Saturday, September 17, 2011

Portfolio Review: Scott Elyard

Scott Elyard is a freelance graphic artist, illustrator and animator. You can see more of his work at his website and his tumblr.


Hi Scott! Great work! I like the more graphic, design based approach that you take with your work. On the whole, in the pieces you sent and some of the pieces I saw on your blog, my main critique is that the colors seem too isolated from one another. The colors are just a little too high-contrast and loud and aren't jiving with each other as much as they could. I have two main recommendations for this:

1) You can keep the areas of color completely separate as you have, but tone them down and make them more harmonious. Keep your saturated colors at a minimum, and use them as an accent against more muted tones. Putting a small bit of saturated color on a muted color will make the saturated color shine all the more without being garish. I am all for using loads of bright color, but you have to keep it balanced.

2) Work the area color into each other. In the dinosaur skull example below, work warmer yellow tones into the skull, and purple tones into the background; don't keep them completely isolated. Tie the different areas together by distributing color throughout the piece rather than keeping it restricted to one area. Make them look like the background and foreground exist in the same space.

This is a great study of the form of the skull (you did a fantastic job capturing the complicated planes and shapes of the form), but as I mentioned above, the two areas of color are starting to feel isolated and discordant. I realize it's a more graphic approach, but it might be pushing it a little too far (for my personal preference, anyway). I realize that adjusting color in watercolors is easier said than done, but if you wanted to add more highlights or make color adjustments, try coloring on top of the dried watercolor with colored pencils. I've done this a few times in the past and it's great for layering color on top of watercolor or marker washes.

I love the texture of the brushstrokes in the background, but they're really dominating the piece. Either the color needs to be knocked down a tad, or the high-contrast brushstrokes need to be subtler, or a combination of both.

Here's an overpaint, toning down the brushstrokes in the background and adding some warmer yellow tones into the purple. (A lot of this is just my personal preference, so take it with a grain of salt).


This skull works much better, in my opinion. You have a nice relatively understated contrasting color scheme, with some of the cool greens of the background included in the skull to tie the two together; the colors all feel like they are working harmoniously together. The brushwork in the background provides visual interest without dominating or pulling too much attention away from the focal area. Great work! This is a very nice study. I have no overpaint for this one, everything looks great.

This is a great monochromatic study that shows a lot of care and attention to detail. I love the pose, too; clearly the guy is dedicated to getting just the right shot. :) It's a relatively simple setup, but you can really take the opportunity to showcase brushstrokes and hard vs soft edges. On the pants and face especially, the brushstrokes are getting streaky. Instead of scribbling in the shading to get your tone, think about the planes of the form, and brush along those planes. In my paintover below, I took a palette knife brush in Photoshop (which I uploaded here. It's one of my most used brushes. It's great because you get a hard crisp edge on one side, and soft edge on the other. Soooo nice.) and went over the main planes of the head with a few quick strokes. Texture and brushstrokes are great, but not when they start streaking and interfering with the sense of form and volume. Sometimes a simpler, tighter rendering is a more effective solution than too many sketchy marks. Also, a few soft edges and lost edges contrasting with all the hard edges can add more visual interest.

There's quite a lot going on here! It's a fun concept, and I like the robotic parts and detailing in the body. This is another case where the colors are just too saturated and too seperated out from each other, though. The blues are fully saturated, the purples are fully saturated, and the orange/yellow is fully saturated, and all in all it's a bit much. I recommend desaturing the head, making the background blue a little lighter and warmer (a little more towards purple), and have the colors bleed into each other a little more. You are doing this to an extent with the purple shadows/rimlighting on the mask, but even in an abstracted piece the light source needs to make sense. If his face is that strongly and evenly lit by a warm yellow light, the undercut areas aren't going to be that dark purple. Try a more desaturated, grayer warmer purple instead.

The purple rimlighting under the nose, cheeks and jawline wouldn't be that strong in such strong lighting. If you wanted to keep that strong purple light source, I would recommend putting the lower half of his face more in shadow so that the secondary light source of purple would show up more.

