Thank you so much! I appreciate you saying so. Right now I'm having problems with the whole inspiration area myself. Haven't touched poser in over a year now I think. Part of that is that I'm not looking forward to reinstalling it.
First let me congratulate you on placing as high as you did. That is a great accomplishment considering the amount of people who normally enter these kinds of contests and the fact that you throw yourself into them as much as you do is all kinds of amazing to me.
This is a great piece and seeing all the work you did as described in your description sounds like you really worked hard and learned a lot. I think your effort in all of this is quite admirable.
Even so, I think the over all composition, your central/focus figure has a few problems which is what lessened the impact of this piece and is part of why it didn't win. It wasn't for lack of trying or even your technique with Vue. As artists, we can't lose sight that art is subjective and composition, creation of a beautiful image will often trump technique. Sometimes the best images are simple.
The baton twirler is clearly the focus of the image, but even so while your eye is drawn to her, she does not really "pop" or stand out -- she does not really seem to be as your title suggests: Stealing the Show.
With the exception of the petals, everyone and everything in this piece is very de-saturated. If maybe she had been wearing a more colorful outfit from the rest of the paraders - that might be one thing that would have helped her stand out from the background more since she almost blends in.
Amazing work you did on the outfit and piecing it together. This is the kind of thing I have the worst time with in my work, so I must give you kudos there! Nicely done on the procedurals as well.
I have two other critiques (they go hand in hand so this looks like one) when it comes to the central figure, the first is that the angle and pose together make her look oddly stretched, and second is that the tutu probably wouldn't go down like it does along her right leg. Together they create a big question mark in the viewer's mind which is part of why I think that this image does not have the full impact it could.
But as always your work is great, you always get so much out of participating in contests and every time I see you rise above the challenge. What you do for these things is a testament of the love you have for your work and the dedication you have to progressing your skill. Well done!
I have to say I really do love this picture. It is a wonderful concept and its totally you!
Only one problem I have noticed (and I don't know why I didn't notice it before) but you have a strange tangent with the rear wing coming out of your girl's head. It also connects the head to the edge of your image which ends up leading the eye out of the frame. You don't want that from a composition standpoint.
I hate to suggest you re-render this, but if you have the original file, it might be worth it to just move that rear wing a bit back or something and make the composition stronger by doing so.
The lighting is beautiful, pose, expression, items -- everything fits well together. Overall, a stunning piece.
So this is how a critique thingie works. Cool and interesting.
I agree with most of what you said and squinting to see the values, I can see why that rim light may have seemed necessary to use on the hair of the redhead: to help separate the value of the blue loincloth to the red hair but that can be done with either lightening or darkening one or the other and eliminating that rim light which doesn't quite seem right given the other lighting in the scene.