Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: Johasu on April 23, 2014, 09:07:06 pm

Title: Sunset Background
Post by: Johasu on April 23, 2014, 09:07:06 pm
This was heavily inspired by an existing piece and I used the same colors.  But I would like any C&C on things that stand out as odd or needing work.
Each layer of my image was created by taking a quick glance at the reference and then creating my own version.  It was an interesting exercise in memory and tested my ability to capture the style of other artists.  I'm really not sure I came that close on any one element, but I really like this piece and want to know if there are any big mistakes I am not seeing.
The reference: http://i.imgur.com/OwAbieu.png (http://i.imgur.com/OwAbieu.png)
My recreation:
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Decroded on April 24, 2014, 08:08:26 am
i knew what it was as soon as i saw this ;-)
viewing on mobile so quick comments.
biggest problem is lack of blending between foreground and background, the light to dark purple is very sudden.
also it all just feels too symmetrical.
notice the reference shifts the balance of the castle to the left, then shifts the balance of hills behind to compensate?
that just makes the image more dynamic so experiment more with that until u become fluent at it.
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: cels on April 24, 2014, 12:22:37 pm
This is so damn sexy that it almost needs a NSFW warning.

Personally, I think there's a little bit of a style mismatch between the foreground and the building windows in the darkest purple background layer. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the barn (?) on the right is kind of naive, stylistic and cartoonish, whereas the foreground is a bit more grim and painterly. It also looks like most, if not all, the trees on that background layer are placed on a single line. Realistically, you'd expect to see some tree tops from the trees that are either partially covered by being behind the hill or partially obscured by the darkness as they're in front of the hill. Having all of them on a line, seemingly, adds to the impression of a naive, stylistic and cartoonish style. (Some of them are already smaller than others, which could imply depth, but it could also just be seen as small trees)

I don't know, maybe I'm nitpicking on issues that others will disagree with or not care about. I'm on thin ice, perhaps.

I do agree that the contrast on the castle is a bit much though, given that the light source is directly behind the castle. But then, I guess you want to imitate the reference.
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Johasu on April 24, 2014, 01:31:43 pm
i knew what it was as soon as i saw this ;-)
I am pleased that you recognized it so quickly.  It means I didn't do too terribly at least on some level.
This is so damn sexy that it almost needs a NSFW warning.
Most of the credit needs to go to the original art/artist.  I was just replicating something else that had been done. ;D  I really do love this one, though. That's the problem. I feel like I accomplished something and am a little scared to touch it.  So I bring it here to let those who aren't so infatuated pick it apart and force me to improve it.  I could easily just sit back and smile, but I feel like there is more room for growth here and I am totally okay messing around with alterations if it can improve the end result.  Nitpicks encouraged  :y:
Honestly, I can look at this and see exactly how my progress went.  I began with the farthest back elements and created them as I moved forward.  It's pretty evident that the layers became more and more in line with my own style choices as I came forward.

Architecturally, I had absolutely no plans when I created the buildings.  I started out trying to recreate from flash memory the original piece and ended up building this large castle thing.  I was aware of that bit of cognitive dissonance  between the light cast on the building and the placement of the sun, but didn't want to have the entire structure be shadowed.  The smaller building is also not planned at all.  I was thinking like a stable or something when I built it. My original buildings didn't even come close to matching in terms of era or style and I did some work to bring them closer together, but it wasn't enough maybe.

I am prepping an edit.  My main concerns at this point are composition oriented.  If I move the castle it won't be in the center anymore.  If I move the sun the lighting cast will work on the castle more but probably won't work so well on the foreground.  Those are the two most powerful segments and I don't want to lose too much strength in one to improve another.
The farthest layer of forest was made in that sort of bell curve in an attempt to draw attention to the castle.  However, when I started out I wasn't planning to make the castle so large and it probably doesn't require so much direct line focus to draw the eye.

I will rework the back line.  Play with orientation some.
Thanks with the comments.   ;)
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Manupix on April 24, 2014, 09:37:29 pm
My main concerns at this point are composition oriented.
Rightly so =)
In the ref, everything is positioned to move the viewer's gaze to the important places while missing nothing. First the sun brightness catches the eye, then castle and sprite, left tree, left platforms, graveyard, right platform and tree, and back to castle/sun/sprite.
The castle/sun/sprite create a triangular self-standing sub-composition, that nevertheless immerses and links to all the rest. The castle is in the middle, but the 'center of gravity' of that triangle is not, it's approx 1/3 left, 1/3 up (rule of thirds).
The actual center of the piece is a featureless expanse which at once draws the eye away and helps it into its circular trajectory, creates the distance between the graveyard and castle, and makes an eye resting zone from all the surrounding detail.

In your piece, the sprite is missing so the triangle doesn't exist, the sun is tangent to the castle right side slope, and the way the distant bg horizon parallels the castle and its hills, also tangent to the sun, creates a weakness instead of a strength.
The graveyard is a linear feature disconnected from the rest. Nothing links the planes together.
As a whole, it is too symmetrical and has no real focus, the eye wanders aimlessly.

