This is a beautiful tribute to the Afghan Girl. I recognized her immediately, and I'm drawn to the way you emphasized her gorgeous eyes. The rough brushwork of your style is a fantastic compliment to the warm tones and haunted gaze of her figure. You were able to wonderfully capture the essence of a young girl in the midst of a refugee crisis, which continues to be important today. Overall, I love this style of portraiture and this portrait in particular. You mentioned not being completely satisfied with her eyes, but I don't think they need a lot of development. If you were to over-detail them, as I am wont to do, they would stand out from the rest of your style too much; any less, and I'm not sure they would have the impact they do. I look forward to more portraits in the future!
Not a problem! I've been trying to get back into doing Critiques more often.
One of the things I consider when I'm doing portraits/group portraits is how the negative space helps or hinders the attention on the subject(s). I tend to go one of two ways - either use it for framing (balance the negative space across the image so it feels like it's enclosing the subject(s)) or re-activate it with additional color, light or line elements.
I went and grabbed some examples from other artists in my Favorites who do the same thing:
The first two are very similar in composition and approach to activating the negative space; they used the Matrix and the light features associated with it to bring the viewer's eye back to the center of the image, which is bright enough to then drive the eye back outward and onto the surrounding character faces. In the first image, Collin Otto repeated the trick in a secondary sense to reactivate the otherwise dead negative space under Rodimus's feet - the simple effect of light shining down from the Matrix to the floor breaks up the space and brings the eye back upward to the figure again. Without that element, the composition would have been top heavy and all the momentum would have been in the top middle, causing the actual foreground figure to lose impact. Guido Guidi has an amazing sense of composition, and in the last image, he used the negative space for dynamic framing that also became storytelling - the viewer can see that the characters are walking toward an opening, even though literally speaking all it is comprised of are three black areas of negative space. To keep the composition dynamic, the top left is not similarly closed off - instead, a background element was added, giving a sense of depth and space to the image. Without these elements, this image is literally just a group of bots across the center of the page, but finished, it becomes an amazing cover art.
These two are different examples of using light to activate the space. (The second one, artist Koch Huang, I just discovered now as I was looking for examples, and after much gross sobbing about how gorgeous her bots are, I picked the image of Cyclonus for the example. I highly recommend her gallery, because she does fantastic things with light.) Kagamilei's snowscape in the first one actually boils down to light on dark background (aurora, stars and snow reflections), and she created intentional direction with them to bring the focus back to where Starscream's and Skyfire's figures meet. By making them into an impressionistic background, she's fully activated the space as part of the image. In Koch Huang's portrait of Cyclonus, the light is primarily a frame for the figure, but the incorporation of intense reflections also creates a dynamic interaction to fully envelope the figure.
Hope that helps you out! I started watching your art because I already like where you're going with your art. Can't wait to see what's coming up.
I rather like the concept on this one; for a somewhat staple group picture, the composition has a few different elements that make it stand out, including the size distortions for the characters (for example, Soundwave being as large as Megatron even though he's in the back, and Shockwave being very small when many artists draw him very large).
I'm not sure how I feel about the negative space in the top right of the image. I noticed this top negative space pops up fairly regularity in your work. In this particular case, I think it's an area that can be pushed, either with a different sort of background treatment (a more dynamic treatment than simple colors or gradients) or with some slight tweaks to the composition, or both. There is so much great momentum going on in the bottom half of the image with the interaction of Megatron and Starscream, it'd be a shame to have it go dead in the top half.
I'm looking forward to seeing this one in color. There is a lot of potential here for an amazing image.
First, I want to say how thrilled I am to see these sketches finally pulled together into a completed work. I've been kind of excited for that because of the lovely things you have going on with them as individual sketches. <img src="e.deviantart.net/emoticons/m/m…" width="15" height="15" alt="" title="Meow :3"/>
Onward toward ratings!
Vision: This is a lovely sequence of images that really gets across both Beth's naive chasing and Drake's "let's ignore it and hope it goes away until it's awkwardly bad to say something about it" role. It really captures the spirit of the characters - especially one so lovably grounded in canon characterization like Drake. It would be hard to do much more here - the expressions, body language, and progressive sequencing say it all.
