. Agreed with Socar on the armor shape. Looks quite shrimpy.
It's a very nicely balanced picture and I admire your rendering skills.
(good point with the specular, Jeremy! BTW, specular is just light reflected of a smooth surface like metal, glass and stuff. For the various kinds of light, it's useful to learn a bit of 3D rendering I think. One lecture of Computer Graphics made me realize how light worked and that I had been painting it wrong before.)

@Socar, do you know Victor Ambrus?
I know Jon is a fan of his and you being originally from the UK might know him too, he's done some excellent pen drawings. (I've only seen a few - mostly Tolkien themed, he also does historical stuff for books and an archeological show. It's stupidly impossible to find almost ANY drawings of his on the internet. :()
He's using these seemingly random hairy strokes, but manages to pull off all kinds of textures.

Ech, I apologize for the long comment! Great idea for an episode, more critique episodes would be good!

(I might even put up something of mine for critique later if I manage to find what's left of my courage)

ATOM said...

Great idea for the podcast, I really digged this episode.I'm to nice to critique anyone's Art, I always just say,thats really nice or I like something particular in a piece.If I see a piece I dislike, I will not comment on it.

Here is a recent piece I created in Artrage,in fact the first piece I have created using that software.I went a bit "poor man's Frazetta" on the background.The characters were rendered in photoshop and blended in Artrage,
consequently they do not gel with the painterly background.

Mister Adam said...

Awesome! Here's a painting I've been doing that needs some constructive input.

Looking forward to the episode, and thanks a bunch if you get time to help me out!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I haven't had time to listen yet, I am a bit backed up on the episodes, but I would love to get a critique on my latest painting.

Old One

Drew Baker said...

Atom: The hot colors in the snow are really unusual for that setting, and because you did your characters and setting separately the lighting between the two is very inconsistent.

I think you would learn a lot from doing more development in gray scale. Working out your space, form, and mood in lights and darks really helps simplify the decisions you have to make in color.

Take a look at my drawing and value rough for my Bullywug piece:

Compare them to the color final and you'll see I didn't change much as the piece developed. I stayed pretty faithful to that foundation.

In lieu of a warm up I did a quick paint over of your piece, focusing on the cold environment and the lighting:

The layered psd is at if you're curious.

Allen Douglas said...

I really dug this episode... I felt like I was back in my student seat again... which is a seat we never really should get out of.

It also makes you realize that by having multiple people scrutinize a piece of art, everyone's input is very different from the next person's and makes you see things you might not have otherwise have noticed.

I would agree that future episodes like this one would be great.

Unknown said...

Great show. I'd love to hear an episode where the ninja's offer critique on listeners artwork. Perhaps you could get your fans to submit links to what they'd like to be critiqued on. Don't know if anyone else has suggested this idea but I think it would be cool. If you do decide to go with it here is a piece I did back in May called 'Terrible Lizards and Little Green Men'.

Here's my website.

Ninja Mountain said...

Atom - I'd say that picture looks like it's ready to start on, rather than finished. Or in other words, what you have here could be completely painted over and used as an underpainting. Which is kinda what Drew did there.

I like the bold "Frazetta" style colors, but now you might want to bring them down a notch. Frazetta's wild splashes of color stand out a lot, but they are usually very small and just SEEM like there's a lot of it. Because he was working in oil, he'd often either blend them mostly into the wet color underneath, or scumble other color over them to gray them out a bit.

I'd like to see you take a shot at using this as an underpainting as Drew did and see what you can do. Be free and bold with it!


Ninja Mountain said...

Mr Atom - Great colors! And there's a good feeling of devastation here that's heightened by the limited palette. Nice details abound as well.

One nitpick with the rendering - while the "hand drawn" look is important here, I'd work a bit more at straightening up the lines in the city, esp. that double tower thing. Make sure it looks man-made and not as organic as the surroundings.

My main problem is the foreground figures. They seem to compete equally with the city, and aren't large enough to really seem like the focus. I think it might have been stronger with the characters closer to the camera, or spaced out so one is very close and the others are farther away.


Anonymous said...

Are we supposed to be critiquing in the comments, or do people want us to look at their pieces on a future show?

I think there's some confusion occurring.

Also, my thoughts on yaoi:

Ninja Mountain said...

We can do whatever, I guess. ;) I was hoping people could all chime in and have a free-for-all critiquing thread!

BTW, thanks for jumping in, Drew!


ATOM said...

Wow!Thanks guys I never expected such a definative critique of my piece.Much appreciated, I have taken all the artistic sagely advice on board.Thanks too Drew for all that effort on my behalf, much appreciated.I recently bought Jon Hodgsons fab artbook and it is really helping me with underpainting theory and colour balance.I will start underpainting, greyscaling and colour balancing forthwith.

Ninja Mountain said...

Elin - that's a fun picture. I really like the background. :)

There seems to be too much of a difference between the background and the figure - he's just rendered so differently! Also a lot of hard edges surround him. In your next picture, I'd try getting rid of all the details to begin with, and maybe try building up detail and sharpness only in the areas that are the focus of interest. This might bring the whole picture together more.

