Friday, January 01, 2010

Ninja Mountain 46 - Critique That!

This week several unusually foolhardy Ninja Mountain listeners have volunteered to be critiqued by out squad of Ninja Critique Commandos: Socar, Drew, Patrick and (of course) Jeremy!

This week's victims are: Mick Collins, Jeff Johnson, Melissa Hitchcock, Chris Burdett and Nick Egberts. We didn't want to rush it too much, so we split this into two episodes, with Angela Sasser, Chris Griffin, Seth Rutledge and Simon Anderson-Carr getting their turns next week.

And, if you hurry you can get in on next week's fun too - just leave your name and a link to the piece you want critiqued in the comments to this week's episode, and we'll add you to next week's list -- BUT ONLY THE FIRST TWO RESPONDENTS. So first come, first severed.. er, served.

Subscribe on iTunes, for free. Or we'll be forced to come to your house and critique you in front of your family. 'Cause we straight up COLD like that.

The Pictures!

Mick Collins

Jeff Lee Johnson

Melissa Hitchcock

Christopher Burdett

Nick Egberts

As we were doing the episode, the ever-busy Drew was doing some paintovers to help illustrate his thoughts, plus some extra ideas he had for Chris's piece. Here they are, presented for your edification:



See you all next time for more critiques!


Elin said...


I would want you to critique this work in progress:

I know there are some problems with it but I would love to hear your take on it. As I said it is a WIP, so it is by no means finished.

/Elin Josefsson

Anonymous said...

I'd like you to critique this:

It's something I did a while ago for a contest, and I'm rather happy with it (for my personal level of art-awesomeness, that is). However, I'm aware there may be quite a few things that I didn't think of or didn't pay enough attention to, so a fresh eye would be very welcome :).

ATOM said...

Awww! I'm too late *sniffle*

Its because I was out helping all those needy old folks! Life is an unfair and cruel mistress!

My latest Hodgy Tut!

Jan said...

That thingie on the top of the sword is indeed a pommel! Socar gets a cookie!
A hilt is everything except the blade (crosspiece + grip + pommel)

Anatomy of a sword

Conga Rats to Drew!
Overall a very good episode, these critique episodes were a great idea.

Drew Baker said...

My notes for Chris and the layered .psd files from my paint overs are in a zip file at if anyone wants them. It's about 18MB.

Ninja Mountain said...

Ah yes - I forgot to put up the notes file. Well, now we have a link - sorry! :)


Ninja Mountain said...

Looks like Elin and sirthduriel are next!

Drew Baker said...

No problem, Patrick.

I've put the notes file up separately at

Char Reed said...

Looks like there are a few people in front of me, but I'd love for you to critique my piece called:

Not Again...!

It's a personal piece I meant to look like a character portrait or spot art piece. She's an elf whose just been through a battle and it sounds like there's more battling to be done, making her groan, "Not again...!"

You can find more of my work on my website:

Thanks guys for the podcast! This episode was awesome- think you could do the critique session once a month? I think a lot can be learned based on the critique of others. Feel free to bash away on mine! ;)


ATOM said...

Great podcast, thanks again!

Meli Hitchcock said...

Hey Ninjas!

I just wanted to drop the crew a message thanking you for the critique AND that wonderful paintover! I definitely agree with the points made to the image and plan to watch in my future artwork for similar errors that might crop up. That way I nip the old habits in the bud. :) If I get time, I'll probably revisit "Vamp Hunters" for one more edit, but for now I've got way to many art projects I'm working on.

And to that cad and churl Drew, I had a good laugh. You have no idea how many people call me "he" or get my name completely wrong. I'm fairly used to it. ;)

Drew Baker said...

Thanks, Melissa. I'm glad I'm no more offensive than the rest of the internet.

Jan said...

Drew, don't worry. You'll never be as offensive as 4-chan. ;)

preston said...

Well...Sokar asked for it. Bad art that is. I wouldn't want to waste any of my ninja friends time by having you all critique a piece of art I did in high school that was trash...I was tempted, but opted not to in the end. Instead, I've picked one of my portfolio pieces that I believe to have the most glaring problems. It's actually my most recent piece of fantasy work, but the fact that it's also my first full painting done completely in photoshop really shows.

