I've become increasingly aware recently that with the number of images we are bombarded with on a daily basis, it's easy to become increasingly lazy when it comes to actually taking the time to look at images properly and understand what it is that makes a specific image successful (pleasing to the eye, thought provoking, memorable) or a failure (poor quality, uninteresting, forgettable)
I'm often guilty of looking at images on social media or other artists websites, instantly thinking "Wow thats amazing" but never really taking the time to understand the elements that go into making the image a success or of course applying similar techniques to my own work.
While you can be as well educated as you like, have done all the tutorials and know all the software there is to know, there can be little substitute for having a good 'eye'. I've found it the hardest and slowest skill to develop but without doubt the most valuable. It's what separates the great artists from the mediocre.
The purpose of these 'Image Critique' blogs is to help me better understand the properties and qualities of images so I can apply them to my own work and also carry out research so I have a better set of analytical tools at my disposal to carry out critiques of my own work.
1. THE IMAGE
The image i've chosen to critique for this blog is a still life adverting image of a Microplane - Zester product, I came across while carrying out research for my current personal project Sip Smiths Lemon Gin Advertising Imagery as I intend to include the product as one of my props for the images.
I've chosen this image because it's similar in look and feel and 'Quality' to what I want to achieve in my project and I think it has some particular compositional elements which tie into some background research I have carried out recently.
2. THE TOOLS
As I mentioned previously these blogs aren't just about looking at a bunch of images and hap haphazardly trying to understand why I think they are successful, it's also about developing a better set of analytical tools to improve the process of critiquing images. Here are a few concepts I have been improving my understanding of recently.
PRIMARY SECONDARY & TERTIARY SHAPES
I was first put onto this concept by Ciro Sannino from Learn Vray and I think it's really interesting. It has made me think allot more about the relationship between objects in images i see and create. It's a really important concept to understand in 3D Visualisation because we as humans come to expect a certain hierarchy of scale between the objects in a scene in order for them to be credible or look 'Photorealsitic'. We also dont like things to be to perfect or clean (a common problem with CGI) and this can be the case of if poor consideration is given to the tertiary objects within and image.
CG Legend Neil Blevins has a great post about this concept on his BLOG
THE ANATOMY OF IMAGE CRITIQUE
This is a subject I will need to delve into allot more over the course of these blogs, but as a starting point I read this BLOG by Diversified ART to summarise it involves breaking the critique of art down into a few key areas:
A) Describe - Tell what you see (the visual facts)
B) Analyse - Separate the image into it's elements
C) Interpretation - Explain meaning based on the above
D) Judgement - Make a judgement of the image based on what you have learnt
I will apply some of these methods in the crituqe of this image.
There are plenty of tools online to helps analyse the main colours of an image, provide you with RGB values and give you the proportions of each colour within the image.
You can see an example HERE
3. THE CRITIQUE...
What is the name of the artist who created the artwork?Unknown Photographer
What kind of artwork is it, what medium is it?
The image is a still life created to market a catering tool, It is a modern image created within the last few years by an unknown photographer for the brand Microplane given the nature of the image we know that the purpose of the image is to present the product in a positive light to a potential customer.
What is the name of the artwork? Unknown
When was the artwork created? Within the past few years
What do you notice first when you look at the work(s)? Why?
Eye is drawing up from bottom left across the product to the small jar, I think perhaps because the yellow is the brightest part of the image and it's position
List the literal objects in the painting (trees, people, animals, mountains, rivers, etc.)
Microplane zester product (subject)
Rusty metal panel (background)
1 Small Jar foreground with contents (prop/Lifestyle indicator)
2 Taller jars background with contents
Lemon Zest (context/application)
Old wooden boards (ground)
Chopping board (prop/Lifestyle indicator)
Microplane zester product (subject)
Mentally separate the parts or elements, thinking in terms of textures, shapes/forms, light/dark or bright/dull colours, types of lines, and sensory qualities. In this step consider the most significant art principles that were used in the artwork. Describe how the artist used them to organise the elements.
How has the artist used colours in the work(s)?
They have used a predominately natural pallet in desaturated tones, with the most saturated elements are the green and yellow hues. The image is fairly average in contrast. Below you can see the colours of the image averaged into 5 key groups, with the large majority of the image being made up of darker tones.
What sort of effect do the colours have on the artwork? It feels calming and relaxing almost cosy
How has the artist used shapes within the work of art? The artist has contrasted harder angular shapes with rounder cylindrical shapes, making the main subject of the image a contrast to the other shapes. There is a clear hierarchy of shapes within the image, with strong primary/secondary/tertiary shapes making the image feel less contrived. We can see the hierarchy of objects below:
How have lines been used in the work(s)? Has the artist used them as an important or dominant part of the work, or do they play a different roll? The lines within the image are secondary to the main subject the vertical lines of the jars and the lines of the planks on the ground plane draw the eye into the focal point of the image (the product)
What role does texture play in the work(s)? Has the artist used the illusion of texture or has the artist used actual texture? How has texture been used within the work(s).
There are actual texture within the image, and a contrast of textures, a smoother texture is used around the main subject to create some clear space within the composition that allows the product some room to 'speak'
How has the artist used light in the work(s)
The lighting in the image is generally quite low key, If we take the image into Photoshop and apply a threshold filter we can see the brightest parts of the image. By having a strong light on the main product, and similar lighting on the lemon peel and the salt, I think both these items are a little distracting and draw your eye away from the product which is the main subject of the image.
How has the overall visual effect or mood of the work(s)? been achieved by the use of elements of art and principles of design.
Consideration has been given to composition, the hierarchy of objects within the scene, and chromatic contrast.
How were the artists design tools used to achieve a particular look or focus?
I created a few different compositional templates and laid them over the image to see how well the image conformed to them. The image on the left shows a 3 x 3 Grid based on the rule of thirds, as you can see the product or main subject of the image falls on the lower left intersection and the positing of the jars aligns with the vertical grid lines. The image on the right shows a Golden Spiral again you can see how the image conforms to this and it helps lead the eye throuhg the image.
Because we know the purpose of the image it's easy to make some assumptions about the meaning behind the image. I would suggest that the image is designed to portray a lifestyle rather than focus specifically on the product it is trying to sell. My main reason for thinking this is the amount of space the product takes up within the frame and the number of other objects in the scene which draw your eye away from the product.
The image feels warm and cosy, perhaps this is meant to display a sense of homeliness and nostalgia but I also think it's supposed to present an aspirational lifestyle, perhaps one you could achieve by purchasing the product?
The image also has quite a timeless quality like it could almost be an oil painting from a century ago
It would be easy for me to say I like the image but liking something isn't enough to deem it successful. While I like allot of the elements and the way they work together in the image, my overriding feeling is that there are too many elements that distract from the focus of the image and that the supporting objects, specifically the jars could feel more relevant to the purpose of the product but then they do avoid 'Cliche', Having said that I personally find the image very pleasing to the eye, there are allot of compositional tricks which I find quite satisfying and overall the image feels well balanced and pleasing to the eye.