After seeing Rhedrin's last journal entry, I have decided to offer both a critique of his piece, and a response to RavynneNevyrmore's "critique."
Before I begin what I'm sure is going to be a ridiculously lengthy response, I'm going to provide credentials for those who don't know me. I just graduated from UNI with a B.A. in Studio Art, my emphasis being Drawing. In order to have accomplished this, I had to go through almost 40 credit hours of studio art courses, all of which required us to present our work in critiques and to participate in critiques of other students' work. I've known Rhedrin offline for around 5 years, and have always enjoyed providing professional feedback on his work. I have looked over and examined this piece and the originals in order to formulate a solid opinion. Now, down to business.
It's painfully obvious from her "critique" of your work that she has never been graded on or had a job depend on giving a professional, expert critique in her life. While everyone with eyes has the capability of providing a solid, general critique regardless of knowing the official terms (i.e., composition, chiaroscuro, etc), this critique was poorly founded for several reasons, which I will break down as I provide my own analysis of your work.
To tell someone that their work isn't as strong as the work that it is based upon is normally a solid judgment call when it's true. However, she has clearly failed to recognize your piece as a whole when comparing it to each individual inspiring piece, making this statement ill-founded. While it's true that, to some degree, the originals are stronger than the individual pieces they inspired in your work, that kind of statement also doesn't take into account the fact that they're in two completely different media. Rhedrin, go look at my sketch of Ripley on my Tumblr. It's a pencil sketch. Do you know why I posted it as a pencil sketch? Because even for someone like me, who has spent the last 5.5 years of my life in drawing classes, it was incredibly difficult to create an inked version of her from that piece that I liked, let alone adding any color. My inked version of Ripley looks like a drunk toddler traced her while simultaneously trying to sing the alphabet backwards. My inked version of my own penciled work, which hadn't originally been drawn to be inked, looked horrendous.
Inking off of pencils as intricate and detailed as the originals you used is no easy task, even for professionals. Going in after the fact with colors to make up for the details that get lost (and believe me, unless you specialize in 100% inked drawings, you're going to lose details) is only an easy task if you have your inks where they need to be to replicate the drawing exactly, and otherwise is just as difficult. Black and white pencil sketches do not account for ranges of color, nor for varying values of color. To compare the two on the same playing field is unprofessional and completely ignorant of most artistic principles. For those reasons, any "quality" issues she's seeing between the originals and your inks are, in my opinion, non-existent.
That said, your translation of these pieces into your shadowbox demonstrates the growth you've made as an artist over the last year. Yes, you lost a lot of detail, but then you used your colors to help make up for them. In Lucrecia, you used the limitations of adding detail to your advantage - you made the character look a little bit more mysterious, and that adds more interest to the overall piece. You fixed her second hand, which looks fantastic, and you translated the draping of her gown into inks using line quality that shows your confidence in placing them. I do wish you'd included her necklace(s), but I haven't played FFVII, so I don't know if that's actually important or not, and it's only a minor detail.
Hojo translated over very well (nice call adding more length to the torso than what was originally drawn), and like Lucrecia, the lack of detail behind the glasses makes him look mysterious - as a viewer, I want to know what's going on, and so I look even harder to find answers. I enjoy that you took artistic liberties with the book and the armband, though the book could potentially have been a little lighter in color (the dark makes it look like he could be holding a gun, which also works for me). And look at Hojo's face for a moment - LOOK at those skin tones. Do you see how they move from one into the next flawlessly? Your blending has gotten so much better than it was last year, and you should be proud of that. The only awkward thing about his anatomy is that he cuts off, BUT you chose to have him in a place where most of the background is lighter than the rest, so he actually almost blends into it. The only suggestion I have for improvement with him would be to practice that style of highlights in the hair, but I myself only got the hang of that a week ago (literally, go look at my ponies on tumblr/Facebook - the hair is awesome and I still don't know how I did it), so that's not even a big issue.
Vincent was going to be your hardest to translate over because of how completely intricate his original sketch was. Personally, I don't think I could have done it any better than you did. But look at your work - You put down the important lines, and then let your colors do the talking for you. You have a fantastic rendition of this sketch here, and anyone who disagrees with that should probably try doing it better themselves before they decide to spout off. My only constructive criticism for him is that I would have liked to see slightly more detail in the face (particularly the eyes), and maybe also a little bit of a highlight in the hair, but neither of those detracts from him enough for it to be a big deal to me.
Now, as far as your composition goes, I think you made some excellent decisions. First, Vincent's "floating torso" makes sense to me, because of how you placed the background. You provided a border within the piece, and then made Vincent adhere to it. When you actually look at the border and the piece as a whole (instead of focusing in on little details and not seeing how they fit together), that's very pleasing to the eye. The only "anatomical errors" that she could have possibly been talking about would be those "floating torsos" that I've already discussed, so I feel you can toss that little nugget of hers out completely. That border I mentioned also creates a beautiful ground area for Lucrecia to be standing on, as a side note. Another decision that you made that I find successful is the fact that they're facing away from each other. Why? Because it's consistent - all three of them are facing away from each other, or otherwise not "looking" at each other. It actually makes it feel like a CD cover, except more awesome because it's Final Fantasy. It adds to the mystery of the characters for me - I look and ask myself, "What's going on? Who are these characters? How are they connected, because it's obvious that they must be. Clearly, there's more to this story than what I'm seeing here," and then I want to know what that is.
Finally, some closing comments:
"The abrupt cutting off of Hojo's and Vincent's bodies is awkward, the arrangement of the three of them facing away from each other seems arbitrary (probably because you did not draw them and choose those poses yourself), and the background is stolen artwork from Advent Children, which disqualifies anything from inclusion in any of my groups anyhow." - RavynneNevyrmore
I feel I've accurately addressed the cutting off of the bodies, the arrangement of them, and how the background all actually add to your work. For anyone who considers themselves to have any amount of professionalism, her failure of a critique is nowhere near the realm of professional.
If she didn't care for your piece, she simply could have stated that the use of the background disqualified it, and left it at that. The only thing that seems arbitrary here would be her baseless comments.
Critiquing someone's work in a serious way is meant to be constructive; it is meant to help them to grow as an artist by showing them areas that need improvement AS WELL AS areas that are already successful. The most important things to take into consideration when providing constructive criticism is the level of the artist - What other work have they done? Is this something that rises above the standards they had set for themselves? Is this something that is clearly not their best? When you know those things, you can do your best to help. Offering shoddy critique with no intention of being constructive is simply not acceptable in the professional world, whether it be in school or in the work place. I suppose the internet allows people to be fools without serious consequences, though, which is why my feathers get ruffled when I see piss-poor critique that wouldn't even survive an entry-level college art class.
No, you're not the strongest sketch artist, Rhedrin, but you breathe life into sketches and provide unique interpretations of them, and THAT makes you a strong artist. Since I seem to be in agreement with the original artists and the individual whom this was a gift to regarding how successful this piece is, I hereby declare it SUCCESSFUL.