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Critique Session 1 – Scratchy textures, focal points, tones and 3d forms

January 22, 201340 Comments

In this first episode of the year I will critique your viewer submitted drawings. Just some honest constructive criticism. Discussing scratchy textures, focal points, tones, and 3d forms.

Submit your artwork for critique –

Artists Critiqued:

Antonio T Pinto –
Marcin –

If you prefer to read, here is the transcript:

Hey! Happy new year you! Hope you enjoyed your holidays, had a restful break and you’re ready to tackle 2013! I know I am!

This episode is dedicated to doing some critiques. Critiques of your artwork you submitted that I promised I would do a few months ago..

In these critiques I’m going toi try to focus on advice that will help you improve your drawings and so most of it will be about things I feel you did wrong. Unless I see someone do something exceptionally well, then I’ll show it as an example of how to successfully do something and as inspiration. But for the most part these will probably be heavier on the negative. So, I apologize in advance, but… I THINK thats what you guys want to hear.. right? I hope so… I’m not here to make fun of you. Well, maybe a little… But my intentions are good. Its meant to be constructive criticism that you can use to grow. And btw, all the artwork I’m critiquing today was submitted by viewers specifically to be critiqued publicly on the show. They knew what they were getting in to. If you’d like to have your artwork critiqued on the show, click here and then send me your stuff.

Ok, here it goes!

The first critique goes to Antonio T Pinto

For the most part, your proportions, values, and edges are pretty good. Of course there’s room for improvement, but, not bad.. In fact I saw some that were really nice.

The thing that kinda bothered me throughout most of them was the scratchiness. Sometimes it can be used successfully to add an energy to the draftsmanship, but I think you’re taking it a bit too far. It looks messy and distracting. So it’s actually taking away from the impact of the drawing rather than adding to it. So I would take it down a notch or two. maybe three… especially in the face, where you’re trying to show volume. That much texture flattens the volumes and ages the skin, and can look like scars. It takes away from the realism of the portrait. sometimes making a drawing less realistic can be a good thing, for a specific design purpose, but I just don’t see that to be the case here. Except one drawing. Out of the 50 I looked at, this on is the only one that I think actually benefits from the scratchiness because it adds an emotional element that is appropriate here.

I saw a few drawings where you’re starting to head in the right direction. This one has a little bit of the scratchiness but you’re focusing on rendering the volumes in the important areas of the face. So, good job here. This part of the hair is good. You’re showing some gradations and just the right amount of texture. Down here however you rushed it. You lost the 3d form of the hair and it looks sloppy. Same thing here.

This one is close, but needs a little bit of work. Again I think the scratchy background is distracting. I think it’s largely because of these white spots in the background surrounding his head. They are fighting for attention and I look there instead of the focal point – his face. So, let’s try removing these white spots, and adding some more contrast and light to his face. See, now the background recedes, and the face comes forward! You need to have control of where the viewer looks on your drawing. Decide on focal point and make all your other decisions based on that. Artists are storytellers and we need to be in control. It shouldn’t be random.

The next critique is for Marcin from Poland.

I looked at some of your portraits, and I found them to be too flat. I can see you’re starting to add tones, but your still not getting that 3d look. There needs to be more value to show the forms. In this one, you have light on the front plane of the cheek, and then shadow on the side. but then right after that you have light again. and all over the side plane on the neck and head you have lights the same value as the light on the front plane. If this is a directional light, and I think it was, then there needs to be a clearer distinction between the light planes and shadow planes. I can see that you’re looking for variations of light and dark, but I’m afraid you’re only looking at the variations in small sections. you need to analyze each area as it relates to the rest of the drawing, not just as it relates to the areas immediately next to it. Even though you were correct that this area is darker than this one. You need to make sure that this plane is much darker than this. See how i did not change the relationship between these two areas, this one is still darker than this one, but now we have a clear distinction between light family and shadow family. And I think that’s the biggest thing that’s hurting these portraits is the tones are really spotty They’re scattered around and they’re not coming together to show form.

Look at your reference and figure out what direction the light source is coming from. Any plane that faces the light needs to be clearly light. Anything that faces away needs to be clearly shadow. Any reflected light that hits a shadow area, still needs to be a shadow. I recommend you review my video shading light and form basics where I go over this in more detail.

Also in this drawing, you have what i called ‘spaghetti hair’. In my video on drawing hair I talked about defining the volume of the hair first and then adding the texture second. That way you will make the hair mass 3-dimensional, rather than… a bunch of lines.

Also a related issue is, because you’re drawings are a bit flat, you’re relying on outlines to separate the forms. For example with this nostril, you have no tones. It’s just an outline of the nostril. This looks cartoony and that’s not how we see reality.

