Thursday, October 13, 2011

Portfolio Review: Chun Lo

First off, I want to apologize for the long delay. I was gone for a week and a half at a painting workshop, and it's been taking me a while to get caught up on everything. I'm really sorry to have kept people waiting!

Next up is Chun Lo, a freelance illustrator. You can see more of his amazing work at and

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I'm not going to lie, this was a really hard review. Your work is very impressive, well rendered, and visually appealing. I had to dig deep to find something to critique!

Your rendering is top-notch; definitely no trouble there. If I had to pick one thing to comment on, it would be that I think if you could work on adjusted the compositions a bit more to help push the storytelling and give you the edge you're looking for. Each piece is beautifully rendered, no problems there, but you could work on the rhythm and energy of the forms in each piece to strengthen the sense of
movement and make the narrative clearer. Great rendering always impresses, but a solid narrative will keep the viewer coming back again and again to revisit your piece.

On a minor note, I noticed while looking through your portfolio as a whole that the colors are very similar from one piece to the next: lots of midtone gray with areas of subtle orange or red. It's a good look, but maybe try a few different color and lighting setups just to show ADs a broader range within your chosen subject matter. :)

This is beautifully rendered. Just stunning. The texture in the rocks, the gesture of that dragon as it flies away from us, the detail and design of the alien thing are all wonderful. However, this is a good example of a piece where the composition isn't really working. Each individual element has nice rhythm and an energetic gesture, but the pieces don't all coalesce together as well as they could. The mage/warrior creates a line of energy that points up and out of the image to the upper left; the stone pillars create a nice movement, but as a whole things feel a little scattershot.

Ideally, what you want to do is use the gesture lines of each elements in the piece to direct the eye. Which elements are the most important? Where do you want the viewer to look first? You've got these great energetic forms, you just need to get them positioned so that the gesture sweep of one leads the eye to the next. I think one setup that would work would be to have the gesture of the mage leading into the dragon, both of which then lead up to the central "eye" of the alien thing.

Looking through other pieces in your main portfolio, I feel that this is a concept you are familiar with, just make sure to keep it in mind even in these tightly rendered pieces. Good composition is just as important than technical ability, if not moreso.

Another thing to think about is, what is going on in the image? Are the dragons working together with the mage, or is the mage in league with the alien things? Is this a fight at all, or are the dragons just investigating this strange alien presence? It isn't entirely clear. You've got that splash in the water, but at first I thought it was another landscape element. Where is the splash coming from? If the alien thing is the aggressor, you could instead have it shooting a laser blast into the water directly below, and having a huge wave/splash/steamcloud/etc pouring forth. If it's not hostile and is just floating there, then maybe make tone down the tenseness of that mage.

In this overpaint, I tried shuffling a few of the things around. It's not a perfect solution, but it shows one way to arrange things to get a little more movement. I drew gesture lines to show how the mage leads into the shape of the dragon, and how the dragon's wings frame the central purple eye. This is just one way of approaching it; there's a lot you can do with this theme. :)

(looking at this again, I could have pushed the mage a little more to the center; I think that might have looked better).

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That dragon is awesome. I love it's great pose and fiery maw. Fantastic work. The composition in this piece is a lot stronger overall than the previous piece. I'm not sure what the creature on the right is, though. I can't make sense of the head structure (if it has a head). The rightmost portion of the body makes me think it's a worm/snakelike creature, but then you have that single appendage in the front. The design could be a little clearer. Ooooooooh wait, I think maybe that appendage is not a foreleg, but the lower jaw of a worm monster? The overlap with the foreground element makes it look like it's connecting to the ground, and the upper head structure is a little unclear, so it wasn't reading very well and was throwing me off. X) I think if you just rotated that lower jaw up so you could see the whole thing, it would help lock the form of that monster into place.

Here is an overpaint where I clarified the shape of the monster on the right a little (assuming it was a wormy creature), as well as tweaking the light a little bit. It didn't make much sense that the light behind the dragon's head would be brighter than the two suns when it's that cloudy, unless there are huge floodlights back there or something. Aside from those two minor things, this is a really solid piece. Great work!

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This is one of the better compositions in my opinion. I love the rhythm formed by the repeating shapes of the curved spires/legs, and I like how the priest on the monument in the center is framed by the diagonals of the man in the foreground and that long foreground leg. I also like how you've peppered the red areas throughout the piece, so that it's unified but not overwhelmed by the color. Very very nice.

My only critique here is that the black on the monument in the background is way too dark. All of your pieces have a lot of great atmospheric perspective and depth; you're really good at that. But when you have a background element the same value and color as a foreground element, it flattens out the illustration and interferes with the sense of depth. See how that black area on the statue/monument is the same color as the curved legs in the foreground? The other spires coming off of the monument are much more in the right value range. Just lighten that part up a bit, and you're good to go.

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Very nice. Gotta love those Tieflings. :) The rendering on this, especially on his face, is absolutely stunning. And again, this is a stronger composition overall. The shading feels really anchored in midtones, though. It works beautifully in the background (fantastic job there, love the details), but it's a little flat in the foreground. The dark spots on his body are inconsistent, and feel more like holes punched into the image rather than connected shadows. Unify the shadows a little more. That light is pretty bright, don't be afraid to make the highlights and shadows a little more high-contrast in the foreground here.

My other comment is that I'm not sure about the narrative. I think he's supposed to be injured and stumbling through the dungeon, but if that's the case, you could push that a little more. Are those arrows in his back, or are they just a quiver of arrows he's carrying with him? If he's been shot, you can definitely play that up by making them a little more obvious. Bloody him up a little bit; have some armor torn, crude bandages applied, bleeding wounds, etc. Otherwise it looks like he just has tummy cramps (which, granted, can be pretty debilitating, too). ;) Man, that face is really really nice, though. Awesome job.

Here's a sloppy overpaint, showing a slight adjustment to the highlights and shadows, as well as a few more hints of blood. (if he's not supposed to be injured, then maybe rethink the pose). I realized as I was typing this up that you could also play with having him holding the lantern out to the right, just so that his arms aren't both contained within the silhouette of his body, but in this particular instance I think it works okay.

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Another beautifully rendered piece. You've composed the image nicely, with the great energy of the monster's post sweeping across the image. That ridged curve of the forearm in front is soooo nice. It really carries a nice sense of both form and movement. That face is great, too. He feels really solid and three-dimensional. My only critique is that you're getting a little carried away with the cloudy atmospheric perspective. It's making the creature look a little disjointed. Different parts of his body that are moving back and forth from the viewer in ways that don't always make sense. The back portion of his body fading off works just fine. But the forelimb on the upper left has faded back in the exact same way, even though it is much closer to us. His head is dark and crisp, but his chest and the spines behind his head fade rapidly away. Don't push and pull things through space haphazardly- control it, know when to use it. Try visualizing this guy as contained within a long box. His head and two front legs are in the part of the box closest to us, and hindlimbs are further away. Try to keep the contrast of the shading on the front part of the box more uniform, and let the atmospheric perspective envelop the box only as it moves further back into space.

Here is an entirely inadequate overpaint, trying to tie together the forms of the body a little. (I didn't do a very good job. :C )

Overall, your rendering is wonderful and tight, and in each piece it's clear that you have a love for your work and your subject matter. There is a lot of energy and dynamism in each piece. Just keep the compositions energetic and clear, and tighten up the narrative a little more. Direct the viewer's eye around the piece, and make the action as clear as possible. Your rendering is fantastic, just push your composition and storytelling to push your work up onto another level. :) Amazing work!