When it comes to artwork, my mind works overtime. What I like, what I don’t like, what I think other artist’s strengths and shortcomings are, etc etc. Since I think that there’s no such thing as perfection, even the artists I admire most are treated this way in my head at least some of the time. I find it comforting to notice mistakes in even the best artwork, it makes aiming for the quality of those I admire less daunting. I try to use the lessons I learn analysing other people’s work to help my own development, but analysing my work is always the hardest part. It’s nigh on impossible to see it in a truly objective manner, and my jaw always drops a little when it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a piece of my artwork, and I see what it “really” looks like.

So, assuming that other artists think the same way as me, there must be plenty of people with opinions on my artwork, most likely including people I know. Given that no-one ever knows how someone else will react to criticism, I’m guessing that there may be opinions about my work that have been held back in case I’m sensitive or just out of politeness. But, I really don’t mind. I’m thick skinned when it comes to criticism as long as it’s constructive, and I’d seriously welcome it as a way to improve.

So, I hereby open up the floodgates in my direction! What do you think of my artwork… I mean, really – warts and all?

Is there a niggling something you wish I’d address, a particular trait my style has that you find aesthetically displeasing, an obvious flaw in my method or something that lets down the finished quality of my work? Your opinions are invaluable to me as an artist seeking to improve.

I’d rather not hear responses like “no, I think your work is just fine”, since I guess it might seem like I’m fishing for compliments in an obscure manner, but right now I’m seriously looking for uncomfortable truths instead of ego boosters…

EDIT: P.S. Since I know some readers might only be familiar with Freakangels, if you’d like images to look at before you write a crit, please check out my gallery, which has a range of different stuff in. I necessarily need to make a number of short-cuts whilst working on Freakangels, so can’t often squeeze my best quality out of it.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Your anatomy is obviously pretty flawless, but what I’ve really noticed is your shadowing is amazing, the way the shadows are cast in your work shows everything rendered in your usual flat colouring style as totally tangible three dimensional objects. It’s a very enviable skill.

    I feel your weak spot is colour. Everything looks like there’s one single cold multiplying shadow layer on everything, there’s neither artisty or science in choosing your values. I’d really like to see some variations, it’d be nice to see the midtones more natural, and the highlights pushed out of the cold colours making the ‘3d’ quality I admire contrast accross hue aswell as brightness.

    Also I truly admire someone who can take crit properly, I’m dissapointingly still too protective over my work. Perhaps not even the actual art, but the time I’ve already spent working on it.

    All the best

  2. I love the honesty you’re asking for, and I hope you get it. I have to gain the readership yet where I’ll get responses so let me throw this at you.

    If there is anything I’d change in your work, and I just went back and looked at your latest pages, I’d love to see thicker line use. Especially in the panels with stuff in the foreground and background. And, except for the obvious differences, the faces tend to look the same. I only point this out because I also have an issue with that. Hope that helps!!

  3. Kate Holden says:

    I feel a little underqualified to be criticising your work, but you asked, and I like to try to help.

    I’d agree with this Nicholas person here. A little more line weight variation would really give your work a feeling of depth, structure and confidence.
    There’s not really much else I can think of. The anatomy is generally very good. If I wanted to nitpick, on some of the action poses in FA, sometimes the structure of the pelvic area gets a little indistinct, making the legs look a bit on the flat side. as I said, it’s really kind of nitpicking, but if you’re keen to get a more structured and strong look, try to keep in mind the shape and position of the hip bones when you’re drawing the lower abdomen and hips, especially on female characters.

  4. Kate says:

    use a ruler! Your lines are all over the goddamn place!!!!1 D:

  5. genuinly your art is pretty F**ing good!!! *laugh* the last cover you did on DA, damn that was haunting..

    good things, your style has such atmosphere. wonderfuly unique, it reminds me of french comics more so than the usual manga stuffs you get today, or the usual super hero stuffs, or the usual indie stuffs- i dont know if you still but as far as i knew you drew in pencil and coloured over that- that’s awesome, it’s nice to keep a fresh line. your art is really fresh!!

    your art has reaaal feeling and heart you know what i mean? particuarly in your line and that’s what is quite appealing in your work. you can really tell when you are feeling and putting the effort into your pictures- they come to life, it’s beautiful =)

    i rmemember you did a manga shakespeare, and i gotta say i wasn’t keen on your artwork in that particular book! it lacked the usual heart and emotion of your work! it felt rushed and too clean, i think you should keep to thst sort of dirty look in your work, it really suits.

