Move Over Snow White:):):) - I sure could use advice on this.*ms7wUbjL16TON5KB8IfTgK0r4jrHeen3wEhefHRPvTrSxoPuJjLtWT0Z-z*nlOIOdNon-p5xc4T36MtWdYRJEwgHnXsCwGj/635828466838348748deer2.jpg

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So - I am trying to paint animals and wanted to try painting deer.  It seemed logical to paint deer in the woods.  

I have been working on the deer a lot, but they look quite like a cartoon.  I even have to laugh looking at this because it would not be a surprise for Snow White to run out of the woods:):):)!

Anyway - it is what it is - the middle deer is 4 inches high and it is really hard to put the details in that I can see on the attached photo.  I keep trying, but I am not making progress.

I would love any advice you can offer.  I have run out of steam with this one.  Thank you!

Sarah you are doing a great job on this I think :)  i should have looked at the photo that goes with this. the deer here don't have that much white on them. just from the bottom of the chest and under the belly, a patch on their throat, on the inside upper leg, the only white on the face is just behind the back part of the nose, and in the very bottom of the ear (the rest of the ear is light but not white). i think your deer are way to red too. the indians made clothing out of deer hides, you know what kind of tan that is. maybe if you make they highlights that round the muscle groups that kind of tan, and leave the darker color for shadows, it would make you believe they are real :)  i dont know if i make any sense, but i am a deer hunter hahaha  as you know i dont paint animals and people. you are very brave! and i think the deer are very well shaped. i love your forest! i think you are awesome :)


i just noticed that you shadowed under the belly of the deer too. which seems like the normal thing to do. but deer are lighter colored down around the belly area.

Wenda - thank you so much for sending this feedback.  I know what you mean about the lights and darks in the picture.  One of the mistakes I made is that the light is coming from the left in my painting and from the right in the photo.  So I was trying to reverse everything and "imagine" how they would look if lighted from the other side.  I should have made the light coming from the right - don't know what I was thinking.

What you are saying makes sense.  I did look at pictures of deer and tried to study where their muscles and markings were - but it does seem like I got it confused.  Thanks for saying where the markings are.  That will help.  

Hi Sarah!

This is a lovely scene and the deer are a wonderful addition. I think your fairy tale feeling comes from the color. Here is a version of your painting where I have just desaturated the color a bit.

It's not as "pretty" but it has a more natural feel to it. Colors in nature are generally much more neutralized than we think they are. This is something you can really use to your benefit when highlighting your focal point. If the other colors are more neutralized, you can add a touch of saturated color in your focal point for big effect.

Whenever you use the colors we think of, instead of the colors we see, you won't have as realistic an image. In other words - tree trunks are brown, tree leaves are green, deer are brown and white and black. As you develop your "artist eyes" you will start to see all the variation of color. Photos don't even show us all the variation that is there in real life, but they are a good place to start because you can really study them.

So, when you look at the deer in the reference - do you see how the shadow sides of the deer take on a more red/violet tone? compare the front side of the mama to the left side of the one in back and the baby. They are different colors. Check out the face of the baby, the top is one color, front forehead another, left and right sides two different colors. the "whites" vary from pinkish colors to yellowish to bluish, depending on how the light is striking them.

All that sounds complicated, but the important thing to remember is to paint the color you see not the color you think should be there.

The other critical element for realism is nailing your values.

The challenge you have is that in your photo the sun is coming from the right, and in your painting it is coming from the left. You've chosen a dramatic lighting effect with the sun rays, so it's important to follow through with the patterns. You have strong patterns on the ground, but I don't see the effect of this strong light on the deer.

The important thing to remember is that realism is not about getting the details "correct" it's about getting the relative values, colors, and edges right. Those are your foundation. Fussing with detail when your foundation isn't set right will just bring you more frustration.

You have painted this very nicely Sarah, nice composition, brushwork, and color, too! It just depends on your intent. I think this painting is lovely just as it is! I like to do these fairytale type paintings. It would be amazing in a child's room!

All the things I'm suggesting will give you more realism, but not necessarily better art. Art is about evoking an emotion and response in the viewer after all, and I think this does that beautifully!

Karen you have a great way with the words you choose to help us all :) thank you for that! this really is a very nice painting. I like it a lot, too.

Thank you, Karen.  The feedback you have given me is really helpful.  I have been looking at this for so long, I couldn't see it objectively anymore.