Originality: "Drake + OC" is obviously not uncommon, but your spin on it is a markedly different approach than many artists/writers take. It's nice to see the canon character not only NOT immediately fall head-over-heels for the OC, but end up outright rejecting her pursuit. The finality of that, as expressed in the bottom corner, makes for an interesting, fresh look at this "couple" and the interactions they have. Beth is also about as unglamorous as they come in character design, which ironically enough boosts the originality. <img src="e.deviantart.net/emoticons/x/x…" width="15" height="15" alt="" title="XD"/>
Technique: The progress sheet you posted for this one shows that you know the ins and outs of working the figures, so keep on doing what you're doing there - you're working it, so keep working it! I know no one (including myself) likes to hear that, but it's completely true. When you have the foundation, the only way to improve the technique is to keep building on it.
You've also come a long way with digital coloring and inking. You have a good start with manipulating the arrangement of figures, and making some stand out more than others with varying degrees of shadow and opacity. Continue to experiment with these aspects, and also play around with some other composition options - overlays, scale (making some sections larger or smaller than others), and intertwined negative space. Experimenting in those areas will also help alleviate some of that "blank space" you are concerned about, and it'll reduce the need for the gradient background.
Don't be afraid to punch up your art with new elements, even if they're not ones you drew/inked in! For example, the coloring suggests that the table Beth and Drake are seated at has a polished top, and that there's a light source coming from the left side of the image, so you could use those factors to pop up the visual variety with things like a reflection of the bowl in the polished wood, and shadows of the bowl, table and seated figures. Even though this element is "floating in space" now, you'll find that visual cues such as those will help to "ground" the image more and give you more options for working with other areas of the work.
For pieces like this, you may also want to experiment with layouts or compositions that suggest sequential art. While many artists strictly think "comics" in relation to sequential art, and with that label feel the need to put dialog or other text on the image, it's absolutely not necessary. I pulled a few examples of sequential art that works very well with no words on the image at all for you to check out: [link][link][link] (The first one becomes kind of gritty porn after about page three or so, which is why I linked to just the first page - just fair warning in case you or anyone else wants to look further at that series.) If you were to go the sequential art route with a piece like this, you can also use frames, hard edges or shaped backgrounds in your composition.
Impact: The emotional impact of this work is spot-on - the ability to capture a vision of these characters and their situation was so well achieved because of that. The overall impact is reduced a bit by the composition, but you already knew that, because you called out the compositional shortcomings yourself in the comments. It's still a strong, eye-catching work, but there is some room for punching it up even more and creating a real "wow" expression.
The best way to work on that particular skill is to consider what moves you - as you're looking through other peoples' galleries, what makes you stop and take notice? Are there certain types of backgrounds, or certain color schemes you seem to be repeatedly attracted to? Do certain compositions draw your attention? (I notice you have a very blatantly diagonal composition here, and I'm very much a purveyor of the diagonal composition - if you look at my gallery, you'll see that even figures that appear centered on the page usually have at least one prominent diagonal through them.) By analyzing what attracts you to art, you'll be able to apply those ideas to your work. For example, if you realize, "Oh, all of the backgrounds I like use the rule of thirds!" you can then ask yourself, "Is there a way I can use the rule of thirds on my background?" It's a way of breaking down artistic influences into smaller, bite-sized portions to get away from the idea of, "I'd love my art to be like X, Y or Z artist, but it seems so far away from that!" You don't eat a whole pie in one bite (unless you're a hippo at the zoo getting pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving) so there's no reason to approach art that way. <img src="e.deviantart.net/emoticons/t/t…" width="15" height="15" alt="" title="Thumbs Up"/>
Keep working and keep posting! You might not be seeing your progress as well as some of us outside viewers are, but remember that art is very much a marathon, only without a specific finish line to cross. Each stretch you run is training you for the next stretch, and even if you have to slow down at mile markers to pace yourself or grab a splash of water, as long as you keep moving you'll make progress and have lots of miles behind you. <img src="e.deviantart.net/emoticons/h/h…" width="38" height="15" alt="" title="Hug"/>