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Critique: Seeking constructive criticism for bull-TF artwork in semi-realistic style

klufsting

New Member
Hi, I am a long-time FA visitor (10 years maybe), a complete learner in art and recently decided to contribute to the community by drawing up something in my mind.
While practicing what I learnt in color/lighting/digital painting/anatomy and many techniques, I decided to put some extra work and thought into the practice pieces so the process becomes more challenging and the work becomes something worth sharing, not something buried in the scrapbook.

So here is an ongoing sequence of bull-TF and the latest piece of it, depicting a young men half-transformed and doing some NSFW stuff. I aim for convincing and imaginative art, which I think are the two most important qualities for NSFW TF artwork. I am pursuing a realistic style, maybe not like drawing it like real, but I want the viewers to see the art and can readily imagine how the depicted scene can actually happen in the physical world.

(NSFW) https://www.furaffinity.net/view/42223167/
And a censored preview here for your convenience, some anatomy depiction unavoidably covered.
censored preview.jpg

If you view the whole sequence and some of my other non-furry practice in the scrapbook, you will see I was deliberately choosing different angles/perspectives/poses for the purpose of practicing, and trying a few different techniques.

I have some general questions:
a. What do you see in my work (not limited to this specific picture) that can be readily changed and improved? In other words, obvious mistakes/bad choices/techniques I don’t know.

b. Where should I put more effort in to improve in the long run? In other words, problems that can not be avoided with much more learning and practicing.

c. Anything that came into your mind that you think I should know.

Some specific questions I have that I also posted in the artwork description:
a. Darker shading looks pretty nice and sharp on my device (iPad Pro), but once uploaded it looks dirty and kind of lost the original feel of it. I tried lowering the shading contrast so it looks kind of cleaner submitted. Why does it look better darker in full size and definition on my device? Pure illusion or? And why it seems better to use less shading uploaded here? I heard AO shading applied badly make the artwork dirty. How can I do better, in terms of clean and convincing lightwork?

b. I am drawing with Procreate and as I start to draw characters with fur, I had difficulty adding the process of drawing fur in to my work flow of painting silhouette -> painting details with clipping mask-> applying shading and highlights. The problem is fur actually grow beyond the body silhouette so I can’t just clip it. When should I add fur in my workflow? Or is Procreate not the best tool for this?
 

klufsting

New Member
The background looks kind of out of place in this single piece but they are actually from the story of the sequence.
 

MissNook

Well-Known Member
@klufsting
I'll try to answer your questions but keep in mind that this is just my opinion on things :)
But First thing first, it's great to challenge yourself! I know it's sometimes pretty hard, but it really helps to see faster improvement!

a. After some thoughts, hmmm no. At the moment I don't see obvious mistakes easy to fix ^^

b. That's a bit of the hard part. The pictures you have in your gallery are pretty different. I'm not sure where you want to bring your art so my advice may look totally off depending on that. Don't hesitate to say where you want to go so that I or other could help better. Anyway, since you seem to already be working on anatomy, I think, you should try to work on unstiffening your characters. Especially since at the moment you use a semi-realistic shadowing with a lineart of strong lines, it can add a lot of stiffness to your art. To avoid that, you can try to use lines of action, photo references of the poses and stronger lights so that the light will help with the shapes (I think that the Telltale games style could be interesting for you to look at, to see if that's something you would like to redefine in your style ^^)

c. I would say that you should not hesitate to try drawing in other styles too. It can help to find new techniques and to learn faster (which seems like something you want to do)

