Premature Rendering (Or, How to Kill a Painting)

Too many paintings have lost their lives to premature rendering because their artists didn’t know what else to do.” – Chris Oatley

The most frustrating thing for me as I was preparing to graduate from college was knowing that I’m not good enough as an artist. Not yet. Especially when it comes to digital painting. When I look at my art it all feels off, like I missed the point of everything. I couldn’t pin down what was wrong, I just knew it was.

But it’s finally becoming clear to me, slowly but surely. I would focus on the character and add the background almost as an afterthought. But the environment needs to be as much a character as the figure(s) you’re drawing in it.

I would forget to pay attention to basic composition (which is something you can learn about in Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre OR for free at Today, watching a lesson from Chris Oatley’s Magic Box course gave me another piece of the puzzle: I’m a compulsive premature renderer.

You’ll notice if you look at any of my galleries that I don’t work in color too often. It’s not because I don’t like illustration; it’s because I have a tendency to hate my colored work as soon as it’s finished. And it’s no wonder. My typical process was to draw a figure, ink it, slap some flat color onto it (without paying attention to composition OR color design) and THEN decide to add a background.

Yeah. That doesn’t work, and I can’t believe I never noticed that ’til now.

Unfortunately for this environment sketch turned sci-fi illustration, I didn't give it's composition very much thought; instead I jumped straight to rendering.
Unfortunately for this environment sketch turned sci-fi illustration, I didn’t give its composition very much thought; instead, I jumped straight to rendering.

Feedback From Salison

In my very first post, I asked for feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as an artist.

The wonderful and talented SALISON responded with a visual critique that has been insanely helpful, so I thought I’d share it.

Here’s my original drawings, some character design sketches from K’tharis, my graphic novel that is currently a work in progress. Wangari is a very strict, military minimalist type of person, so I tried to convey that stiffness in her posing.

Captain Wangari 3It came out a little flat, however. This is the critique Salison gave me on it:

Salison's Crit

I had forgotten how important composition is when designing characters. I spent the last year trying to perfect my anatomy, but unless you’re working in photorealism what matters more is the gesture of the pose, its readability and interest. And Salison totally called me out on that (THANK YOU).

The book she mentions, Character Mentor by Tom Bancroft, is an INCREDIBLE book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in character design or animation. It’s also on my Reading List.


So here’s the before and after. I put in the back hand, as Sal suggested, and tweaked everything else, including her outfit, to create a more deliberate, dynamic pose. You can still see the rigid element of her personality in the new version, but now it’s conveyed in a more commanding and active manner than before.

Aaand because I liked the new drawing so much, I went on to ink and color it. It’s not finished quite yet, but here’s the inking and flat colors: