Crosing the Red Sea

MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin techRegistered User regular
I'm working on a small illustration commission after a long break. I was wondering if you guys could offer crits as I go. The illustration is of the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and his peeps.
I was asked to stick to image proportions as seen on the sketch below.

So, first stage - the composition and perspective. I'm trying something outside of my (admittedly small) comfort zone, so the scene is viewed from the knee level.


Is it maybe to early to ask for crits? Should I do a more detailed sketch of the figures or is it okay to ask for tips on the perspective and composition before I move on?


  • Options
    Angel_of_BaconAngel_of_Bacon Moderator Mod Emeritus
    I think it's a pretty good spot to ask for composition help- perspective looks pretty decent thus far, so there's not much to say about it as of yet.

    The thing that I'm wondering about is the intended sort of emotion you're going for with this- sure, it shows Moses and some people following him, sure it shows the sea parted- but my first blush reaction is that this event doesn't seem particularly impressive, because A) the people involved do not seem to be reacting a whole lot to the situation and B) the composition is focused a lot on showing the physical body of Moses in the frame, but not a whole lot on the thing that he's doing that is supposed to be so miraculous.

    He's holding back this tremendous force of nature (well, God is really if you want to be picky about it, but you know what I mean), that by all laws of nature should be threatening to crush him and his followers to death at any moment- but the way it's been drawn, it feels like if the water came rushing in- well, it'd be annoying that everyone's clothes got soaked, but it doesn't look like it would be that bad of a situation.

    Contrast this against this prepro art from Prince of Egypt: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/4345/3009/1600/red_sea.jpg
    This feels impressive because of the contrasts at work- the flat, static, horizontal ground versus the chaos and the verticals and diagonals of the water; the immensity and scale of the water versus the seemingly tiny insignificance of the figure of Moses- and how all the lines of that water lead back to him, so you see that he's the crux this whole thing is turning on, even when presented at such a tiny scale.

    In your version, Moses is presented more as just another person in a line- there might be a dozen people ahead of him for all the audience knows, since the viewpoint is so close- if you want to establish that he's leading the way, backing the viewpoint back to have that empty space yawning out in front of him would help establish that.

    The water also seems pretty shallow- maybe 12 feet high- and it seems very well behaved, all things considered- if I didn't know that this was supposed to be the parting of the red sea, I would have assumed it was a rocky ravine, given the straightness and solidity of the walls of water, and the lack of any remaining pools or puddles or streaks of water on the ground. If it was shown with more movement, more chaos to the pattern, and/or the water was towering far above the heads of the people, the whole thing would seem vastly more impressive.

    Another example to look at is the scene from The Ten Commandments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqCTq3EeDcY
    Notice how that the way the composition is framed, usually the great crowd of people is presented as this huge, undistinguished mass, while Moses is usually presented separately, away from that crowd, silhouetted against the sea or the sky so he stands out- this lets you know he's not just A guy, he's THE guy in this situation. It shows him in command of his people and of nature at the same time.

    Now, there are infinite ways of presenting the same story with a composition- I merely present the two convenient examples that came to mind, to point out what they are doing well to achieve their goals- in the first, playing up the idea of this lone man against this huge force; in the second, presenting Moses as the leader of his people.

    In order to figure out the composition that's going to do you the most good, it's not about copying these things- but figuring out what angle, what aspect of this story you want to emphasize, and therefore what formal aspects of composition you can employ to sell that particular take on the story. You might want to be playing up the idea that Moses is not separate from his people, thus he's visually part of the mass of the line people following him; or you may be wishing to play down the 'crushing force of nature' aspect, because you want to show that this is really a moment of relief rather than one of drama- that they've finally made it (or, possibly your client just doesn't want anything 'too scary' for whatever reason)- in which case, the current composition would be appropriate.

    The other possibilities I bring up because I do not know what your intentions are, and thus I cannot tell you if you are succeeding at achieving that intention. (Hence why I'm back and forth with this criticism- yeah that Prince of Egypt piece is awesome for what it is, and if all you want is to make a visually killer piece there's a lot to be taken from it- but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the right approach for this picture.)

  • Options
    MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    Oh wooowwww... I absolutely see what you mean now. I mean, my composition did seem pretty boring to me but I wouldn't know in which direction to take it or what the reasons behind any changes would be. Now, I admit, the client did ask for an illustration in "lively colours" and for the whole thing to not be "dark or pessimistic" - so that might have influenced my choices. The illustration is for a tome of poetry, actually, and the previous tome in the series had a garden of Eden scene, also very peaceful.

    But I would have probably failed at making a more dramatic composition if I tried. I'll work on two different sketches and we'll see if the client will prefer them. Worst case, I'll incorporate some of your tips on the above image at least. THANKS!

  • Options
    MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    Will this be on the left page or right?

  • Options
    MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    edited March 2016
    It's for the cover.

    Mayday on
  • Options
    MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    Alright, I've finished the illustration some time ago and I've been fighting with myself whether I should post it. I'm suffering from a severe case of the "I should be much better at this by now" syndrome (I mean considering how long ago I started, not how much practice I've had).

    Anyway, yyyeeaaah... I guess first things first, I need to start practising anatomy. Other than that, I incorporated some of your tips, Bacon - as much as the client would allow.
    Despite me not being very happy with the result, I've had some fun painting this and I feel like I've learned a little bit - even though it wasn't the basics I so obviously need. I might try this again after I've had some practice, just to see if it helps.


  • Options
    give2me2give2me2 Registered User new member
    You're doing a lovely job!

Sign In or Register to comment.