AuthorTopic: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage  (Read 700 times)

Offline SeDiceBisonte

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Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

on: May 02, 2021, 08:17:28 am
Hi all! It's been a little while. I've been doing smaller pieces since my last post, generally for Pixel Joint weeklies, and I didn't feel I had much to offer crit-wise with a lot of recent posts. That said, I'm pleased to see that Pixelation seems to be a bit livelier than it was last year and I'll try to contribute more.

I'm currently working on a piece that I started back in 2008. It was going to be the first thing I posted here when I originally intended to get into pixel art, but I wasn't able to finish it and, for various reasons, I didn't do any art for a decade until I joined here last year. I started it in my teens as an homage to J W Waterhouse's Ophelia, which is one of my favourite paintings. At the time I didn't just want to do a study, so it's my version of it (although the subject is the same, so it's intended to tell the last moments of her story from Hamlet).

My intention is to finish this for Thursday 6th (fortunately I'm off work quite a bit before then) to mark a year of being a Pixelation and Pixel Joint member. All of this is WIP but I mostly feel okay about plugging away at it except for the foliage. I can't find a method that looks quite right. Here's the version that I think is looking best:

Ultimately, the more distant foliage that I've done in blue will use the same style as the nearer parts, but I haven't had time to fill that in and I'm already doubting that this is the right look.

An earlier version with a different, and I think even worse, approach is here.

Over the past year, I feel I've learned that I want a simple approach (i.e. easily recognisable forms, nothing too detailed to distract from the subject, and nothing noisy) and also something that shows some intention behind it, but landscapes are very much not my thing.

Here are a couple of references that have a similar look to the one I'm going for: one / two.

Like I say, there's a fairly tight deadline for this which is why I'm looking for such specific advice. I am always interested in broader crits, but I may not be able to implement everything this time round (and I've already had a round of feedback on an earlier version over at the PJ Discord). There are some things which I'm married to at this stage: the overall composition isn't changing (I will add in some leaves for the trees once the ground cover is sorted), and adding colours might be a bit awkward this far in.

If anyone's interested, this is how it looked in 2008.

Offline cels

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #1 on: May 02, 2021, 09:23:06 am
Amazing piece and a fantastic testament to your progress.

Hi, I'm CELS, the substitute teacher of Pixelation who smells faintly of cabbage. I'll be here until the more qualified posters show up.

I understand that you have a specific style in mind. This is almost like art noveau in that each area has a low number of colors.  The trees are three colors, the water is two colors, etc. You also have a limited palette. Would you prefer not to blend different 'layers' of background together?

I would maybe do something like this but maybe it's too pixel-arty for what you had in mind. Or the wrong kind of foliage.

Offline SeDiceBisonte

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #2 on: May 02, 2021, 10:09:25 am
Thanks!

The low colours in each area are more likely a result of inexperience rather than a conscious choice. I tried a few methods with the trees and settled on this as looking most bark-like, but the whole thing was a compromise between having them fade into the background through atmospheric perspective, giving them texture, and not having them distract from the foreground. I'd actually like to make stuff that looks as pixel arty as possible! That said, I wouldn't have chosen to make something this size if I wasn't committed to finishing off an old piece without resizing it. I doubt I'll do something this big again for a long time!

That edit looks great. I'd tried using all blue, and I think I mucked around with blue highlights at one point, but I never considered using the dark shade in there. It looks far less distracting (particularly with regard to the plants in the river) and also far more natural. I'll start working on a new version based on your advice later today. I don't have any specific foliage in mind (the only thing I've decided for sure is that the large flowers in her hair and in the water are white marigolds). Ideally it'll look vaguely European since the original painting is British and Hamlet is Danish, but I'm no plant expert.

Based on what you've said, do you think it's possible to render the trees with a greater level of detail? I don't want to get too sidetracked because of my deadline (self-imposed, admittedly), but I do worry that they look more like lino prints compared to Ophelia.

Offline cels

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #3 on: May 02, 2021, 11:12:21 am
I wouldn't know how to add more detail to the closest trees without adding new colors, like a darker blue-grey. One could maybe experiment with using more of the blue colors on the parts of the background that are only brown and black, to make things look less separated. Something to tie everything together. But it depends what style you're going for. I sort of like the simplistic art noveau poster approach as well.



I guess it's a bit odd that the dark half of the trees is nearly pitch black with no visibile details. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd have to see some references.
EDIT: On Ophelia, the front of her face (our left side) is catching some light. Her hair seems darker on our right side and brighter on our left side. So it's weird that the nearest trees are pitch black on our left side, no?




