Character design critique
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Steve Reaume
Looking for some overall critiques on this piece, colour, lighting, gesture, line art, anything. I designed this character, a monk named Yunuen, for a friend. She was described as playful, empathetic, and easily distracted. Her favourite colour is red, and since she's a dog-person (i.e. colourblind), she mixes it up with green, so the red/green combo is intentional. One thing I struggled with was handling my shadows. Based on the ambient blue from the sky, cool shadows make sense, but they felt too dramatic, so I opted for warmer and brighter shadows as to keep the tone cheery. I'd appreciate any ideas on how to improve on the design.
Yunuen 1
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Steve Reaume
*Update* After reading through the critiques, I went back to work on Yunuen the dog-monk and ended up here. I'm pretty happy comparing before to after, so I want to thank all those who gave me their insights again. Below I'll explain the areas I addressed: Line art: I pushed the contrast in line weights and thinned the line in the light while leaving it thick in the dark. Even with the colour stripped this was a huge improvement and gave me a better sense of light direction. I also added more colour to the line art, brightening it in the light and darkening in the shadows. Lighting: I chose to stay with a rendered lighting style like before because I find it easier to work with, but I hardened up the light shapes to work better as sunlight. I also tried hard and cartoony lighting and didn't find much of a difference compared to this version, so I went with the technique I'm more familiar with. Exposure: I realized I made a mistake when exposing the original, in that I exposed to show detail in the light, but neglected the darkness of my shadows, which made it super flat. So I reworked it to expose for detail in the darks, using the sunlight more sparingly, and then I used bounce and ambient light to brighten up the shadow areas. Background: I'll admit I was lazy in the original background haha. So I added some clouds, details in the mountains, pushed the gradient in the sky, and I made sure to light it using the same blending modes and colours as I used on the character (which I neglected in the original) Depth: My adjustments to the lighting and the background, plus the rotation of the bone on the ground added some depth (I think). Pose: I moved the hidden foot up the shaft where she would have room to stand. Regarding the head turn, I realize that it's a bit of an extreme twist in the neck, but I decided that given the cartoon style and the high energy of the character, I was satisfied in leaving it be. I'm eager to move on to my next character and I felt that adjusting the head might have caused a domino of problems that I don't want to deal with haha (mainly I was concerned with having to rework her expression). That said, I'll be more vigilant when posing my characters in the future. Thanks again to everyone for all the advice, and for making my first Proko critique an excellent learning experience. In the words of The Terminator: "I'll be back."
Yunuen V2
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David R.
Hey Steve, that is a very clean drawing! As a colorblind person myself, I'll spare you my advice on the color front but otherwise, I'd say there's two aspects I'd try to improve upon: The pose and the overall depth. I'll elaborate quickly... It may very well be a stylistic choice or an attempt to make the pose clearer but what strikes me at first glance is that most of it looks like it's on the same plane and I feel it robs the drawing of its energy. I think part of it is due to the evenly heavy line weight but also the relative absence of perspective and the very soft shadows. I.e. there isn't much there to indicate the forms of the character and the environment so it makes the drawing feel flat. Again, this might be by design on your part, many successful artists have a flatter style and there's nothing wrong with that, but here it doesn't feel intentional to me. Also, while it may very well be possible for a dog to turn its head completely in this manner in real life (I wouldn't know, in all honesty) , looking at an anthropomorphic character with their neck turned in this manner almost feels painful. Especially since the rest of the body's gesture or "mechanic" doesn't follow. If you try to replicate the pose yourself, you will notice that once your head turns past a certain point, your shoulders will tend to move instinctively to accommodate such a drastic angle. Hope this is helpful! I'm eager to see more of your art ;)
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Steve Reaume
Thanks for the insights! In looking back at it, I agree that the shadows need some work. Another critique mentioned trying harder, cartoony shadows instead, so that might be a step in the right direction, but I'm also thinking they need some darker value. I've also reworked the line art a little bit since reading other critiques to vary the weights and it's helped a ton already. Perspective seems to be something I instinctively avoid haha so I definitely need practice there. (That and scene dressing). Regarding the head turn, I realized you're right (tried it myself, couldn't do it haha). I might try turning her head to the viewer a bit, bringing some perspective into her face and see how it works (could add some depth like you mentioned). I'll have to try some different ideas there. Ultimately, I won't be too upset if her head stays the same given how cartoony she is, but that's an excellent observation that snuck right by me. Thanks again.