Here's the link:

This is definitely one I'm going to go back to after a little photoshop practice, so on top of critiques, If you guys could think of any PS techniques you think would work well to improve this piece, I'd love to hear it!

preston said...

OH, almost forgot, I have a suggestion for the show!
I really enjoy critiques, but I find they get a bit tiresome to listen to for an entire episode. I could be the only one who feels this way, which is fine, I'm not going to stop listening to the show or anything if you continue to do critique episodes. But I think it would be awesome if you did a critique of the week or something. just one critique a show chosen from either your listeners, yourselves, or a guest ninja.
This way, you can continue to talk about all the other interesting things you generally do, AND people can get their work critiqued by their ninja senseis as well.

okay that's all I gotta say----- NINJA VANISH!

mindfields said...

Oh hell no... Seems like I'm terribly late for the critique.

Are you guys doing this critique thing later again?

Take care guys.

Here's the link in case you decide to make a list or something. This was done for warhammer 40.

Nick Egberts said...

Thanx ninjas! helped me out a lot. Especially what Patrick said about my style, really made me think. (a good thing I suppose..) . Ill be back here tomorrow to critique some of the other stuff here, pay it forwards and all that jazz.

Ninjamountain, the most ninja of all mountains!

Jeff Lee Johnson said...

Well, I suspect the best compliment concerning a good critique is to make some recommended adjustments! I think I have tweeked something from everyone's list. I fixed some nagging problems with perspective and invested a little time improving the foreground battlements, so that reads better. Worked some greys into the pic in areas. learned about auto levels and acted on my new knowledge appropriately. Liked Drew's added flames and addition of some warmer hues (now get a haircut kid). All that and more, so thanks all!

Drew Baker said...

Looks good, Jeff. I'd also smooth out the bottom of the flame. Still leave it turbulent, but I don't think flame would feather downward like that. Being hot the bits that break off would rise back up into the stream. On the top of the flame it makes sense for them to feather away, not as much on the bottom.

preston said...

I figured I'd critique ATOM's and Char Reed's pics, because all of us ninjas who aren't getting to be on the show gots ta stick together! well that and critiques are just about the most helpful thing ever and there's not a lot of people who seem to want to give them. unfortunately I have to split the critiques up because they're too long. so they'll be in my next two comments.

preston said...

anyway I'm going to start off with ATOM's piece.
* I suppose I should start off with what I like about this piece because even though it's a critique , you can learn what not to change as well as what you should probably change. I really like how whimsical it is. There's a lot of things that as a concept don't really make sense in a good way. The characters and mushrooms seem like they're just having fun...or possibly doing other things involving the mushrooms... but that's your secret to keep as the artist. I think it's fun to listen to people debate two totally unintended meanings to a piece of art when there may or may not be a meaning at all. Anyway...yeah so whimsy = good!
* To me, the picture seems a little flat. I think primarily this is cause by your choice of colors in shading and highlighting. feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like when you shaded you used the same color, just darker (more black added), and when you highlighted, you added more white. This basically takes a lot of the dimension and life out of the piece, and you'll want to instead pick a different color to darken or lighten the objects in your picture (typically a dark and muted version of the color's compliment. so for the hair, you'd use purple to shade, for the mushroom tops you'd use blue, etc.. I've also seen the same color used to shade everything throughout a painting, for example, different shades of purple everywhere). The highlights should generally be more toward the color of the light hitting the object...which brings me to my next point
* Let there be light! I'm not entirely sure what you were going for on the light source. Basically the critique here is to just put more thought into it. I'll tell you what the issues are with the current light source and let you make an educated decision about what you'll do with it, because there's no one right way to do lighting. So here we go. the sky looks really overcast, which could be fine, but in real life when this get a not very dramatic, very gray and boring sort of lighting, so you'll need to basically make it more extreme and more colorful (lean toward a blueish gray for example). If you didn't want it to be overcast, and instead wanted it to be sort of a sunrise/sunset lighting, you should cut out a lot of the gray going on in the sky and once again make the contrast more extreme. Also, if the sun is coming from behind everything, there's no real reason to have that big highlight on the front side of the mushrooms (unless of course you paint in a reason). Basically study real objects in similarly lighted situation.
*One last little critique. The faerie's face seems a little lopsided...she looks high though, which may or may not have been your intension. It's all in what you intended on that one.