I hear what you are saying.  I do like to turn up the saturation of color in my paintings - I know it is not real but I love the feeling somehow.

In this case, it really worked against me as the result was not what I intended.  I fussed with the deer a long time trying to make them more real looking (and switching the direction of light from the photo did not help me), but I realized that I had changed them from the photo and that made it more difficult to see what they should look like.

This is a problem I fall into frequently.  I use several photos and sometimes get the light and values confused as a result.

At this point, I do not want to repaint it all to tone down the color, so I will accept the fairy tale look for this one.  However, your comment about the values is something I can still work on with the deer.  I agree that the sun should show more on the middle deer and fawn - I just struggled to make it happen.  I will go back and look at that again.  Fairy tale or not the sun rays should show on the deer somehow.

Thanks again for looking at this and sharing your thoughts.  

Sarah I love your painting.  I appreciate the comments from Karen and they will help me with future paintings.  But your deer painting, as is, is still lovely and could be an wonderful and magical illustration in a fairytale book.  And that's a really great thing!

Thank you, Susan.  That is a nice thought.  I appreciate it!

I like your painting. Like Karen said so what if it represents a fairy tale painting. Maybe that was the gut feeling you had when you painted it. Again to echo Karen we should not try to compete with the camera and becoming a photocopier. One thing that really helps is to do a little study of the same scene but this time with the picture of the deer upside down (the canvas too!). That way you concentrate on the abstract pattern not an object that you recognize. Try it!

Thank you, Michel.  I really appreciate your feedback and your support.  

Your idea of doing studies is a good one.  I did a small sketch of this picture first, but did not take it any further than that - and the problems came about when I painted it.  I really need to do more studies of deer (and any animal) if I intend to paint them. I know that most wildlife artists study their subjects for years before painting - and while I like landscapes the best - it is nice to put an animal in occasionally.  So practice is what is needed here.

I like the idea of turning things upside down to get a more objective look at painting the abstract patterns and I will try that more in the future.  I actually tried turning this painting upside down (and the reference) but, because I reversed the light (light in painting comes from different direction than photo reference), it was too confusing and I had to go back to painting right side up. In hind sight, I definitely should have had the light coming from the right as it was in the photo and it would have been easier.  

So I have learned from this and that is important, too.  It really helps me a lot to discuss a painting with other artists and I am grateful for the input that I have received! 

Hi Sarah! 

Not going to rehash other comments, but a couple more things you may want to think about.  Artists who "specialize" in light effects often get in a rut and become rather boring, but they do say something about overall effect.  Thomas Kincaide's paintings are definitely in this class.  Whatever he was trying to highlight was always portrayed against a darker background.  Contrast.  Your photo shows the lightest values on the white areas of the deer adjacent to mid values of green vegetation.  These white areas are also receiving direct light from the source.  This is why it pops.  You have painted the deer against a light background, requiring darker values on the deer for separation.  Coupled with the changed lighting direction, it is now much harder to achieve the same visual separation. 

Your overall lighting is quite warm, yet the sunlit area in the left foreground is very cool, especially with the blue flowers.  I think this area works against you strictly because of the local colour balance.

Forest canopies are variable.  As shown by your light rays, they do not pass an even stream of light.  So why do we paint uniformly illuminated tree trunks?  I know it's another simplistic learned habit, but it bears little resemblance to reality.  Shadow areas in this type of forest are not typically hard edged, as there is diffusion from the uneven leaf patterns and light is being reflected from other leaves/branches. 

Details are not always a good thing.  Are they an asset to the composition?  That is what counts.  Most photo editing software has "filters" or "effects" that can be used to diffuse the image, give it texture (eg canvas effect), or create blur.  This can be a huge help in avoiding the detail urge.  When our source is devoid of detail, it is always easier to eliminate detail on the canvas.  As long as the center of interest draws our eye, we can usually get along just fine without the details.  Letting the viewer fill in some of the blanks is what helps creates interest and leads us to explore the piece.  

Combining photos is not easy, nor is placing a photo on an imaginary background.  Almost any deviation in the quality of lighting or unified colour patterns can throw things out of whack.  You have come a long way in the past year, and I really enjoy seeing your posts.  I can appreciate wanting to call it quits on this one, but would love to see you revisit a similar composition in the not too distant future.


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