Same thing here with the jaw, ear, arm fingers.. You’re using line to separate the forms. Try to look for the value and the edge. This will give you that 3d look that you’re going for.

Hope you guys enjoyed these critiques. If you liked this kind of episode, let me know in the comments so that I know this is beneficial for you guys and I will do more episodes like it. And if you liked this episode, I appreciate it when you don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with your friends. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter on to get updates on new videos. Thanks for watching!

Filed in: Critiques / Q&AVideos

Comments (40)

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this critique session – especially where you are able to show the changes that would improve the image. Looking forward to seeing more!

  2. moss says:

    I loved this video! Critiques are sooooooooo helpful and your video was friendly and very CLEAR.

  3. This was really beneficial, continue continue 🙂
    I can’t say I’ll be submitting anything because I have a long ways to go with my drawings, but it’s great to see others and use your feedback to better my work and know what to avoid and focus on before I create bad habits.

  4. Renata says:

    I really enjoyed this video and I think it is very beneficial as we learn a lot from others’ mistakes.

  5. I like your critiques, but I have a suggestion . . . show more of “how I would do it.” Thus, you will be giving me and others something real to hang on to. Your words and descriptions are clear enough, but I think to most artists, SEEING along with the words helps glue the lesson together. Of course, I’m speaking for myself, but I’m guessing your audience will appreciate hearing and seeing how it’s done, or how it could be better. Showing the addition of values in that one drawing, and showing how shadow and light should be kept together were a lot stronger than just saying it. The illustration ties it together. I appreciate your work.

  6. Art Carnrick says:

    Excellent advice… ouch! I see my own errors here… These short videos and critiques are the best I have seen since taking up this hobby 10 years ago… I hope to buy a DVD video or download soon…

  7. Phil Moss says:

    Really great video – there are a lot of invaluable tutorials available online, but very few that I can find that focus on improving errors, which are hugely useful.
    Thanks for all your generous help with these vids!


  8. Kathleen Walden says:

    This is a great critique series. I think you should continue doing this. Plus you are so cute. Keep up the good work.

  9. Munther says:

    It is very good step, and wish you continue this and will send some of my drawings hope to see them here and make use of your advices

  10. RK says:

    I appreciate the critiques. They are filled with excellent suggestions and are very entertaining.

  11. Chris says:

    Great addition to your videos. Adds a bit of interactivity for us viewers plus helps raise the attention to some tips that you might have skipped during your regular lessons. Or it can serve as an example/ recap to really emphesise the subject matter you’ve already talked about.

  12. Terence says:

    I found these critiques very insightful so I can improve on my own drawings. As always thanks for your informative blog site.

  13. JCACharles says:

    Agreed with Kathleen! The critiques are useful to all us amateurs, as we may recognize things we do in the works you select.

    The only change I’d make is getting someone who has very good writing skills to proofread your (not “you’re”) closed captioning/transcript. These videos are incredibly wonderful and useful and even if your writing deteriorated, I’d still come back.

  14. I’d love to hear how you MAKE these videos! A quick rundown of your “studio”, lighting choices, camera, and video editing software! Please do a 5 bullet mention of the basics in your next video! So great 🙂

    • Probably wont do a video on that for a while, but here goes… I have a white acrylic backdrop behind me with a soft box on each side illuminating the backdrop. Soft boxes have 85W-equivalent 5000K CFL light bulbs. I have 1 105W-equivalent 5000K CFL on me from 3/4 angle. Canon 7D camera with 24-70mm lens. Lilliput 7″ monitor connected to camera so I can see myself. Zoom H1 in my pocket connected to the lavalier mic on my shirt. And a camera remote is very convenient so it can focus on me while I’m sitting.. Next upgrade will be a better lavalier mic.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  15. L says:

    How do we submit artwork to be critiqued, again?
    And thanks for all the useful information 🙂

  16. Antonio T Pinto says:

    This is Antonio T Pinto. Thank you for your comments on my drawings

  17. Denise says:

    Love it! Keep going! Your teaching of techniques is great to begin with. This critique session is a real treat, the visuals and commentary made points very clear, I got a lot out of it. Thank you!!

  18. David says:

    Awesome video! I completely agree in that these videos really help us see some practical application to the lessons. Keep making them please! You’re the best out there on the internet. Trust me. I’ve looked.

    If it’s alright, a little constructive criticism would be to maybe show more than two by lumping them together. So show multiple people who are all making the same mistake. That way we can see different variations of the same mistake, but how different people are making it, and how to avoid it. Awesome job overall though. Seriously cool stuff man.

