Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Requesting a mega-critique

We all have blind spots. Sometimes we need other people to point out obstacles that are invisible to us.

That said, if you can spare a minute, please let me know what you think I can do to improve my work.

It can be easier to critique if you know the artist's original intentions, so for context: I want my art to be like visual writing. I'm not as interesting in rendering as I am in communicating real emotion and telling compelling stories. I want my art to invite the viewer into places with depth, age and a sense of temperature. Finally, I want to cleanly communicate mass, volume and good design without getting bogged down in detail or decoration. If there are places where I could do a better job at this stuff, please let me know!



  1. Dear Matt,

    I've been a huge fan of yours for close to ten years now! (You and Tom were always the biggest inspirations to me back in the glory days of Eatpoo).

    I think one of your blind spots has been not using enough varied body types and ages for your female characters. Your male characters have a great diversity of proportions, ages, and distinctive personalities. I think the women are too close to "ideal type," and somewhat sexualized at that.

    Your life drawing shows you are a keen observer of this diversity in the real world, so I would look forward to see more integration of that into your imaginative work.

    All the best to you and your family.

  2. Heya,

    After surfing through your gallery again, I noticed that in a few pieces you color the lineart while in others you leave it flat black. I think if you could more frequently do the former, it would add a lot of depth and warmth even to quickly colored sketches, and help enhance your wonderful lighting.

    Hope that helps!

  3. I agree with the other Zoe. Your ladies definitely all have a "type" which I, as a female viewer, sometimes find alienating when I see such a depth of variety and expression in your male characters but not in your ladiez.

    Also, I feel like you have...plateaued? Just a bit? I have been following your work since early Eatpoo as well and I think you have become too comfortable with your tools, maybe. I would very much like to see you branch out into other mediums and to experiment more. You do experiment sometimes, I notice, but your experiments are all done in programs/mediums you are very familiar with so I feel like they are not challenging you. Traditional media like ink, acrylic washes or watercolor might be a nice change for you because they are a lot more organic, spontaneous and wild which might force you to loosen up and look at broader shapes/imagery.

    I am looking at your work from an illustrator's point of view rather than a character development/gaming point of view. And maybe that's not what you are looking for because your professional work is geared more towards game development. I'm also looking more at the forest than the trees, as well. Anyway regardless I hope this was helpful!

  4. I would say that your tendency to make a sharp edge that is even on both sides of a figure (even if one side is receding into space) far more than the other is flattening things out. Having said that, I like how it isolates the figure as a sort of cut out in your work. So, I'm hesitant to say anything, but I notice it for what it's worth. On that Reboot Continued piece, the girl on the very far right has a soupenator (sp?) muscle flexed while her hand is upturned ...I think little anatomy issues like that are worth tackling. Maybe your upper arms are a bit long at times (that is very picky of me to say). If I say anymore its the stuff we all need to work on like facial feature placement and refined proportions. I'm scared that I'm pointing out things that are also nice to look at because it reads as honesty...I like that.
    My biggest suggestion is still to maybe explore lost edges and maybe get into sharp to soft edge variance to push space and control your viewers eye.

    Hope that helps. Okay, I love your work and I suck so please take time to do the same on my blog. Blessings.

  5. Yess! Ted! Lost edges. I concur. That is something I personally struggle with, as well. But oh man, when you consciously choose to make one you feel LIKE A BOSS.

  6. I only half-agree with the female form issues people have mentioned. I noticed the women all tend to be the same age, all fit - but their body types within that do differ. I saw curvy women, muscular women, rail-thin women...

    The vast majority of your work seems to fall into the european realm - I'd love to see more variety in your stories - different backdrops, different worlds, different races - black, hispanic, central american... there's a whole world... there are a thousand worlds to play with, and I think that exploring some of that variety might really be an interesting direction for you to expand into.

    I haven't seen much of your art beyond this web site, or your work on Mass Effect, so if I've missed the mark here, feel free to ignore!

    As for the art itself - I really love the style itself. Looking through the work, I can certainly make comments on individual pieces - your pirate piece, for instance, the character and the background don't quite gel - I think it's because of the amount of lines you use to draw her, and the lack of outlining in the background. I noticed that, though I really enjoy a lot of your work, there do seem to be issues with backgrounds. This isn't in every picture, but often the character seems to sit on top of the background rather than being a part of it. This really works in some cases (your skyrim pic, for instance - I love that one), but in others, it really kind of catches me off-guard and makes it hard for me to sink into the emotion of the piece.

  7. I think you communicate your designs wonderfully and clearly. I have never felt I've had trouble reading or understanding your designs. As far as I'm concerned, you have splendid design sensibilities. Great shapes, anatomy and distribution of detail.

