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Feel like I'm plateaued, looking for a push in the right direction


Wolfie Artist
So yeah, been drawing for a year, made some great improvements, but I feel a little plateaued. I feel like there's many options in front of me, but I don't have anyone to give me any feedback on when I'm doing something right or wrong. The only people in my immediate vicinity are those kind of people that say 'oh it's great' blah blah blah. I want some real criticism, because being told it's great doesn't tell me anything (except that you're probably bad at art lol).

Here's some of my pieces I feel are my best. Posted in chronological order, bottom being earliest, top latest.

http://www.furaffinity.net/view/9906704/ (Wolf on balcony)
http://www.furaffinity.net/view/9892900/ (Unicorn goddess) Some guy told me to remove the white outline, so I did that in the wolf picture.
http://www.furaffinity.net/view/9835419/ (Wolf character sheet) I kinda suck at clothes too :\
http://www.furaffinity.net/view/9809158/ (One and only dragon) I don't know how to draw water, obviously.

Latest piece of advice I received was that I should avoid outlines, which I was using quite a bit. The latest picture uses very little outlining. Unicorn Goddess used a full outline.

Oh and I might as well mention I'm looking for technique criticism. I like to use my own proportions, so I know they aren't right.
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Mr. Red Flag
Flip your canvas - that'll give you a better idea about how things sit in an image, and when it looks like a character's about to fall over- The one reference sheet you linked to has a mighty sway on it.

You're at the "Now what" stage: You've got a generic grasp of how legs and arms jam into a torso, and you can replicate what someone asks for - so now it's time to get fancy- at least slightly fancier than before.

Things to pay attention to: Color theory - Composition - Muscle Tone/ Anatomy - Value - Lighting.

Color theory- Your pictures are pretty straightforward when it comes to color " This character is white, so I'm gonna use white to color it" Experiment with that. There's a thousand different colors out there that when combined with something else to compliment it, will look white even if they're nowhere near it. For example, your "Goddess of Will" image is set in a purple-ish background, but you're using pretty much a straightforward White- grey -black. Even if you've got white characters, it will look better if you stay away from pure white in any way, shape or form. Use variants of the color - an eggshellish light yellow, pasty looking light green, whichever. Never shade with black. White and black reflect their environments a ridiculous amount, and you'll have a lot of fun with it when you start getting a grasp of that.

Composition: The focal point of your images are pretty much dead and center, all the time. That's automatically going to make your eye stagnate on the image. That makes your viewer feel kinda... what's the word... BLPFH. Make a fart-noise with your mouth. That's how it makes them feel. It's there. It's uninteresting, what's next- essentially. They way you work your compositions, you can create a much better atmosphere for what you're painting, without having to rely on the subject matter to do that for you.

Muscle Tone/ Anatomy: Pillowshading's only going to get you so far. Unless your creatures are made out of pillows, it's not terribly far. Everything is so goddamn pillowy that staring at a background is sorta like looking through wax paper. Edges are your friends. Your dragons also suffer from what I like to call "Ham Thighs" - mostly that people tend to draw thighs bulging out from both sides like a spiral-cut ham. Trim that shit down, make a few sandwiches from it. Dogs are pretty great references for decent thigh anatomy- most animals tend to follow the same tactics, and when you're drawing non-existent ones, using real anatomy from other animals will make it massively better. In general your muscles are pretty generic. Like "Cados on the balcony" for example. There are so many more muscles crammed into that stomach area, but you've abbreviated it to be a line down the middle and a V towards the goods. The body has a LOT more variances than just that. When you put those in, things will improve. Anatomy in general- needs some work. Feet , hair seem pretty generic and need work. Studying up on Necks would also be helpful.

Value: There's room for you lights to be lighter, and your darks to be darker. If you can keep a copy of your image in greyscale, that'll help point out where parts of your image run together.

Lighting: Every one of these images has the same lighting, and the same intensity. Play around with that a whole lot more, and pay attention to how light forms around a figure.


Hit 'em right between the eyes
Your lineless style looks very two dimensional. There is only the colour of the shadow and the flat colour. If you observe shadows around you, you'll find that they have more than two shades.

Also, I don't know who told you to avoid outlines, but you shouldn't listen to them. Use of line depends highly on the style and what you're trying to do. Have you seen what a simple black line can do?

Firefeathers also gave you some good advice, I suggest you heed it.


Wolfie Artist
Interesting interesting. Now I have lots to digest, and a weekend to mess around. Question time:

Color Theory: So I get what you're saying about color theory. But do they do this same kind of thing in animating? Are they consistently using the same color, or are my eyes just not noticing the changes in color? Obviously in like a blue lit room, they would use different colors for the characters, but that would be the exception. What would be the norm?