  19. AnnieJ says:

    I love your work. Please keep up the critiques; they can only get better. Your website is very friendly, and chic – I really like the jazz. I agree with the comment on talk with example on screen – most
    helpful. It is great to see all the work people submit regardless of their current expertise. I have followed you in all your teaching videos, and did the work, and found your presentation style with all the
    techy stuff to be very helpful(ie. graphic outlines over real life photos like in the nose video). Your site has been a real help to me.
    Please do more!

  20. Rosalie Irish says:

    There were some nice drawings that you critiqued, but your responses to them were accurate and helpful. I like teachers,like you, who give sound advise rather than saying “it’s good.” Great job! Keep it up. I would like to see more.

  21. Celena Polena says:

    Thanks! I’m so pleased that you, a working artist, are willing to share your knowledge. When you show the corrections, it’s so dramatic and makes the concept so obvious. I’m grateful for your generosity.

  22. Janet C says:

    This video was very helpful. I enjoyed how you added to their drawings to show what you were talking about, and it made the message pop and I immediately saw how those changes could drastically impact the art (by pushing the lights and darks). The artists you critiqued had the contours and proportions down for the most part, but I see that those value shifts are critical in bringing the drawing out of the page and forming a three dimensional image. I would love to see more videos like this because it is so useful in our learning process to see how to go that extra step especially in value contrast, to finalize the work. And well done on how you critiqued. It was not offensive at all, it was informative and instructional. And no scratchy backgrounds. Thank you!

  23. Judith R Sanders says:

    Well done! Your comments were clear and specific and without condemnation. This was more like coaching —– have you ever seen a tennis coach? We need to hear about what needs improving in this very specific way. Any one who doesn’t want feedback doesn’t want to get better.

    I also really liked your referencing your previous videos so we can further learn.

    I’m a painter and I found your critiques so very helpful.

  24. vicki carol says:

    I got to this video late, but found it to be very helpful. Thanks to the people brave enough to send in their work. I see mistakes that I also make and the critique is a positive for improvement. Hope you continue with the critiques.

  25. Chris says:

    Great video – the critiques are really helpful, and I echo what lots of others have said: please do more!

    I’ve a few specific suggestions…

    It would be great if you could pick a problem area and then do a fairly complete demo of how to solve it. My own issue is how to start the shading process correctly early in a drawing. Like many people, I guess, I started out by doing line drawings, and the whole shading thing to render volume is something I have come to understand for simple forms but in, say, a face or a body or clothing, I get lost and don’t know where to start. A demonstration of the ‘global approach’ to take would be fantastic.

    Something I would also love to see would be a side-by-side comparison in which you do two attempts at the same drawing, one taking ‘wrong’ approaches that a lot of people might typically do, and compare this with another demo (side-by-side on-screen) taking the ‘right’ approach so that it is clearly understood where mistakes start to creep in, and what would lead to a better result. I think this would be so helpful and a good extension of the demos where everything is done pretty much right from the word go; they are very inspiring but sometimes it is difficult to translate the approaches demonstrated into a new drawing. (I’m not down on the demos you have done though; they are absolutely excellent!)

    Thank you for the videos so far, and for the excellent work you are doing to educate us! It really is much appreciated. I know I’m benefiting tremendously from your tutorials!

  26. Pedro says:

    Wow. I like this section. When more?

  27. Stormslegacy says:

    Thank you for this helpful video! I found it extremely helpful when you demonstrated the effectiveness of shading the portrait as a whole vs. areas that are only compared for local value. It is something I tend to be very guilty of! It’s amazing to see the difference!

  28. Liline says:

    Hi Stan !!

    Everything that I wanted to say has already been said (the perfect critic session would emphasize on your corrections with, if possible, if you have the time etc, a before/after of a common mistake or typical beginner issue), so I just want to add: thank you for this video. You’re kind and funny, as I recognized many of my mistakes in the sketches you corrected, it’s really convenient and helpful. I’m looking forward for the next session… and the next tutorial !

    Thanks for all your tutorials in general, it helps a lot !!

  29. imke says:

    Hi Stan
    I loved this critique session, and don’t worry about being too harsh on people, I feel you elegantly critique them without making fun of… (!)
    even I would maybe some day dear to send something 🙂
    meanwhile I would just want to let you know how kindhearted and generous I think you are, making this show for us, in general.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and time, without hesitation or restraint. it’s very special.

  30. wenzhan says:

    These critique sessions really good! It’s positive and helps me to improve a lot too. Thanks!

  31. Dennis says:

    This is a great post! These critiques are so helpful. I love that you include a video along with your written format. I think seeing the pieces that you are referring to really helps to bring a new understanding to the work. I think many people are nervous about getting an art education, but this really shows what you can do with a mba or even a bachelor’s in art!

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