Second bunch of questions:
a. That may be a screen difference issue. Could you maybe upload a not-updated version (in your gallery scraps for example) so that I can see the difference?
For the clean part, one thing is to look at your art when you're doing shadows, try to take some hindsight or/and to flip your canvas and ask yourself "Does it look dirty?". If the answer is no, then keep on doing it that way and ask yourself again from time to time. If someone says that your shadows looks dirty, you can try to improve them. At the moment it doesn't seem like the case to me.
To improve your shadows, I would advice to add a new layer to your picture when nearly finished. In that layer you will add new shadows, and try to go pretty dark (cause at the moment I see a lack of really strong shadows in your art). You can lower its opacity, duplicate it to make it even more opaque, play with blending the edge of the shadows in that layer to try and see what convince you the most in terms of render.
I just want to add a more specific feedback on your last piece about the shadows so that maybe it would make more sense of what I just said about darker shadows. I would have add darker shadows under his butt and where his feet and hands touch the ground to make him look like he is indeed on the floor (at the moment, he's floating a bit). And less dark but still dark shadows at the armpits and under the legs. (I can make you a draw over if you want, just ask)

b. I don't use Procreate, but I have 1 advice and 2 techniques on this part. Advice: look at timelapse of people drawing fur and see if that can apply.
Technique 1: when you're at the fur process, duplicate your silhouette layer (to save it) and with a thin brush add strokes of fur directly on it while pushing them outside the boundaries so that your silhouette layer would actually have also the silhouette of the fur.
Technique 2 (pretty sure that should work on Procreate but I don't know the menu names): Select all your silhouette layer and invert the selection, unclip your fur layer, delete everything that's inside the selection while being on your fur layer (so basically everything outside the silhouette). So now you can work directly the fur on your fur layer outside of the boundaries of the silhouette since it's unclipped.

Hope that helps ^^
 

klufsting

New Member
@klufsting
I'll try to answer your questions but keep in mind that this is just my opinion on things :)
But First thing first, it's great to challenge yourself! I know it's sometimes pretty hard, but it really helps to see faster improvement!

a. After some thoughts, hmmm no. At the moment I don't see obvious mistakes easy to fix ^^

b. That's a bit of the hard part. The pictures you have in your gallery are pretty different. I'm not sure where you want to bring your art so my advice may look totally off depending on that. Don't hesitate to say where you want to go so that I or other could help better. Anyway, since you seem to already be working on anatomy, I think, you should try to work on unstiffening your characters. Especially since at the moment you use a semi-realistic shadowing with a lineart of strong lines, it can add a lot of stiffness to your art. To avoid that, you can try to use lines of action, photo references of the poses and stronger lights so that the light will help with the shapes (I think that the Telltale games style could be interesting for you to look at, to see if that's something you would like to redefine in your style ^^)

c. I would say that you should not hesitate to try drawing in other styles too. It can help to find new techniques and to learn faster (which seems like something you want to do)

Second bunch of questions:
a. That may be a screen difference issue. Could you maybe upload a not-updated version (in your gallery scraps for example) so that I can see the difference?
For the clean part, one thing is to look at your art when you're doing shadows, try to take some hindsight or/and to flip your canvas and ask yourself "Does it look dirty?". If the answer is no, then keep on doing it that way and ask yourself again from time to time. If someone says that your shadows looks dirty, you can try to improve them. At the moment it doesn't seem like the case to me.
To improve your shadows, I would advice to add a new layer to your picture when nearly finished. In that layer you will add new shadows, and try to go pretty dark (cause at the moment I see a lack of really strong shadows in your art). You can lower its opacity, duplicate it to make it even more opaque, play with blending the edge of the shadows in that layer to try and see what convince you the most in terms of render.
I just want to add a more specific feedback on your last piece about the shadows so that maybe it would make more sense of what I just said about darker shadows. I would have add darker shadows under his butt and where his feet and hands touch the ground to make him look like he is indeed on the floor (at the moment, he's floating a bit). And less dark but still dark shadows at the armpits and under the legs. (I can make you a draw over if you want, just ask)

b. I don't use Procreate, but I have 1 advice and 2 techniques on this part. Advice: look at timelapse of people drawing fur and see if that can apply.
Technique 1: when you're at the fur process, duplicate your silhouette layer (to save it) and with a thin brush add strokes of fur directly on it while pushing them outside the boundaries so that your silhouette layer would actually have also the silhouette of the fur.
Technique 2 (pretty sure that should work on Procreate but I don't know the menu names): Select all your silhouette layer and invert the selection, unclip your fur layer, delete everything that's inside the selection while being on your fur layer (so basically everything outside the silhouette). So now you can work directly the fur on your fur layer outside of the boundaries of the silhouette since it's unclipped.