See, this is the sort of stuff I'm trying to learn myself, so I shouldn't be giving advice. I just notice the pros are mixing warmer and colder hues a lot, giving their textures a richer, more complex fabric. And I don't know how to do that yet.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 08:26:31 am by cels »

Online fskn

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #4 on: May 02, 2021, 01:29:56 pm
Bisonte, that looks VERY nice. Good job.

I don't feel like I can contribute much... Maybe saying that you could add different types of leaves, like... Fern? Do they have fern in Denmark? Do they even grow near rivers? xD

But anyways, something somewhat subtle that would show up especially in that part in the very middle of the piece. Not to add noise, but to make it a bit richer with detail. I feel that the bark (which is very well done) adds quite a bit of detail, and that middle area lacks some, in contrast.

Some bigger leaves at the front, maybe long ones like those in the painting (not those floating in the water).

And, uh... Yeah, then there's this margin that's closest to us.
I think I would just try adding leaves everywhere. xD

Maybe a few different ones to add variety and make it a bit more interesting.

Offline eliddell

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #5 on: May 04, 2021, 01:42:52 am
Very nice.

I agree with cels that the browns and the grey-blues in the background should mix together more.  The distinction between the stuff near the stream bank and the stuff further in the background feels too abrupt.

Also, I keep on getting the feeling that there should be some deeper shadow in and around the girl's hair, but that might just be me.  Or maybe it's the brown shirt against the brown bank that isn't drawing enough attention to her.  :shrug:
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Offline SeDiceBisonte

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #6 on: May 04, 2021, 07:13:29 pm
Got an in-progress version because I'm running out of time today but want to know if the things I've tried are working.


I guess it's a bit odd that the dark half of the trees is nearly pitch black with no visibile details. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd have to see some references.
EDIT: On Ophelia, the front of her face (our left side) is catching some light. Her hair seems darker on our right side and brighter on our left side. So it's weird that the nearest trees are pitch black on our left side, no?


See, this is the sort of stuff I'm trying to learn myself, so I shouldn't be giving advice. I just notice the pros are mixing warmer and colder hues a lot, giving their textures a richer, more complex fabric. And I don't know how to do that yet.

Thanks so much! That definitely works and I've attempted something similar. I think I've been less successful as far as the foliage goes but it's still WIP. It's definitely an improvement. I'm beginning to fear that the landscape part of this may be beyond me  :(

The tree appearance was based on a few reference images (along with looking at a load nearby while tearing my hair out, trying to figure out how to do them), but this one illustrates it pretty well. I was hoping to replicate the very low contrast appearance of the side that's in shadow by having it fade from textured to featureless. My hope was that the texture would be implied on the left-hand side, but I don't think it's working yet.

Based on previous crits, I wanted to have high contrast in some areas (such as by Ophelia herself) so I put a couple of trees in useful places with the darkest colour, then added ones further back in lighter shades before working on the texture. I'm not sure how salvageable this has made the nearest trees, but I'm hoping that the addition of shadows on the ground and following your advice about the bark has helped.

You're right about the lighting, and I'll continue to pull the bark texture further round the tree so it's more consistent.

Maybe saying that you could add different types of leaves, like... Fern? Do they have fern in Denmark? Do they even grow near rivers? xD

Thanks, fskn! Apparently they have ferns in Denmark and I've seen at least one whole image of them by a river so... good enough for me! I've not really got very far into trying to add in leaf shapes. I mucked about with some fern shapes on the far bank and I think I need to go bigger and bolder for them to stand out. I'll keep working on that tomorrow, but it's another case of having literally no clue what I'm doing and experimenting by trial and error. Never let me do a landscape again  :ouch:

Also, I keep on getting the feeling that there should be some deeper shadow in and around the girl's hair, but that might just be me.  Or maybe it's the brown shirt against the brown bank that isn't drawing enough attention to her.  :shrug:

Thanks! As an experiment, I've tried adding a bit of the darkest tone to the top part of the hair. If people think the added contrast and general look of it is beneficial then I'll keep going tomorrow and shade all of the hair like that. My feeling is that it's better with the increased contrast, but I'm worried about it potentially looking too much like a pen drawing. I tried adding in some of the lighter parts of the brown ramp to blend the different tones in the hair but it looked like she had grey hairs.

Ultimately, I'm in control of the palette, but I don't see how to add or change a colour at this stage without it appearing inconsistently. One day I'll figure out how to build a palette better at the beginning of a drawing....

