View Full Version : Koalas - critique and advice, please

08-24-2004, 01:51 PM
here is my second attempt, a koala with its baby. I see several problems already (I am sure there are others I have not noticed yet):
The lights are not light enough. I encountered two problems: first, just as with the frog I did before, I got to the point where I could not add any more pastel, it just would not show, just get sunk into the stuff already there and get muddy. What can I do to avoid this? Is my hand too heavy?
second, I had used my lightest color other than white already. I tried to use white for the final highlights, but it did not look very good, it looked out of place.
I don't like the background much. It is better than it was, I redid it twice. I like to do animal 'portraits', and I find that the background and/or habitat is what I am worst at. I never quite know what colors to use, and how much or little to put in it. I always end up with something that is too busy, too spare, too light, too dark...too something!!! This is true in my oil painting as well.
Where is the focal point? My intention was for it to be the mother's face, but I am not sure that's the way it turned out. Are the leaves too distracting? Does your eye stay on the koalas? I cannot tell for sure.
Any other flaws you see? I will not be able to correct this one much, but it will help me do a better job of my next one!
Thank you all for your help,

08-24-2004, 03:24 PM
Hello Pierak

let me say first, I think you are wayyyyyy too hard on yourself, what I see is a lovely and charming picture.
I do not know what paper you are using..... it could be that you are more heavy handed..... but one beauty of pastels is that alot can easily be brushed off, and started over again
I dont think your background is busy at all, a perfect setting for the subject, not overally done
My rests on the mother, but gets drawn to the cutier baby :), one reason this maybe is that its nose is darker..... the only suggestion I have for you is that perhaps try and lay your darkest darks in first, this would help bring out the animals more and away from any background

..... be pleased with this one, its really nice

good job, well done

08-24-2004, 04:21 PM
Hi Pierak. Your koalas look cute and cuddly. I think the gum leaves behind the baby are more in focus than the others - maybe if you soften them a little. If you look at the foliage & backgrounds in caterwaulin's work in the airbrush forum he has the softer backgrounds - I like his work. Also have a look around at some of the other animal artist's work or in Gaka's (Bruce Lynch) article in the pastel section here. Also crumbedbrains' work is also good to examine.
All the best,

08-24-2004, 05:19 PM
I agree....you're really tough on yourself!! One way to achieve more layers is to use a fixative when the paper seems to get saturated with color. This will slightly darken the pastel but you can add back your lights. Always remember to work dark to light....this will help with keeping your lights brighter and crisp when added to the final touches.

I like the way the mother and cub take central focus....their bond is part of the story.

I was going to recommend that you check out crumbedbrains work also, but I see someone did that :) Look at the demos in the articles, too. There are a couple that will give you more insight into detailed work.

Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

08-24-2004, 08:48 PM
I think your koalas are wonderful, too! Carly has it right, too....you can't have lights without enough darks...tho this seems to have plenty of contrast in it, if you want the critters to pop more, make sure you start dark enough and lighten from there...if you have the darks dark enough, even a medium gray will pop and look as good as a white....and you've discovered one basic truth which took me awhile to discover when I was doing oils....it just ain't possible to go lighter than white!

Anything you really really don't like, use a stiff bristle brush (like an oil paint brush maybe) and whisk away the layers that are too piled up...I usually do this with the painting tilted over a wastebasket or better yet outside so the dust doesn't fall all over the good parts. Then just have at it again.

There's also another basic psychological fact when it comes to mother/baby pictures...the baby almost always steals the show no matter what ya do!

Great work! You're making great progress and before you know it you'll have a handle on layering and all that stuff....give yourself a break and have FUN with it. :wave:

08-24-2004, 10:31 PM
Hi everybody,
Thank you for the feedback! I feel better about the piece. I was worried that the background was too busy, and detracted from the koalas.
Carol pointed out the leaves that are more in focus than others, I'll try to soften them. I am afraid to spray, I have tried it; I am not as concerned about the darkening, but it also made the color really splotchy, and I don't know how to deal with that.
It is true that I tend to be hard on myself, I always see things I could have done better, but often I do not know exactly what to do about it.
My pastel class tonight was about backgrounds, and I got good information from it; between that, experimentation, and getting good critiques, I hope it will get easier!
Thanks again, and now I'm off reading the pastel library again. I'm going through all the articles.

K Taylor-Green
08-25-2004, 10:13 AM
Great job on this. Sooz is right about those babies. They steal the show everytime!! When I paint a mom and baby, I usually focus on the bond between them. You have captured that very well.

08-25-2004, 08:22 PM
Ditto on all the above.
The bond between mother and young really steals the show.
I am not very good at backgrounds myself, so tend to just put in a complimentary background colour. your's has done just this
To me, the leaves help "frame" the painting.
If I were asked to give a rating for this one, I would give at least a 9/10

I look forward to seeing more of your work.
;) ;)