    for what i think you need to work on most, really is reserved for your illustration and not your comic stuff. sometimes- your stuff is ‘posey’- and i guess if i had any advice it would be to make ALL of your art more like http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/Meeting-Place-124460020 and less stiff- it would be nice to see more exagguration in your illustration, not your comics- i think your comics acutally already have this life, but not so much in your covers and illustrations- imo the best poster arts i’ve ever seen have this movement inspite of not being sequentially illustited- a great example is harvey james (google ‘im if you do not know him =) )

    the last thing is just a request XD i’d be interested to see how you colour traddtionally!! that’s all, hope it helps man! i’m suprised tho that you look upto artists, i think you are one of highest qualifying artists out there right now <)

    // sarah / denji-chan on the deviantart.x

  6. Vicki Paull says:

    My comment has disappeared! Erm, to make a long story short, you should have a new comment over on DA ^^;

  7. aqws says:

    Mwahahah. You fool.

    Okay, first of all, I’ve spent a long time thinking along similar lines- and I now think it’s a misinterpretation of what will make your artwork better. Other people’s opinions, regardless of the flaws and upsets they point out to you, are just other people’s opinions. The most important aspect of your artwork is if *you’re* enjoying it. I mean this visually, not in some wishy-washy positive thinking way. When you’re enjoying what you’re doing your drawings shine far more than when you’re not.

    Ignore that in favor of creating “better” artwork, and your drawings will lack that certain something which makes your work appealing to people in the first place. The reason I’ll never be able to draw truly sexy comic book women is because I don’t really enjoy drawing truly sexy comic book women. Trying to please by drawing this way or that way is never going to compare with the way I enjoy drawing. (again- in terms of the quality of the artwork, not just my own satisfaction.) So a part of me wants to shake you and tell you to just keep at it.

    That said, I do have some suggestions. :)
    Your artwork is very static. It’s like a still from an animation. That’s a quality I like. It gives it a lovely dreamy feel.
    Your Seti Spaceman, for example. There’s very little motion in that image. This doesn’t mean the image lacks gesture, and I feel that the spaceman is slowly drifting past us. That’s a feeling I get from a lot of your images. The camera is slowly drifting past a static scene, with only a couple of moving elements, like some rustling leaves or stray wisps of hair. It’s great. But when you’re called to draw something mobile and dynamic, say…errr.. a Freakangels character getting hit with a shotgun, It’s a noticeable problem with the way you draw. It’s when you’re asked to draw too much action in one frame for a Paul Duffield drawing to sustain.

    To explain: If you had three panels to show a man being shot, that’s fine. You’d show three beautiful still frames to illustrate this. One where he’s shot, one with his reaction, one falling. And the camera slowly and beautifully drifts past each one. Squeeze that into one panel, however, and you’ve actually got to see him doing all of this at once. It’s a “Mid action” problem. Jack Kirby would do it fine, so would Will Eisner.”Kapow!” And down he goes.

    I guess what i’m trying to say is that sometimes a still image taken as if from the middle of an animation of a man being shot isn’t effective enough. I’m probably explaining this poorly, but I think your artwork sometimes needs more “cartooning”; Where what really is, or what “should be” if this where an animation or a film, is sidelined in favor of what is most effective to capture that action in a single image.

    As I said earlier, You should really consider this simply at odds with the way you do comics, And use three panels instead of one. But we both know that’s not how it goes in the real world of writers and the waffle format.

    I’d be interested to know if you agree, or disagree, as i’m never really 100% sure of the points I’m making anyway.

  8. @Anonymous
    Thanks so much for the comment! :) If the shadows seem like they’re all one multiplied colour, that’s because they are. I do the shadows on a separate layer, and set that layer to multiply. I realise the resulting effect is a little limited in range, but it’s a good time saver when working on comics. Out of interest, I’d love to see an example of some work that you think has the sort of quality in colouring that you reckon I should aim for, since that will give me more of an intuitive grasp of what you mean. If I work on anything that gives me more time, I’ll definitely try to get some more depth of tone and hue in there.

    @Kate Holden
    Thanks :D It seems like the lineweight issue is one that a few people have mentioned. I’ll try experimenting with different widths of lead and see what happens. In terms of anatomy, that’s me getting sloppy and I know I do it from time to time -_- I really should find time to warm up each day with a few anatomy studies, it always helps.