I feel the body could use a little more modeling so it isn't quite so flat, but that's just my preference and not necessarily the best or only solution.

Here's an overpaint, adjusting the colors, adding a little more shading and modeling on the body, and working on a more consistent light source (though it's still a little wonky here). In the process I accidently destroyed the neat palm textures you had in the background; sorry about that! :o

I love the idea of making a resume that stands out. :) Spiral shapes/nautilius shells are fantastic design motifs. Very nice. In this case, I think the design is starting to interfere with the function, though. I think you can keep the unique approach, but the important information needs to be more readily available for potential clients. Don't make them hunt for what they need, because you run the risk that they just won't bother.

Normally I'd be all for gradients, but it's not quite working for me here. I think you might be better off with solid colors. I don't know that the tentacle balls are entirely necessary, either.

I highly recommend 3 main changes:

1) Make the contact info text block be normal with no slant. Make it a little bigger and move it closer to the nautilus. The slant doesn't add anything to the overall design, and as this is the most important information, it might be best to just have it straightforward. I really like the gray-blue-orange color scheme of the text, though! :)

2) Consider reworking the shading to flat colors instead of gradients. It's just a little too much going on.

3) Consider taking the small text in the outer blue spiral and placing it somewhere else so it's easier to read. It requires a little too much head turning to read your skills, and that's not good ;)

I was going to leave it be, but I got to playing around with it in photoshop, and I think just using a simplified version of the spiraling nautilus shell motif by itself can add a lot of great visual interest.

Bear in mind this is strictly just one person's opinion. I am not by any means a graphic artist, so take this with a grain of salt. Also please pardon my crappy fonts and choppy lines. This was done quickly and I am not good at recognizing fonts so I just picked ones that were thin and blocky respectively. ;) I think this might be one way to keep a fun layout while still making the needed information more readily accessible.

Overall, I love your careful attention to detail and your obvious love of your subject matter. I think pieces like this and this are stronger on a whole. On these two pieces, your skills really shine. Simple monochromatic color schemes, nice linework, and a great graphic approach that's illustrative but not over-rendered. I'd recommend doing more along those lines. Your ink work in particular is very lovely; it'd be great to see more animal/skeleton/etc studies done in detailed ink renderings with subtle watercolor washes, because I think those are some of your real strongpoints.

Really nice work. :) I like seeing people interested in studying actual natural history rather than making *everything* up from imagination. Working from actual animals and skulls and skeletons lends a sense of solidity and authenticity that's hard to come by otherwise. Keep up the great work! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Portfolio Review: Xavier Garcia

Today's review is for Xavier Garcia. Xavier is a professional artist currently working at Gameloft who is working on getting more into freelance illustration in addition to game design work. His website is at and his blog is at

I am very impressed by your portfolio! Your work is vibrant, energetic and detailed. I can definitely see why you've already got steady work in the gaming industry. :) I'd say that overall, your strengths are your color sense and inventive details and compositions. An area to work on would be a more solid blocking in of shadow patterns, and tighter control of values throughout each piece.

Lets look at your first illustration! (Click to enlarge)
This is absolutely gorgeous. I really love the attention to detail and the care that has gone into putting this all together. The twining roots of the trees, and patches of light filtering through the canopy, the glowing runes are really wonderful. Really great stuff.

It was a difficult to tell the scale at first, though. I thought it was much smaller in scale until I noticed the figure standing under the archway. To help create the sense that this is a larger space, work on separating the light/dark values of background, middleground and foreground colors more. You've got this very well defined in your thumbnails (postead at the bottom). If you pushed it a little bit more here, it would help the space feel more expansive.

There are a lot of areas of high contrast throughout the image that makes the space a little smaller, as well; the doorway has the same high contrast as some of the foreground plant elements. If you lowered the contrast on the doorway a little, it would help push that further back in space. A little more atmospheric lighting/perspective to dampen some of the sharp details further back in the piece could also help.