About castle details, the ref is careful to give away as little as needed. The castle is probably partly ruined, no structure is obvious, and the scale is consistent with what can be guessed. Yours has either too much or too little detail, and scale seems inconsistent: the upper part looks like a much larger castle than the lower 2/3 and trees imply. You can of course go for the higher level of detail, and break away from the ref in this and other aspects ;)
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Johasu on April 24, 2014, 11:07:51 pm
Now that I am fully deflated.   :lol:

Is there a way to fix those composition errors without remaking the entire piece or should I start from the ground up?

As I created the castle structure I worked on the top and then felt like the bottom was so bland and empty so I shaped it into castle walls and that gave it this sort of castle/town on top of a castle appearance that you pointed out.
I also felt the need to drive the pathway toward the castle in the distance but since the castle was in the center it didn't really lend to a winding path straight up the middle.  Which is why it goes to nowhere in particular.

Any general advice on how to rectify the situation without a full remake?
I want to create an edit which pulls the elements together.  I will do a remake if I come to the point that I believe it can't be fixed but...  Man I really want to find a way to make this come together without scrapping it.

Until then(for fun):
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Manupix on April 25, 2014, 02:38:47 pm
Now that I am fully deflated.   :lol:
Sorry  :blind:

Restarting a piece is always a good idea. I know the feeling of not wanting to throw away many hours of hard work, but you might just end up spending more time fixing things for a lesser result than starting from scratch. Several times if need be (http://www.pixeljoint.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5186)! Also the work is never actually lost, what you learned doing it remains.
I'm saying this generally, not specifically for this piece. But composition being the bottom foundation of any piece, I don't think you should avoid it.

I'm not sure I understand your exact aim in this remake, and how close or far from the original you wish to go.
If it's a close remake, you should stick to the original composition and only work on detail.
If it's not intended to be as literal, feel free to find a different geometry of 'lines of strength'. Maybe pick another great piece with a different layout and try to apply that.
Make (many) sketches before deciding, block out rough color shapes with a 3x3 or larger pencil, explore options.

As I created the castle structure I worked on the top and then felt like the bottom was so bland and empty so I shaped it into castle walls and that gave it this sort of castle/town on top of a castle appearance that you pointed out.
Nothing wrong with that, as long as scales are consistent.
As usual: references (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:General_views_of_Mont_Saint-Michel)!
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: Johasu on April 25, 2014, 03:15:52 pm
Any worthwhile exercise is acceptable if it helps me become more understanding and capable.

The reason I ask for advice on how to fix the original is because I have a feeling that remaking it, the atmosphere will be entirely different.
The cohesion between the front layer and the castle layer is really nonexistent.  They are two entirely different styles of work and don't mesh without some sort of bridging of the two to bring them together.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh with that assessment, but I feel like it is true.
I will go through some remake at composition level and post them for advice on how to move forward.
Are there any resources I could use (books and the like) that would teach me more directly about composition awareness and setting up scenes in the way that you broke down the original for me earlier?
I appreciate the help.
I will be taking into account everyone's advice as I move forward.  See if I can put it all together!
Title: Re: Sunset Background
Post by: astraldata on April 26, 2014, 01:15:44 am
Very mature way of looking at things, Johasu. It shows you're really in this to improve. That kind of spirit is what I believe Pixelation is all about.

Anyway, your 'harsh' assessment, perhaps sadly, is very accurate in my personal opinion. However, that depends more on if you're referring to the front background layer and not the front tile layer. The front tile layer works fine with the simplistic BG layers imo. What doesn't seem to work is the detail you put in the castle on the very top, which is inconsistent with the light source, and should be more shadowed than the portion leading to the cemetery which seems to be closer to the camera and should have more of the sunlight on it from where the sun is located (and thusly be a bit more detailed to potentially blend together the foreground tiles and castle-shadowed areas a bit better -- the darker shades of the tombstones break any sense of blending the tombstone layer could have with the castle layer).

While I believe creativity in composition is important, I also think you should keep in mind both the natural laws of mass, light, repetition, etc. to emphasize the 'organic' in this type of composition as much as all other rules of composition like the rule of thirds, the rule of odds, etc. to bring a sense of dynamism to your work.

Believe it or not, you don't have to be an expert to create awesome compositions. In fact, by reading this wikipedia article, and just looking into some of the composition techniques it mentions, just in a bit more detail and from varying perspectives, you can learn a great deal about it in a short time:


I'm still not a master at composition yet (it takes a great deal of practice on a huge variety of thumbnail-sketches to get the feeling you're going for but not yet quite sure how to express in order to achieve what you're envisioning for example), but I suggest starting small and blocking in the big shapes and colors first on a variety of different designs. Then, once you find a layout/composition/color-scheme that works for you, blow it up (or put it to the side where you can see it) and start throwing in the details and refining it. This technique works just as well in pixel art as it does in digital painting imo. No books needed. It's fun to try different things to see if they can work together -- that's just art.

Maybe I'm way off the mark here, but composition, as I've found it, is all about putting elements (such as shapes) together that work to convey a harmonious/unified sense or mood (such as the feeling a tall brooding forest might be composed of a bunch of tall and wide triangles containing various trees, forming a larger, possibly inverted, triangle, etc., creating a sense of harmony in the form of shape and perhaps color in this case). Just some food for thought.