    Rulers give me rashes. ><;

    Hey! Thanks for taking the time to comment ^_^ I think I know what you mean about the “posey” look, but just so I can get a better idea, it’d be great if you could link me an example of my work that you feel is on the stiff side.
    I’ve been meaning to do some traditional stuff for ages, but haven’t got round to it. I’m so reliant on the computer for colouring, it’s a shame. I think it’s been so long I’ve used paints or markers or anything, I’d have to learn from scratch.

  9. @aqws
    I’m gonna keep at it no matter what, but it’s always good to hear what other people have to say. I feel like my work has settled into a sort of a status-quo, and whilst I’m not totally unhappy with that, it’s always good to push the boundaries in terms of range of experience even if I come back to the same end result.

    In terms of your crit, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve never really pushed my cartooning abilities, and like you said, it’s a little at odds with how I produce comics overall. This is a tricky one to address, but I guess if I tried doing warm up images that push my cartooning skills, they might just subtly infuse my work even when I work in the usual manner.
    Part of it is aesthetic as well. In animation class I deliberately used the prevalent style in well done anime, where bodies feel very solid and move with quite a bit of realism, instead of going with the squash-and-stretch that Disney have refined so perfectly, that carries movement into a literal morphing of the body.

    Actually come to think of it, Eisner is the perfect meeting place between the two extremes. I think I might have to study his work a bit :D

  10. sarah says:

    sure, sorry i didnt give any examples before-

    http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/The-Heat-Cover-01-155171604 this feels a bit stiff,

    http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/The-Heat-Cover-02-155172069 this is lovley twisty full of movement,

    http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/Lady-Death-Cover-01-153083950 this is stiff,

    http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/Happy-Times-153085692 and even if these guys are just sitting they are full of movement

    i’m no expert, but if it helps i think the difference is that you take care to show gesture in every part of the body in the better pictures.

    urgh i hate giving advice when i’m not worthy of it hahaha; sorry if any of this is annoying!

    ps. this is off topic- i followed you on twitter something like 2 days ago but you probably think i’m a spammer, just to let you know my name is 3o-sknight, in case you wanted to follow back (but if you don’t that’s quite alright!) xD

  11. Niki Smith says:

    I think some people already mentioned what I was going to point out, so I’ll just chime in and say I agree. ^^

    Mostly anatomy things– someone said pelvises. Also some head size problems, like in the bottom panel of Freakangels ep 90 page 1.

    I totally agree that I’d love to see more variation in faces… everyone looks pretty similar. I’d love to see what you could do with exaggerating features like noses or chubby cheeks. More body types would be great too!

    But that’s all just nit-picking. Love your stuff. :) Keep up the great work.

  12. nana says:

    I’ve gone through a bunch of your work with a critical eye now… I think the reason that your characters might look stiff and “posey” is because you often pose them very straight. I see a lot of straight limbs, straight backs, limbs at right angles, square shoulders, shoulders parallel to hips… it reminds me of ball jointed dolls to some extent. I could be generalising, but going through some pages of Freakangels and your DA gallery that’s the impression I get.
    http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/art/Happy-Kitty-III-134828048 for example is an action pose, but looking at the pose as a whole it’s completely straight. Even if there’s twisting and angles within the figure it doesn’t come off as very dynamic because the overall silhouette is static.

    Maybe it’s the pencil, but I also think the lines look a little bit wobbly which makes them seem weak to me, although I realise this is probably a stylistic choice and not necessarily a bad thing.
    I also agree with the line width variation comments. A push for some more depth would be nice. :)

    Gahh this is all very difficult… it would be easier to critique individual pieces rather than a whole body of work. A lot of it is probably just my personal opinion.
    If you’re feeling stuck and not improving maybe it’s time to try something different. Personally I think studying Disney concepts has helped loosen up my character work a lot.

  13. Dorian says:

    I think you tend to rely pretty heavily on textures, to the point that they are the focal point of your art. Great environments are always a plus, but you should try to make them your own and create them from the ground up. Let your style come out in the backgrounds and objects you create.

    Also, I second the line thickness comment. Line variety is always interesting, and it could give your artwork a considerable punch. Maybe try using brushes or different pens for different values.

    Of course, your anatomy is near flawless while retaining a distinct Paul Duffield flavor, and I really enjoy that. Maybe make that the focal point, whether it is through less emphasis on environments, shaking up your line value, or other ideas some of these people have.

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