This is an absolutely stunning piece. I had to dig pretty deep to find something to nitpick. ;)

Here's a quick overpaint that I'm not sure really helps much; hopefully it at least gives an idea of a few things to try. (Click to enlarge)


Great piece! I really like the bright colors and sense of strong daylight. The rich orange on their skin emphasizes to me that they're really working up a sweat. I think the sense of power and movement could be exaggerated a little more, though. I'm not sure what exactly is off; the tangent between their two arms and the weakens the flow of energy between the two of them, maybe? They feel more like they are posing before the fight begins, but they are standing close enough together that it's clear the fight's already started. Consider stronger gestures and poses to emphasize the action, especially on the arms. You don't necessarily have to change the poses, just look to where you can emphasize what's already there. The undulating lines on the bottom of Abel's arm, for example, deflates the energy of the arm's gesture; it looks like he's just holding his arm up instead of thrusting it forward in space. Same for the flow of the fabric around Abel's chest.

As much as I love the color and bright light, the values throughout this piece are a little spotty. I think stronger shadow definition would easily tighten that up. Not *darker* shadows, just a stronger and more clear delineation between light and dark areas. In strong daylight like this, there will be a few more drop shadows and more clearly defined areas of shadow; it won't be quite as evenly lit.

Here's another sloppy overpaint, showing a few ideas of shadow patterns (as well as a different pose idea for Guile so that there isn't that tangent between their arms, though I'm not sure if that makes a difference or not).


This is a damn fine Megaman tribute. Great action, great angle, great composition. This has what I felt was a little lacking in the Guild vs. Abel piece: powerful compositional lines of energy. You've really nailed it here. The sweep of the big bot's main body (as well as the curve formed by his huge knuckles) slices through the piece and points right at the focal point: Megaman. Very nicely done. I love your nice bright complementary color palette as well. It's bold, but tempered with areas of grey, red and orange in the shadowed big blue areas (like on the fingers and on that circular rim on the underside of the robot's chest).

The values are a little spotty here as well, though. You're really close, but I think defining and connecting the big blocks of shadow just a little bit more will help make the image read better and make the forms more solid and clear.

I considered leaving this overpaint out because I think I really overdid it with the shadow shapes and made it much too dark. Don't make it this dark. X)


I love the details on this piece! Really nice character study. This is another case where the values are a little spotty, though; equally dark shadows are scattered across the piece in patchy areas, and individual elements of her clothing/figure are rendered separately, instead of as a unified whole. All it needs is a quick pass uniting some of the shadow shapes and evening out some of the really dark areas. Nothing major, she's looking pretty great as-is.

Quick overpaint:


I really like your bold color choices and the fun character design, but again, watch your values. This is suffering a bit from the "rendering each part individually" syndrome, where each part of the outfit and body is nicely rendered and shaded but doesn't feel like part of a unified whole. You can cheat a lot when it comes to light sources, but it's getting a little too scattered here. The highlights across his body look like they are coming from different angles, and whatever is casting that strong red light on the side of his torso should be affecting all the areas around that light source (whatever it is). Also, this may be just a stylistic/personal preference thing, but his clothes feel a little billowy and disconnected from the figure. To anchor them in place, drop some sharp-edged cast shadows in areas (like where his belt overlaps his pants, or where his pants would cast shadows on his shoes, etc).


Lastly, I know you said to leave these out, but I wanted to comment on these thumbnails. I really love the variety of composition in these. They are all strong, with solid lines and shapes, and each would make a compelling illustration. You could play with mixing up the value pattern a little more just for the sake of variety, but really, these are all solid thumbnails. Love 'em.

Overall, your inventiveness and creativity definitely shows through in everything you do. I can see the thought and care that goes into each piece and I seriously am really impressed. You have a great sense of composition and color, it's just a matter of stepping back a bit and looking at the big picture. Don't get too caught up in rendering small details until you have the value pattern for the entire piece locked in place. I run into this same problem all the time, and often have to soften or knock back areas that were just too high in contrast or that had lighting that wasn't making sense in the overall composition. Keep up the great work! :)