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Jacob
Hey Steeve, overall a really nice piece. Except one major thing I think everything works great - the pose. Maybe that's just me but the pose reads as if the character is about (and can't wait) to be "..ekhm.." in the butt.. I'd suggest you looking for a pose reference, there are plenty of images and video's of monks with stick, and if you're going for what's called 'Monkey on a tree' trick, take a look at the reference below. Once again, that's a really nice concept piece, it's just in my opinion the pose ruins everything. I that helps, Cheers!
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Steve Reaume
That's one way of looking at it haha. I based the pose on a dog's playful posture, forelegs down and butt in the air (see the reference attached), to embody how excitable she is. I found that her gesture combined with the bending of the bo communicates that she's simply balancing herself on her toy, and even after reading your comment, I still don't see her presenting anything overly sexual. I appreciate your perspective, but I'm quite happy with the pose, so I'll leave it be as a whole. Thanks for sharing!
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Dominik Zeillinger
Hi Steve, I took a second thought about your drawing. As Cox Jones noticed the shadows on the figure indicate an diffuse light source. I personally like to use more hard shadows and tried a quick paintover on your drawing. The hard shadows give more plasticity to the figure in my opinion, but it also more cartoony. So it is just a suggestion you might explore or not.
Yunuen 3
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Steve Reaume
I see what you mean. It certainly reads better with harder shadows, because I think my original shadows were too understated. Recently I've been trying to painy my lighting as if I'm rendering to see if I can mix the two looks, but in the past I've used hard shadows and they do work well with a cartoony style. Definitely something I'll be thinking about when I revisit this one, thanks!
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Coex Jones
Hi Steve Thank you so much for sharing your work with us! I think you did a really good balancing the character on the bo. Here are a few notes that might help you improve this piece. Shadow - the cast shadow on the ground had very hard edges which seemed to indicate a direct light source, on the other hand the shadows on the character were much softer which seemed to indicate a more defused light source. Format - the square format can very easily become bland, especially when you consider that her pose is also square-like (Hands to tail is almost the same distance as head to toe). Changing the format to a vertical rectangle can help emphasis that she is "climbing" and will create a more dynamic format. Sky - was (in my opinion) too bright and without any gradation, clouds or overhanging trees became monotone. Grass - especially on a sunny day tends to have a warmer tone (this can also help facilitate the cooler shadow you mentioned in you post) Mountains - could definitely use some more colour and contrast to create more form. I did quick paintover to show what these changes could look like. (I hope that is okay with you, if not let me know and I'll remove the png) All I did to the character was to increase the contrast slightly between areas hit by light and those in shadow. On a final note - consider placing the feet in-line instead of side-by-side - I doesn't feel like the bo would be wide enough for both feet.
stevereaume7 yunuen 1 Coex
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Steve Reaume
Awesome, those are all great points. I appreciate you going to the effort of the paintover, it really helps to see what you mean and compare it back to my work. Now I'm eager to see where I can take it. Thanks very much!
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Dominik Zeillinger
Very nice. I like the overall design, the pose, the sillhouette. Because you mentioned shadows: How do you decide on the line-thickness for you drawing? You seem to use nearly the same linethickness for all parts of the drawing. Have you tried to use bolder outlines and thiner strokes for the lines inside of the body? But this is maybe just a matter of taste. If you think about the sun beeing the lightsource you could try to make the lines facing the sun thinner and the lines facing the ground thicker.
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Steve Reaume
Thanks for the comments! I tried using a slightly thinner stroke weight inside the silhouette, but you're right, I could push the contrast between the outline and inner lines more. I hadn't thought of thinner lines on the light side before, that sounds like a great idea. Much appreciated!
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