I'd love to see the work if you make those changes, maybe we can start to see new things and make other improvements on the piece in the future!

preston said...

Ok Char Reed your turn!
*Really well rendered character!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*Where's the rest of the illustration? I almost hate myself for saying this because I'm probably the absolute worst in doing the exact same thing of any artist ever, but you need to put some sort of background in there and not just textured color. at minimum a horizon line of some sort, however, you can do sooooo much better than that. Why's her sword bloody? did she just kill a dude? Awesome! I wanna see!!! please show me.
And, to clarify, this is not about having a fully realized piece of art. I can very easily see someone hiring you for some kind of a character design thing and this is the final image that's going in their rpg book. What this is about is having interesting negative space. This could have also been done with a different pose on the character where parts of her are going off the page, and you might just want to crop it to that effect depending on the project and purpose of the painting. Anyway you want it, that's the way you need it, just make sure you add interest to the negative space.
* And lastly, her hands don't look right, there may also be an issue with the foreground arm. It's going to come down to you looking at photo reference of somebody holding a sword. I think what looks odd about them is the shading...but I'm not looking at reference.
*I like the character design, her clothes are interesting, and she has a great expression.

so in summation, and I think Socar (btw Socar sorry for misspelling your name on my last post...or maybe the one before...either way sorry) said it in a ninja mountain episode "Backgrounds are your friend!"

hope I helped both of you! thanks for putting your work up!

Christopher Burdett said...

I am only about a week late and actually right now listening to the podcast and checking out the comments here...

First off many thanks for the critique! And Drew, many thanks for going that extra mile for me. Going through it all right now. High fives are in order.

Also, the piece is completely digital. I know there was some debate. All my current work starts on paper with pencil but it is all but gone by the time I am done. I just have been working on some techniques to make my work feel more traditional - both consciously and subconsciously.

See, this kind of stuff is why you guys get a shout out in my look back at 2009 and getting serious! Thanks again!

Drew Baker said...

(Should we take odds he'll still think it's useful after listening?)

Patrick said...

(Sounds like a sucker's bet to me...)

Christopher Burdett said...

(It was useful)

Nick Egberts said...

A bit later to the part y then i'd like but illl give it a go:

Elin Josefsson:
What I like is that is already a sexy image, the pose and her look already capture my attention. Also there is already a good sense of depth in the background, though the tree on the right could use some lighter values to place it more in the back. The anatomy needs a lot of work, and it is a very difficult pose.

Like the vertical image, quite suitable for the subject image i think. The textures are a little boring for my tastes and the god rays are a little too fat and not translucent enough IMO. However, There is something that keeps my attention with this piece, I really enjoyed it.


photobucket was down at the moment of writing. sorry mate. I you fancy a rain check drop me a line at:

Char Reed:

Wow I really lie this piece. The disturbed look really draw you in. Also the warm yellow light versus cool background really works for me. The only real issues for me are the sword (it feels too two dimensional ) and her thumb, which is a bit meaty.


It not bad mate :) it is however a bit too much. Lots of saturation, busy composition, you know, lots of things fighting for my attention which makes it hard too read. If taken on its own there are a lot of great elements: I really like the shiny armour, the creature's face and the narrative. Its not, however working as a whole. Maybe a more limited palette would help or a bigger difference in value between the foreground and background. Also try to stay away from Photoshop's filters, they can be used as good starting point, but they stand out as filters if left as is. I dont try to sound harsh at all mate, like I said I really like the the narrative. A lot of people (me included) paint too static images.


I might not be the most unbiased person when it gets down to 40k stuff, that always gets me salivating. I really like the pic, for thing (and most important imo) it fits the IP effortlessly so kudos for that. The things I can nitpick about however: the ear's placement on the head seems off. The head seems swollen with implants, but should this affect the ear to such a degree? Also while I love the textures, the texture of the bottom half of the coat makes it look like its made out a different (heavier) material than the upper half. Done nit picking now :)

Thanks for sharing guys I really enjoyed your illlos.