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #7 on: May 04, 2021, 07:49:08 pm
The foliage is looking great, man!
Those in the margin that is farthest away from us, but still closer (edit: esp. those near her shoulder) could be a bit larger, but those in the far back look great! Keep it up! :y::)
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 07:51:58 pm by fskn »

Offline eliddell

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #8 on: May 04, 2021, 09:04:45 pm
I'd say it's working.  In addition to drawing the background together better, mixing the browns and the blue-greys has made her sleeve stop blending into the far bank, and yes, I would say the additional contrast improves the hair.
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Offline SeDiceBisonte

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #9 on: May 05, 2021, 09:49:35 pm
Whew–been working on this all day and I still haven't managed to address all the crits but, since I'm aiming to finish it tomorrow, I thought it'd be wise to post an update.


While increasing the size of the leaf shapes, I hit on what I'm hoping is a decent method of rendering the nearest foliage on the far bank. Obviously that'll get smaller and fade into the existing style of shading the further back it goes. This version doesn't have varied leaf shapes yet, but that's something I'm hoping to come back to if there's time.

I also tried out a slightly duller orange in her hair, in the hope that it would blend better with the red. Not sure how I feel about it.

My main worry is that I have no idea how to do the closest part of the near river bank. I'm considering sticking a load of rocks in that bit and having the bushes start a little before the point it currently changes from brown to blue, but that would feel like a bit of a cop out...

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #10 on: May 05, 2021, 10:16:21 pm
Whoa. The new foliage looks fantastic, dude. Congrats.
And the detailing on the trees at the far back.

The rocks (they're rocks, right?) in the middle of the stream look a little bit noisy to me, so that, together with the colors you chose, stablish a visual connection with the flowers on her head, and that's a bit confusing.
I'm kind of reading them as flowers right now, and it looks like she either picked some of those from the river to put them on her head, or the opposite, she took them off and threw them in the river.
If, instead, they're meant to be flowers, then I think you need to add darker shades and give them more definition.

For the closest bank you could just add leaves like I said before. Bigger leaves. You could try to make similar foliage as to what you added in the far bank, but bigger and more detailed.
Well, not necessarily more detailed, but making us see those two and think that they're the same type of leaves, just at different distances.
Could something different too, of course, but I think it would look neat if you did something like that.

Other types of leaves mixed in would make it even better.

But IMHO it looks gorgeous already.

Offline cels

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #11 on: May 05, 2021, 10:30:01 pm
I think fskn's idea of fallen leaves is a good one. I was going to suggest overgrown cobblestones or something. Something ominous that reinforces the fatal mood of the piece without being too obvious (although a skull, a vial of poison and tickets to the 'The Murder of Gonzago' would make the piece more accessible to a mainstream audience). Just having a bunch of rocks or grass seems a bit insignificant.

FWIW, I read the flowers as flowers so that's not an issue for me. Unless they're rocks.  :lol:

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #12 on: May 06, 2021, 09:28:37 am
Thanks guys!

Haha, they're meant to be flowers but I realized they were too big and I didn't get round to finishing them by the end of the day. That shouldn't imply that I actually know how I'm going to finish them, mind you. I think the ones in her hair get by because contextually there isn't much else they could be.

The flowers are the reason the composition ended up the way it is, with her looking out of the frame. It's meant to look like some have fallen from her hair but she hasn't noticed, foreshadowing the fact that she's going to end up in the river. I think it's probably far too subtle, though, so I actually like the idea of throwing in some other ominous hints (as long as they're subtle–as you say, CELS, it'd be easy to hit the audience over the head with it).

I'm considering extending my deadline slightly to a year since I finished my first piece rather than a year since I joined, but maybe I can pull this off today...

Offline cels

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #13 on: May 06, 2021, 12:55:20 pm
Good luck, man! However far you want to take this, it's already a great piece.  ;D

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #14 on: May 06, 2021, 10:23:01 pm
I decided the deadline was important enough to finish it off as best I could today, although it would definitely have been better with varied leaves and something else to give it that ominous feeling.



If there's anything glaringly wrong or really terrible (e.g. those rocks, which I ended up hating more than the leaves so I just slapped some shadows from trees off to the right of the picture) then I can still update it.

I wish I'd had time to get it up on here a bit earlier, but work got in the way the last few weeks.

Thanks again for the help!

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #15 on: May 06, 2021, 10:36:43 pm
If there's anything glaringly wrong or really terrible...

Nothing. That's just jaw-droppingly good. And I'm so stealing this for my ref. folder.
Congrats!

Offline cels

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #16 on: May 07, 2021, 05:16:02 am
Looks fantastic! Congrats!  ;D

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Re: Ophelia - Need Advice on Foliage

Reply #17 on: May 08, 2021, 09:50:18 am
Thanks guys! I really appreciate all the help (more of which I'll be able to apply on my next, non-time-limited project, whatever that may be).