    In my opinion, you are good at communication. I feel warmth and emotion in your stories. I loved "My Hero". However, in my humble opinion, your stories rarely feel important. I feel you're communicating a series of events, or a snapshot, from a cool roleplaying game campaign. Perhaps a more honest statement, a point which you can relate to and stand up for, can give your stories a deeper sense of purpose. For example the movie "Straw Dogs" by Sam Peckinpah could be distilled to "Stand up for yourself, you can't run forever". I found wisdom there which I could bring and apply to my own life. "Robocop", "Heat", "Apocalypse Now", "Lost in Translation" and "The Wild Bunch" are a few more examples with clear and honest story points. I'm pretty much regurgitating what I've picked up from Brian Mcdonald, perhaps giving his blog "http://invisibleinkblog.blogspot.com" a look could be beneficial to your development as a storyteller?

    As I've said before, I love your art, you've been a huge influence on me. If anything I've said here makes any sense it's because I've stolen it from better people than I. I'm struggling with the concepts of storytelling myself. I look forward to more of your stories!

    Take Care!

  8. I think it is so cool that you are asking for a critique. It is always great to see an artist I respect looking for this kind of thing. Your stuff has inspired a lot of what I'm doing in school right now, so thank you for that.
    Looking through your stuff, there are two major things that come to mind. 1) Try to add color variety. Your Illusive Man illustrations are some of my top favorites of your work. The lighting is so intense and has so much variety of color, what with the blue and orange being contrasted together. 2) Integrate your characters into their environments more. As an artist, I completely understand that backgrounds are a lot of work so I hope I don't sound like a heckler. I love all of your character designs so anytime I see one it makes me wonder what kind of world or setting they would fit into. A good example of this would be the assassin you posted up last September. I've always wanted to know where she is and what she is about to do. A piece that was super successful with background is the 'Northerner' one. There is so much tension and the characters are grounded in a real world.

    Wow, again thanks for giving us the chance to do this. Can't wait to see what you have in store!


  9. I agree. I think its awesome that a professional like yourself is willing to accept critique like this. I strive to produce work as good as yours someday, so I really dont deem myself good enough to critique your work.

  10. Before I give my two cents, I have to say like many others have mentioned so far, it's pretty awesome to see a professional reaching out for critique like this. It's that kind of quality that I wish I saw more from both my peers at school and in the real world, that drive to improve. I'm not sure how much help I can offer being a youngster compared to some but I'll try.

    Like a lot of others have said, you have a really solid understanding of design and anatomy, but I'd like to see more variation in body types and age. Not just older people neither, but teenagers and younger children who have completely different proportions from adults! I've seen some of that on your blog already, but I think it'd give you great practice to do more of that.

    Unlike others, I don't have problems with how you draw female figures themselves, although that might be because I draw them like that in my own work too. If anything bothers me about your females, it's that they have a lot of the same facial features. I'd play more with personality types in their facial structures, like the more doe eyed expressions versus the sultry ones yours usually have. Different ethnicities would spice it up too.

    I also like your linework and you're fantastic at visual storytelling. That said, I think you'd really benefit from practicing storyboards traditionally, whether it's from your own story ideas or if it's studies from existing movies (I'd recommend anything from M. Night Shyamalan or David Cronenberg to study). It'd help loosen your gesture up, add some more composition studies. I could definitely see you having fun with marker and line/ink. I think it'd also break you out of any ruts you feel you might have fallen into as well.

    Anyway, I don't think I can add anything else to what the others have said so far, as they've summed everything else up. Regardless, I hope this comment helped somewhat!


  11. Hi Matt! I'm like a month late to the party, but I wanted to throw my $0.02 as well, but not much to say.

    I'd really love to see you really play with the camera more, more like a storyboarder might do. It's not that you don't have varied depths, but your characters are often approached from very similar eye levels. I know you are capable of moving all the way around the figure, and I think you could really push up into a higher level of viewer involvement in the scene if you treated compositions a bit more through a cinematographer's lens, and less of an illustrator's lens. I think you might also enjoy storyboarding as it sits on a line between animation/acting and illustration, without all the tedium ;)

    I hope it's not going to be too ill received for me to say this either, but I'd love to see you be a bit more impressionistic with your figures. It might just be me, but going through you work sometimes I feel like your poses are stiff- not that they lack gesture or rhythm, but the amount of detail you explain through-ought the entire image is very thorough, and it may serve you as a storyteller to let some things flow looser a bit. For both points, LeSean Thomas is strongly in my mind.

    I hope all of the critiques people have been offering have been useful to you! Keep producing your wonderful work :D


  12. Maybe variate the women's designs a bit more? i.e. really muscular women or really fat women. just something to think about


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