Hope that helps ^^
Thanks so much for painstakingly answering all my questions and giving so many thoughtful advice. I kind of believe one needs solid training in conventional art to do well in digital, unfortunately I don’t have that kind of training, but I do give importance and mix in reading about conventional art. So I am being ambitious but at the same time realistic of what I can do with what I know. Nice people like you who knows about things certainly will help me improve faster.

For lighting my knowledge is mostly from Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter Book by James Gurney. For perspective it was Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D'Amelio. Anatomy I am not so sure which to go with though I know a few. I think I may also want to read about animal anatomy or creature design since I would like to involve some TF element. Any suggestions on what to read or use as reference?

Yes, please if you would like to help me fix it, with this uploaded version or if you would like to see my work flow I have the project file with me, I have all of them.

It will take me some good time to carefully go over your comments, judge my work again and give a worthwhile full response. So please bear with me not responding all your questions right away, I am working on it.
 
Last edited:

klufsting

New Member
@klufsting
I'll try to answer your questions but keep in mind that this is just my opinion on things :)
But First thing first, it's great to challenge yourself! I know it's sometimes pretty hard, but it really helps to see faster improvement!

a. After some thoughts, hmmm no. At the moment I don't see obvious mistakes easy to fix ^^

b. That's a bit of the hard part. The pictures you have in your gallery are pretty different. I'm not sure where you want to bring your art so my advice may look totally off depending on that. Don't hesitate to say where you want to go so that I or other could help better. Anyway, since you seem to already be working on anatomy, I think, you should try to work on unstiffening your characters. Especially since at the moment you use a semi-realistic shadowing with a lineart of strong lines, it can add a lot of stiffness to your art. To avoid that, you can try to use lines of action, photo references of the poses and stronger lights so that the light will help with the shapes (I think that the Telltale games style could be interesting for you to look at, to see if that's something you would like to redefine in your style ^^)

c. I would say that you should not hesitate to try drawing in other styles too. It can help to find new techniques and to learn faster (which seems like something you want to do)

Second bunch of questions:
a. That may be a screen difference issue. Could you maybe upload a not-updated version (in your gallery scraps for example) so that I can see the difference?
For the clean part, one thing is to look at your art when you're doing shadows, try to take some hindsight or/and to flip your canvas and ask yourself "Does it look dirty?". If the answer is no, then keep on doing it that way and ask yourself again from time to time. If someone says that your shadows looks dirty, you can try to improve them. At the moment it doesn't seem like the case to me.
To improve your shadows, I would advice to add a new layer to your picture when nearly finished. In that layer you will add new shadows, and try to go pretty dark (cause at the moment I see a lack of really strong shadows in your art). You can lower its opacity, duplicate it to make it even more opaque, play with blending the edge of the shadows in that layer to try and see what convince you the most in terms of render.
I just want to add a more specific feedback on your last piece about the shadows so that maybe it would make more sense of what I just said about darker shadows. I would have add darker shadows under his butt and where his feet and hands touch the ground to make him look like he is indeed on the floor (at the moment, he's floating a bit). And less dark but still dark shadows at the armpits and under the legs. (I can make you a draw over if you want, just ask)

b. I don't use Procreate, but I have 1 advice and 2 techniques on this part. Advice: look at timelapse of people drawing fur and see if that can apply.
Technique 1: when you're at the fur process, duplicate your silhouette layer (to save it) and with a thin brush add strokes of fur directly on it while pushing them outside the boundaries so that your silhouette layer would actually have also the silhouette of the fur.
Technique 2 (pretty sure that should work on Procreate but I don't know the menu names): Select all your silhouette layer and invert the selection, unclip your fur layer, delete everything that's inside the selection while being on your fur layer (so basically everything outside the silhouette). So now you can work directly the fur on your fur layer outside of the boundaries of the silhouette since it's unclipped.