Composition: I suppose what would help with this is if I would stop displaying the character and try to make something more dynamic?

Anatomy: Mmmm, tough subject for me because there's like a lot of acceptable ways to draw anatomy. I don't have any amazing techniques for drawing hair, and necks have always given me trouble since wolf necks aren't human necks. I do want a big round thigh for my dragon. I'll assume you mean it just isn't constructed right.

Value: I suppose I could just exaggerate my shadows, and see how that goes.

Lighting: The way light forms around a figure? That's beyond my simple brain :S

I run into problems because I try to find simplicity, but real art isn't simple. I'm worried that if I progress more, I won't have fun animating because it will look so sloppy compared to my digital art.

And I think I want to get away from lined work, so it's not like the advice was going against what I wanted.

Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public
Study and draw from life. If you haven't done that there's no way you plateaued.

The only thing you've plateaued in is making excuses.

You asked for a push in the right direction. People have taken the time to give advice. Try it instead of making comments that frustrate people in trying to help you.


Wolfie Artist
Study and draw from life. If you haven't done that there's no way you plateaued.

The only thing you've plateaued in is making excuses.

You asked for a push in the right direction. People have taken the time to give advice. Try it instead of making comments that frustrate people in trying to help you.

Did I come off in that way? Sorry, because I plan to use all of Firefeather's advice.


Sex nuts and retard strong
Speaking of color, if you want to shade/highlight things you can use colors other than a blacker/whiter version of your base color. I'm finally beginning to figure that lesson out.

Avoid using straight up black and white in digital pieces as much as possible. Whites and blacks are actually cool colors. In traditional media they lean towards blue and their overusage can cause temperature change in the image. Digitally they can deaden a piece quite quickly as a pure white and black in digital lack any chroma. Shadow color is actually determined by a lot of factors, many of which can be lost in photos. As the below example illustrates


and another article about avoiding black in shadows

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Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public
Please note that compliments help pop things and are not always suitable for shadow, since mixing them are meant for creating neutrals. In addition, RGB compliments are not the same as traditional colors.


Wolfie Artist

This is a WIP, mainly for showing off the colors, shading, and whatever else is down below.

-Tried not using black to make shading.
-No outlines
-Am I noticing quality loss with jpgs?
-light blue base, purple shades, green highlights. Using analogous colors for shading, and complimentary colors for highlights.
-tried a mix of soft and hard shading to produce some texture (mainly in hair)
-he looks too colorful to me
-Main light from above instead of beside the subject.

Criticisms are welcome.

Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public


Kisses for everyone!
You've used a lot of good advice on your new piece, I see. Good! There's a lot to learn here in this thread and otherwise, and it's good you're starting to try new things. He might look too "colorful" to you right now but I'll say that it's a lot more interesting of a color scheme than just a darker shade of the same hue. Start looking very closely at pieces of art - classic pieces especially - and do something like open them up in your art program and do some color dropping. You'll find so many more hues and colors in the same dress or face than you may think is actually there - value and hue are only relevant in relation to other values and hues. Try these tests to see what I mean!

To expand on Arshes' point on the "airbrush" and "edges" thing, what's happening right now is that all of the forms - the hair, fur, body shape, etc - looks like it's all the same texture and made of the same material and reacts to the lighting conditions the same way, which it shouldn't. For example, in lighting conditions skin will be more reflective than say, a blue cotton shirt, hair will be more reflective than fur (depending), shadows have different sorts of edges on clothes than they do on something like a box, etc. It's also what's making everything seem "pillow-y" which was brought up earlier. Try doing some studies and still lifes of different material. Drape a piece of cloth over a box and put a water bottle and a cardboard tube next to them and observe how light and value works with them. Doing these sorts of studies will totally pull you out of your plateau :]

I run into problems because I try to find simplicity, but real art isn't simple. I'm worried that if I progress more, I won't have fun animating because it will look so sloppy compared to my digital art.

Don't worry about this. If you can fully understand how to render and express complex shapes, textures and values, you will have more than enough tools and experiences to simplify them, too. That's the great thing about it :] most people that work with simple animation know how to render things well and completely, it's the complexity and time that animation takes that makes them simplify it. Keep working on both!


Wolfie Artist
I've done a lot of improvement on the piece, just haven't posted it yet, and I want to do the other side of the picture which is another wolf to see if a difference occurs. I'm not sure if I should keep posting here though, because I don't want to be spoonfed too much. The advice has been great and is exactly what I was looking for. It has helped me see more with my perceptive eye than my mind's eye. Seeing things for what they actually are than what I would think they are. I'll probably be back in a while if I ever feel like I've hit a wall again, but for now I need to practice and refine what I've learned. Again, thank you all.