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Thread: First ever real portrait. I need honest criticisms

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2020

    First ever real portrait. I need honest criticisms

    I've done a couple of portraits where i simply paint the photo, but this time I've done a tracing and used the photo as a reference, for the first time ever. So please go easy on me but I do want honesty. I'm not happy with all aspects, but some I really like. I ended up using coloured pencils and blending with the knife. Its a very airbrushed look, but I could not get the brushes to work for me in the way I wanted. I won't give up on the brushes though, but need to practice more and use a mix of techniques and tools. I also needed to run it through photoshop as it was oversaturated in my colour choice, so again its all about learning. To my surprise I used my eye and what I've learned about highlights and skin tones more than the photo, so I guess a lot is about feeling whats right for the picture.

    Animals are much easier than people! Please give me hints on how to do this better. i won't be offended because I need to learn.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	mother and child with filters.jpg 
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ID:	100999

  2. #2
    I'm not an extremely experienced artist myself, but I will provide what constructive criticism I see from the POV of one who enjoys art as well.

    First: I think this is a wonderful piece to start from, especially for your first portrait. I love the composition of this, of course compliments to the original photo too. Your work on the hair is fantastic, particularly with having both straight and wavy/curly hair types in one photo. The hair strands and color both look very natural.

    As for things to work on, the first thing that jumps out to me is the shadows on the child's neck/jaw and the woman's brow (under the bangs, around the eyes, ect). These shadow colors don't seem to mesh with the skin tone, instead making it look like bruising. The boy's ear also looks swollen towards the bottom. Lastly, to me the left side of the boy's face seems to flatten out to me, almost going from believably 3d to suddenly 2d. The main spot I see this is from the upper lip to the nose and along the nose, where things suddenly go flat. The woman's face, however, to me looks like it should as far as depth.

    Overall, I do think this is an excellent painting with some fine tuning to come. Keep up the great work!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2020
    Thank you! Its exactly what type of critique i am needing. I did add some blue to the temples and eye areas etc which weren't in the original photo, and I agree I am struggling to get a rounded affect in the boys face. I also used some filters which probably made those darker areas darker than they really need to be. I will keep working on areas of this painting and experimenting with various uses of light and shadow to get the tones and the contours I need. Portraits are very difficult but a lovely challenge. Thank you :-)

  4. #4
    You're very welcome. I will also add, hopefully this can help you pick out some good colors, that the shade on the woman's upper chest and cheek look perfect to me.

    Edit: a suggestion for you that I hope may help. If memory serves, though I'm still learning color theory, when making shadows it's the complimentary color layered with the main color that makes a matching shadow. Such as using green on a red apple to make the shaded side of the apple. (If I'm wrong, please others who know better correct). An easy way to pick complimentary colors is to go to the color picker menu and chose tone/tint mode. Then go back to the color picker menu and go to "show complimentary hues -> complimentary". Then you can select a color from your painting (I have the 'alt' key set to a button on my pen for this). When you do, the color picker will have a small circle on the color you picked and a larger circle on it's compliment that helps give you a spot to click. I hope this all makes sense. You can also save the colors into a palette for easy switching back and forth.
    Last edited by Krigen813; 01-18-2021 at 07:29 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Englishman in Ont, Canada
    Overall I like the portrait it has the appearance of a period piece with the style of the boys hair etc which is now the rage thanks to tv shows like Bridgerton.
    I like the girl and see very little wrong with her other the contrast across her chest maybe a little heavy.
    I agree with others regarding the shadows and loss of colour on the boys neck.
    Having said that these days I seem to be all animals but I did enjoy seeing your work

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2020
    Thank you. I'm going to use this painting as a basic, and try multiple way of achieving more depth and contours and using more paint styles, rather than start afresh, as I now know every centimetre of this image. Its all about light and shade so I shall be working hard on those aspects. Curly hair is a bit of a nightmare!

  7. #7
    If you're ok with adapting some digital painting techniques along with your traditional techniques, layer blend modes are really helpful. When I did my recent nebula painting, once I got my colors how I wanted I have since added a layer with the blend mode set to "soft light". Now if I go over areas with white, that area gets lighter without much change to the perceptive color. If I do the same with black, it gets darker. It blends like it's a light source, rather than mixing black and white with the color as paint. This and other blend modes are worth playing with to fine tune a painting that you're otherwise happy with.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2020
    thank you, I am quite happy using a mix of techniques. I did a digital painting course which had different blend modes to get a mix of shadows and highlights to create rounded shapes. I'll look into those again. :-)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2020
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	mother and child reunion.jpg 
Views:	160 
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ID:	101010

    Hopefully you can see this. I've altered things around and slightly reduced the canvas to make it more subtle. I haven't reduced the saturation as the first one but kept the colours as on the photo. Any better? Maybe make the boys lips more merged and less outlined?

  10. #10
    I have both of these pictures open on my other monitor side by side. This second go is a very nice improvement.

    Canvas: I like how it looks in both paintings. I think this is a matter of preference. Both work well.

    Overall color/saturation: The woman's hair 'could' be believable in both images, but is more so in the second and looks less harsh. Now that you have made this second one, the child's original hair actually looks much less natural in comparison as the new take is great. The same overall can be said for the skin tones. The previous shadow coloration that I described as "bruising" is dramatically better on both the child's neck and the woman's brow. I've also just noticed that, while the shadows on the woman's chest didn't stand out as much as an off color, this new take seems to have even better colorizing. Particular improvement in the collarbone area on (our left) side of her neck. I can also see the last touches of hedge in the deep dark green of the upper right corner that I didn't notice before. Overall, the more I look the more I find better colors and great improvements. Excellent job.

    Child's previously flat portion of face: You put a lot of detail rework here and it shows. The hard edges along the nose are softer and rounder, having been properly pushed back. The flesh between the nose and upper lip now has that (I'll call it a divot) making it more realistic and not flat. But the real winner here is how much work you put in to reshaping the mouth. The corner is pulled back slightly more and the lips have a much more natural parting and less doll like. I can also see some rework maybe in the chin area of the jaw making it look less like a quarter circle cut out. Fantastic work.

    I think my only critiques left are as follows:
    1. The child's ear still looks a bit swollen in places. Like maybe it's still messed up after a fight, but not bruised.
    2. The woman's earring looks just a touch too squished into hear earlobe. Almost like it has sunken into the flesh a bit, rather than resting on it.
    Both of these are me being nitpicky, but honest. You are a wonderful artist and I'm happy that you share your work with us.

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