Hope that helps ^^
Okay, here is one follow-up question.

What exactly is line of action? I looked it up and think of iit as something you don’t actually show in the work, but a curve of action in your mind (on the sketch too maybe). For more expressiveness, an artist should consider to choose to depict only interesting actions with strong action lines instead of stiff/straight poses even when it is not exactly what you see most in real life. Kind of like as an photographer you ask for more dramatic poses for interesting pictures even when they would look kind of strange if a person do so in daily life. Is that what it means?

I totally agree with the stiffness and the strong lines, it actually looks off to me too and I want to let go of them, but I am having difficulty expressing the volume and the distinction of each parts without the lines, so it is a struggle for me. If you look closer, I tried hard to erase the lines if at all possible. Guess it is like a clutch I use for now, and I need to find of a way to let go of it.
———
I will send you a link for the original project file and I would appreciate a lot if you could find if there are any issues behind the scene, related to my questions or not. Please don’t feel obliged to do anything just because I sent it, you are already so helpful.
 

MissNook

Well-Known Member
@klufsting
Color and Light is a good book. I feel that you may need to look at tutorials on the net too. For me it helped to have both a more in-depth knowledge with the book and a more by-examples knowledge with tutorials, but that may be my way of learning and not yours. Anyway here's one tutorial I like about light and shadows: https://www.deviantart.com/jebriodo/art/Shading-Tutorial-Page-1-207781668 (there are several parts, you should check the description to look at the whole tutorial).
Also I like to look at timelapses from time to time to try to grasp the artist techniques. I usually slow down the video (I watch them on youtube, so I just use the video parameters and change the speed of the video).

For creature designs, you can check on tutorials, books and videos about concept art. I don't have something specific in mind since I just grasped a lot of knowledge from watching different people doing the same thing (concepting characters) but with their own techniques.

For animal anatomy, I don't really have references for you either. I usually work on anthropomorphic characters by thinking of what makes a species different and try to emphasis those elements. I look at a lot of photos, from different angles and check the morphology by checking tree things: skeleton, muscles, head. The head is more about how the proportions of the head work for this animal, how the ears looks like and so on, since I tend to focus on the face to depict the character.

For lines of action, I find this page to explain it really well :) Basically it's more about finding how to draw poses that flow. It's not really about being dramatic, even if lines of action can help with it, more about constructing a pose with a guide that helps unstiffening them.

For the strong lines in your drawings. I just checked your file, basically if you turn off the "Boundary lines" layer, you see that there's already quite a lot of volume. Where you let the lines is where you didn't put enough shadows to go for a no-lineart look. But, you may or may not want to go that path. It really depends on the render you want to have. Lines can also help to bring some strength in your drawing. Trying without any lineart can be an important step for you to improve your shadowing, but your choice of drawing with or without it should not be based on that. In my opinion, for each of your art piece, you should ask yourself if going without lineart is the good choice for the render/impression/atmosphere you want to achieve. You can think that it's the same process to go without a lineart and then you still can add a line, but it's not. Your process will depend on that choice.
That being said, you can use several techniques to have your lineart less standing out without actually get rid of it.
  • 1st technique: coloring the lineart to make it more harmonized. Here's a basic yet great tutorial about it: https://www.deviantart.com/looji/art/Simple-lineart-trick-761497313
  • 2nd technique: using two kinds of brushes for outlines and inlines. Outline of your character can stay pretty strong and it will help to emphasis the silhouette, yet inside lines can feel a bit too heavy. I think it's more visible on that drawing I did: https://www.furaffinity.net/view/35297218/ (you can see that the abdominals muscles are done with little strokes and a thinner brush, resulting in a nice volume without the lines being too strong)
  • 3rd technique: colored lineart 2. This one is basically locking the transparency of your line layer and color the lineart with one or more color. Careful though, I feel that it's great to experiment with, but at one point if you like this render, I feel you should learn to think about the line colors beforehand to have a mor emature render.
  • 4th technique: Lowering opacity. Not really recommended in my opinion (it can make pretty bad results due to the overlap of the layers) but can be useful in certain cases. Select the lines inside your character and lower their opacity to make them blend into the coloring.
I'll send you back your file a bit later ^^
 