Also, a little thing - you have a fairly well-defined shadow under his head, being cast on his neck. But the horns are not casting a similar shadow! Little details like that add a lot to your picture and can help make it special.

Thanks for posting!


Ninja Mountain said...

That's really a great idea, Mick. I wonder how many listeners we could get in on that? Might be fun. :)


Razwit (Preston Stone) said...

Hey ninja mountain ninjas!

first, I just wanted to request critique from the ninja community on this piece:
(it's a watercolor painting)
I actually enjoy hearing what's bad about my art so don't be afraid to hurt my feelings or anything.

and also I just wanted to chime in on Patrick's illustration from the show. Firstly, AMAZINGLY rendered. Each individual thing looks incredible.
Secondly, there were several things about the demon just looked unbalanced to me or didn't make sense with the rest of his body.
I think if you were to move HIS left leg more to the outside of the picture he'd look less off kilter. Also, I think it would look better for both his balance and the composition if more of his upper arm was showing. At the moment it sort of appears as though his forearm is connected directly to his shoulder.
Lastly his head and torso (the way the armor looks) appear as thought the viewer is looking pretty much straight up at him, as though he's pinned you with his foot. But the rest of the painting puts the viewer in front of him.

Unknown said...

Thanks Patrik! I will look into bringing the whole thing together in my next picture. I feel like I have failed in one aspect though, it is supposed to be a girl, not a boy.

Unknown said...

Glad you like the idea Patrick. Now I'm really excited about hearing it.

ATOM said...

Thanks guys, I have learned quite a bit this week, here is my latest piece created using Jon Hodgsons painting tutorial in his new Art Book.

Razwit (Preston Stone) said...

ATOM, I just wanted to throw some things out there to try and help with your work, because I've struggled and am still struggling with some of the same things.
You and I both have the same problem with our backgrounds and surroundings where they look blurry and just under worked because, well I don't know about you, but I tend to focus so much on the subject of the painting, that I either forget, or don't care enough about the rest of the work. With your future pieces, try this: Paint the background first until it's finished and looks interesting by itself before you move on to the subject. This works on 2 levels, the first of which I've already mentioned above, and the second is that when you go to paint your character you'll have a better idea of what the lighting may be like and you'll be able to make the character more believable (like he fits in the scene).
Speaking of lighting, That's a major aspect I noticed that was more or less missing from both of your paintings (and by that I mean, it just seems as though there wasn't a concrete plan in place for the lighting before you began). Fortunately, it's about the easiest thing to fix. Simply consider "where is my light source?" and "will that light source be dramatic enough?" and "can I do anything to the lighting to make it more dramatic?" and color accordingly.
So, let's take the barbarian picture for example. where is the light source? roughly above the barbarian. will it be dramatic enough? well it could be if his surroundings are dim enough, that would make for a very hard light (I'm sure you're familiar with frank frazzetta's Conan picture where he's standing atop all the dead bodies. That's the sort of lighting that could be dramatic enough for where your light source is). What could you do to the lighting to make it more dramatic?
-reposition it: maybe it's night time instead and there's a campfire below him to the right.
-change the color: If you decided, yes campfire!!! the lighting would probably be more orange.
-Add additional lights: Night time you say? Moons exist at night! yay for moons! the moon could not only give a second very dramatic light (perhaps it's really big and over his shoulder creating lost edges), but could also make your negative space more interesting.

Okay, enough with the lights, my post is too long as is.

Just one last thing, it's something I think at one point or another everyone struggles with. hands.
the solution is to either A) spend years developing the perfect way to draw a hand from memory or B) get a camera, get a hand, win! there's only so many ways you'll want to draw a hand. you can take pictures of your own hand from different angles in the most common poses you'll use, print those pictures, put them in a reference folder for yourself for easy access. This is good to to with more than hands, but hands are hands are THE bitch.

so in summation...Photo reference.

Have a wonderful time painting!!! I look forward to see how your work will improve in the future.

Changewinds said...

You guys do put on an amusing show, LOL at a lot of it, but I did find the banter on critique very useful.

I'd be up for a critique for this piece here. Still working on it, which is why a critique would be most appreciated.

ATOM said...

Thanks Preston, I whole heartily agree with your artistic observations.The lighting was a bit ambient & plain in my Barbarian piece,but in defence I was coping a tutorial that did just that for the first most basic tutorial,the background is basically non exsistant to emphasise the character.
My next one will be more involved (I promise):)

Mister Adam said...

Patrick- Thank you very much for taking the time to post a critique!

Jeff Lee Johnson said...

Ahh, nice group of folks with sharp eyes. I love the idea of several voices analyzing a single piece at a time. Very instructive. More!

Unknown said...

Thanks for hopping in with the crits, Preston! Very good stuff.

JEFF!! I didn't know you were listening. Great to have you on board, pal.

Unknown said...

Mr. Adam - you're quite welcome. :)

Unknown said...


That's a very good drawing of a bird! Well done with the head, feathers and everything.

The most important thing to watch for in digital rendering is not getting the edges too hard. It has a tendency to make things look "pasted" on the background. You might want to try using the smudge tool (with an irregular brush if possible) to lightly feather out the edges, especially on the left side (back of the wings). this will both embed it in the background and give it a more pleasant feathery look.