Nick Egberts

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your critique, Nick. Glad it could keep your attention. Good point about the rays, though I'm not entirely sure what you mean with the translucency. Perhaps I should look at some pics of rays again :).

I'll add some critiques of my own, if you'll have 'em :).

ATOM: I like the little mushroom on the ground. It's cute and funny :). I think I agree with preston on the lighting, you might need to work on that more. Another thing that struck me was the greyness of the background, I'm not really sure what it is. I like the texturing, though, it's a nice background with some interest, but doesn't detract too much interest from the rest of the piece.

Char Reed: I like the expression and the hair very much. She's definitely not amused. The hair also flows nicely, it looks wild, consistent with the 'just out of a fight' idea. I'm not too fond of the shading on the pants, but I'm not sure why, perhaps if it the edges (of the lights/darks) were a little sharper? Again, not sure why. Overall I like it :).

Preston: I don't think I can add more than what Nick has already mentioned. I like the narrative, it has a lot of attitude, that guy is determined to get his way! It did take me while to figure out what was exactly going on. Perhaps you could try to determine the values first, before painting. Roughly work out the piece using just greys, and see if it works. Then go to colour and keep the value ranges of the different parts in mind.

Mindfields: First thing I notice: awesome rendering, especially all the tiny details on the waist and the shoulders+head. His expression is just evil, he's certainly up to no good. The black magical thing around his arm is a little too black for my tastes, some more variation might make it work better for me. However, I don't know if that's supposed to be like that, since I'm not familiar with Warhammer 40k (other than I know it exists and people buy stuff from it :P). Overall, though, I like it a lot.

preston said...

mindfields! I didn't see you there, sorry I haven't critiqued yours yet.

I like how clean it is, and by that I mean, every thing is smooth, and looks very finished. This is actually both good and bad and there are some places you might consider changing that. Patrick always talks about roughing up edges to add interest and basically just life to an illustration. To me, the cyber skull at the end of the wire and the ribbons flailing behind it seem a bit static. maybe just smudging those to show motion would take that static feeling away and add some energy and movement.

There's a light line below his right foot that you should probably just change to the shadow color because it looks like he's not standing on the ground.

My eye is drawn to his belt and it just stays there. I think it's because of the contrast there that isn't on any other part of the character. It'd probably be good to put some of those dark darks up around his head.

And lastly his chin and neck look off anatomically. have someone just stand like that for you, and see why. I think the neck isn't starting far enough back, or possibly there isn't enough definition in the neck.

hope I could be of help to ya.

Thank you Nick Egberts and Sirithduriel for your critiques, both were very helpful, and I'll post the a fixed version of the piece here...if I ever get around to it.

mindfields said...

Hey guys thank you very much for the comments. They are very good indeed and spot on... I mean, what's up with the ear/neck thing? haha. I'll do the corrections as soon as I finish some stuff I'm working on right now.

Yes, I have a terrible problem with depth. Believe me, I'm struggling with the problem and I'm starting to see progress on my new pieces. I used to do product design and that as you might know got to be sharp, shiny and very polished. I'm still over focused with the details. I have to remind myself constantly that I don't have to show how everything on the piece actually works.

I'm looking for that "eureka" moment that will show me how to properly focus/defocus stuff.

The black power thing got to be like that. Very black energy. Oh man and what a very difficult subject to crack Warhammer 40K is! I like it very much. I was pretty clueless about the IP when that piece was done. Now after reading around 5-6 WH books I think I'm getting more the WH feeling.

I wish I could take critics from peers while the pictures were done. Being self critic can be hard and sometimes self deceiving.

Drew Baker said...

mindfields: If you don't have local friends to do critiques you may be able to connect with some of the other people who are working on the project. If you don't have contact information, ask the art director. Maybe they'll be able to help get a group together. Better work is in everyone's interest, after all.

Good luck.

mindfields said...

Hey Drew thanks for the advice. I guess it's a good course of action.

Char Reed said...

preston, Nick Egberts, sirithduriel - Thank you all so much for your insights! I meant to show my appreciation earlier, but now I'm full of epic fail because I've delayed for so long! Anyway, I plan on taking your suggestions for my next piece!

Thanks again!
Char Reed