klufsting

New Member
@klufsting
Color and Light is a good book. I feel that you may need to look at tutorials on the net too. For me it helped to have both a more in-depth knowledge with the book and a more by-examples knowledge with tutorials, but that may be my way of learning and not yours. Anyway here's one tutorial I like about light and shadows: https://www.deviantart.com/jebriodo/art/Shading-Tutorial-Page-1-207781668 (there are several parts, you should check the description to look at the whole tutorial).
Also I like to look at timelapses from time to time to try to grasp the artist techniques. I usually slow down the video (I watch them on youtube, so I just use the video parameters and change the speed of the video).

For creature designs, you can check on tutorials, books and videos about concept art. I don't have something specific in mind since I just grasped a lot of knowledge from watching different people doing the same thing (concepting characters) but with their own techniques.

For animal anatomy, I don't really have references for you either. I usually work on anthropomorphic characters by thinking of what makes a species different and try to emphasis those elements. I look at a lot of photos, from different angles and check the morphology by checking tree things: skeleton, muscles, head. The head is more about how the proportions of the head work for this animal, how the ears looks like and so on, since I tend to focus on the face to depict the character.

For lines of action, I find this page to explain it really well :) Basically it's more about finding how to draw poses that flow. It's not really about being dramatic, even if lines of action can help with it, more about constructing a pose with a guide that helps unstiffening them.

For the strong lines in your drawings. I just checked your file, basically if you turn off the "Boundary lines" layer, you see that there's already quite a lot of volume. Where you let the lines is where you didn't put enough shadows to go for a no-lineart look. But, you may or may not want to go that path. It really depends on the render you want to have. Lines can also help to bring some strength in your drawing. Trying without any lineart can be an important step for you to improve your shadowing, but your choice of drawing with or without it should not be based on that. In my opinion, for each of your art piece, you should ask yourself if going without lineart is the good choice for the render/impression/atmosphere you want to achieve. You can think that it's the same process to go without a lineart and then you still can add a line, but it's not. Your process will depend on that choice.
That being said, you can use several techniques to have your lineart less standing out without actually get rid of it.
  • 1st technique: coloring the lineart to make it more harmonized. Here's a basic yet great tutorial about it: https://www.deviantart.com/looji/art/Simple-lineart-trick-761497313
  • 2nd technique: using two kinds of brushes for outlines and inlines. Outline of your character can stay pretty strong and it will help to emphasis the silhouette, yet inside lines can feel a bit too heavy. I think it's more visible on that drawing I did: https://www.furaffinity.net/view/35297218/ (you can see that the abdominals muscles are done with little strokes and a thinner brush, resulting in a nice volume without the lines being too strong)
  • 3rd technique: colored lineart 2. This one is basically locking the transparency of your line layer and color the lineart with one or more color. Careful though, I feel that it's great to experiment with, but at one point if you like this render, I feel you should learn to think about the line colors beforehand to have a mor emature render.
  • 4th technique: Lowering opacity. Not really recommended in my opinion (it can make pretty bad results due to the overlap of the layers) but can be useful in certain cases. Select the lines inside your character and lower their opacity to make them blend into the coloring.
I'll send you back your file a bit later ^^
Wow, thank you Professor Nook.
 
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