One other thing is that is particular yellow is looking a bit too green. Also, there's not enough variation of color within it. I'd try two things: first, go into Image>Adjustments>Selective Color. (If you haven't used it before, play around a bit - it's incredible!) There, you'll be able to warm up the yellow without affecting the other colors.

Then, I'd be tempted to add some color variations here and there. Like perhaps more purple in the darks, or some random-ish areas of reds/oranges and even blues for contrast. Try creating a layer set to "color" above the bird layer, and experiment. I love doing that to see what ideas it generates.

Anyway, looking nice! I hope this helps a bit as you finish up.

Jeff Lee Johnson said...

Otay, I see I can solicit some advice from my insightful peers. Anyone with a moment have any idea what I might have considered with the colors(or anything else, for that matter) in the linked piece that may have improved it? I am stumped but left with a sense that I left something unconsidered.

Patrick, how goes the battle? How did the Marvel thing do for you?

Razwit (Preston Stone) said...

Mr. Johnson...that is some amazing work. I think the colors are spectacular (at least, I can't think of anything that would improve them).
The only things I thought could stand a change were the lines that seemed to lead my eye off the left of the page. The building tops with the dragons tail seem to create a big arrow pointing left. I think if you just curved the end of the dragon's tail down and back, so it disappears behind the wall it'd create a path to move the viewers eye around a little more.

Razwit (Preston Stone) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Changewinds said...

Thanks Patrick! Those are very helpful to my further workings of the piece. They touched on known issues that I have with the piece, that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Meli Hitchcock said...

Hey there fellow Ninja's!

I saw Patrick's twitter post this afternoon about submitting art for the next podcast (the 30th I think is what you all said) and I just wanted to post up my last major piece I worked on in hopes to get some feedback on it. I wasn't sure if you all wanted us to post in the blog or send it via email... so I hope that it's seen in the blog!

Anyway, I can see a ton of things that could use polishing or changing in the artwork, but I'm just curious what else your ninja eyes might spy that could use some further improvement.

Feel free to rip it apart. Cuz I need it. :)

Madeline Carol Matz said...

Would love some input on this piece. It is my assignment from IMC 2009. I didn't get it done in class so critiques would be great. It's meant to be a bookcover for a steampunk version of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz".

Jan said...

@Meli Hitchcock : that was an entry in the Good vs. Evil contest, wasn't it?! :) One of my absolute favourites.

Cacodaemonia said...

Really awesome show, guys! I enjoyed it a ton, and thought it was especially educational and engaging. You should do more of these. :)

Sorry I haven't been commenting too much lately. Computer problems and such. ;^;

You guys rock!!!!

Jason Juta said...

Hi Ninjas, thanks for all your hard work as usual! I've got an older piece I'd like some opinions on. It was a portfolio piece; It does have problems, but at the same time it was a milestone for me and so I have difficulty being objective about it. Thank you! The piece is:

Razwit (Preston Stone) said...

Jason Juta, awesome work! I think, first of all, the piece works and doesn't really need to be fixed. That said, there were a couple of things, that I'm not sure would help at all. I thought the humans back arm looked a little stiff and that you really wouldn't hold a staff like that. Then I realized he was swinging the staff and that then seemed right, except it doesn't appear as though his arms are moving. I think some kind of a motion blur could help in that area.
Also, the shape of the negative space is really interesting, but the viewer doesn't get a lot out of looking at it multiple times. I think some kind of structure in the back ground (natural, supernatural, or man-made) would benefit the piece.
And again, the work is so good, I'm not positive any of that will really be worth the effort, but ya know...there it is. :]
hope I could help.

Jason Juta said...

Thanks Preston...I definitely think the lack of movement is the main problem, you're right. If you look long enough, the picture is perfectly understandabale I think, but ideally an illustration should be understood at a glance. Perhaps there should be more of a feeling of the staff impacting the lich as well. Lesson learned...

littlepinkpebble said...

i bought socar miles t shirt.. i wish she had more t shirt designs :D

Unknown said...

OK, I think we've got a good amount of pictures to critique now. Melissa and Jeff, we've got you set up - Jason and Madeline did you want your pieces on the show, or would you rather just keep critiques here on the boards?

Looks like we've got about 9 pictures so far. Should be a fun episode!!

Unknown said...

Madeline - my quick crit on yours is that I REALLY like a lot of the detail, and the overall layout is very successful. As someone who appreciates strong colors, I'm drawn to the good use of a primary triad as well, which fits the subject.

I'm concerned about the overall attention to dimensionality and detail, though. The dog, the shoes, and a few other items are VERY dimensional and "realistic" (within the style you're using) while some things like the yellow-brick road are flatter. Also the sky seems to get darker around the background characters, which gives a flat, almost "stage setting" look.

I think in future, the strongest thing would be to go one way or the other - lots of "pop" and dimension, or a flat look that concentrates on layout and texture, but not both.

Hope this helps!

Jason Juta said...

Hi Patrick would certainly love a show critique if you have time. Cheers, happy christmas.