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Full Version: Desert Landscape Critique!
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Hey everyone! So I've only been painting digitally for about 5 months, so my stuff isn't very good yet. But stick with me because I need your critiques! Ive been doing lots of studies, but just recently changed my approach. Now I do a few finished pieces a week, but do studies specifically for those pieces to try to make them better, and actually learn something!

This piece was done with the theme "desert" in mind, I choose to do it at night time, and would love to have some critiques. I usually o B&W at the moment, but I tried colour as the colour pallete isn't to complicated.

(B&W image is my study for the painting)
What is goal of the piece? What are you looking for it to accomplish? This will help me give you a better critique.
Ok couple of quick fundamentals to think about. I assumed you weren't going for a stylised environment so the crit is given in that context.

One: composition. The focal point is jammed into the lower corner. Use the rule of thirds to arrange your focal points, it really does work better.

Two: value. Generally speaking things with higher contrast darker value should be closer to the viewer and things further away become less contrasted and higher in value. Even at night. At the moment your values are fairly close together. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but even though you have depth, it could be pushed even further with this idea of controlling dark to light, high to low contrast when moving from foreground to background.

Three: Perspective. Unless this is meant to be stylised the perspective doesn't really read like a completely realistic 3D environment. This isn't helped by the way that you have cast shadows on the dunes. Because the shadows don't follow perspective they appear like drop shadows on the canvas thus flattening the image and giving it that stylised appearance. If you want to depict 3D forms it's all about how you control the values across the form to show light vs dark sides and especially how the cast shadows are mapped from the light source to the forms they are casting shadows upon.

A detail, but the stars are very evenly spaced which makes it look particularly stylised as well.

Colour wise, think about using some of the complementary colour of the light in the shadow. So if the light is warm, the shadow should have a cooler tint to it. This adds vibrancy amd realism.
Look at reference for how to show things like realistic lighting dropoff. Search images for a fire in the desert, I'm pretty sure the drop off would be a lot steeper from a campfire than how you have it. The trick to applying studies and ref is to find the appropriate ones for your image and apply. You can post the studies you did for this so we can see if they are the kind of things you should be doing for this image?
Hope that helps


Thanks for taking the time to write that critique, it was very helpful! I still have a lot to learn! This was a rather quick painting (like 2-3 hours) so I only ended up doing one study, but Ill post it. Thanks again for all the advice. You advice about the studies opened my eyes, I should figure out what Ill be doing, then I can better choose my study subjects.
Yeah, so I'm not sure if that study you did was of an actual image, but here are some refs I would use to study from or use to do a desert campfire at night.
[Image: 22409671.jpg]
[Image: desert_fire_madam2.jpg]

The main issue with choosing a night scene in a desert with no other light source but stars and a camp fire is that you really won't find much useful reference because most images taken would have to be overexposed to catch anything and while cool they tend to make things totally unrealistic, or would be mostly just dark with a bright hotspot somewhere. It would be far better to try and learn from doing studies and paintings of things that are realistically depicted in the first instance because all you have to do is try and understand and replicate how they work.


Thanks for all your help! I'll remember that about night scenes from now on, it was pretty hard to find reference. Anyways, here's my repaint. I took a lot of the things you said into account, slightly changed the perspective, made the vocal point stand out more, added some complementary colours to the shadows, etc. Also I added the foreground cactus to make the left side seem less empty.

I took Mikes comment into account as well. He couldn't get a real idea of what the point was, so I tried to give it more story. So I added some type of magic circle around the campsite and a staff which powers it to protect the mage while he sleeps.

Feel free to let me know if anything still needs fixing ^^
Yeah no worries dude, that's a heap of improvement on the original. I'd call it done and move on to the next thing. From seeing just this piece I'd say you'd really benefit from doing in your study periods, simple value studies of primitive forms in different lighting conditions.....spheres, cubes, cylinders etc. That would help you with defining volume and form


Thanks, Ill start doing more of those! ^^