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David (Drawspace online - Intermediate)
Thanks for all you help and guidance throughout this course. I have really enjoyed it and learned a lot of very useful tips and techniques from you. I know I have a long way to go yet but this course has really helped me.

'The Henhouse Raider' You don't have nearly as far to go as you think you do. Although I'll set about pulling it to pieces, this is an excellent result.

Two things struck me immediately, so I'll mention those first. The rusty wheel grabbed my full attention, and I'm certain that's because it's not sharp, and the left-hand edge of the rim appears to flow into the body. You've relied on a bit of outline there, which rarely works, and it's totally unnatural. Outline doesn't exist in real life. Just a little darkening of the body would have sufficed. It doesn't matter which lighting direction you chose, every viewer will happily understand that the inner face of the wheel might be darker.

henhouse wheel The other thing was Robbie's eye. Ideally you'd want Robbie's eye to attract our full attention; to be the point of focus. But this eye is a bit... weird. His face is pointing towards the corner, expecting the enraged hen to appear at any second - but his pupil is looking directly at us, which doesn't make sense. Or, at least, it doesn't help to tell the story.

Also, if you include the key highlight (the point directly facing the sun), you create the maximum contrast in the entire drawing right at that point.

Dogs eye placement and key highlight

From here, I'll start at the back and work forwards. But first, I must commend you on your wide choice of values. The strength of your darks has added a lot of depth to a composition that didn't possess much. The interior of the old henhouse recedes really well, and the space beneath it is both dark and solid.

detail of Border Collie pup

Robbie the dog looks delightfully hairy, and with a good overall texture. I feel you were living within the scene as you drew it, because you've noticed things that many people miss - such as the reflected light running down his back that separates him from the interior wall. However, you did make a common error when you left his rear paw receiving as much light as his front paws. Being in the shade of the henhouse and Robbie's own shadow, that paw should be considerably darker, or at least not contain foreground values.

Of course, this is a composite study - neither Robbie nor Henrietta ever saw this henhouse, which I burnt many years ago - and the key to succeeding with such compositions is to always be aware that you have to connect the elements and make them live together harmoniously.

As for his found eggs... they're very believable, and contrast well with the softness of his hair. They're smooth and semi-reflective; and the broken shell of the right-hand one has an obvious thickness.
...the tones on Henrietta appeared to be similar to the tones in the adjacent foliage and so again the challenge for me was to try and not "lose"Henrietta within her surroundings.
detail of hen First, like Robbie, Henrietta would greatly benefit from having the key highlight in her eye. She needs that to attract the viewer's attention to her. She's also suffering from a lack of contrast overall. We know she's on the shady side of the henhouse, but there is light getting in there, because the nest box above her is casting a shadow beneath it. That said, you've managed to separate her out from the wall behind, which isn't easy.

Other than that, your understanding of Henrietta is excellent. She has a wonderful feeling of solid form and, in my opinion, just the right suggestion of feathering. She's obviously feathered but in a way that doesn't distract. And she appears to be transmitting a sense of outrage about what she fears is happening to her precious eggs.

My only other reservation is that brighter highlights in her raised left foot would have added to the story. She might be running or has paused - we don't know - but it's the only implied movement in the composition. Emphasising that would add a lot of tension.

The drawing of the wood, with its subtle texture and suggestions of decay, is very believable. As our the nail heads that are present but not intrusive. It's so easy to over-detail a secondary element such as wood and its features, so you did well to avoid that. The nest box is obviously protruding, and you've made good use of its shadow, and engineered the values of the wood, to award Henrietta the prominence she requires.

Your weeds possess excellent depth, especially at the left hand side. The deep shade you established beneath the henhouse gave you the opportunity push some of the weeds far back into it, which created instant depth. There's a definite sharp-edged foreground too, and a midground that nicely connects the two. That weed to the left of the wheel, for instance, is clearly growing from under the henhouse and bending forwards into the light.

detail of foliage beneath the henhouse The more I look at your weeds the more I discover. For example, even though the fallen egg is clearly visible once it's been found, you did a good job of hiding it in the weeds. It often pays dividends to allow the viewer to find some elements later. And I think that's another broken shell at the front? If it is... perfect! It adds to the story, but injects a little mystery too.

Finally, the foreground: often less is more in a foreground situation, which is why I personally leave that area until last. That allows me to use it to balance the whole and draw the eye in to the composition. I think your foreground does exactly that. It contains interest if my eye strays to it, yet it doesn't dominate the scene.

This is an excellent result, David, and I've really enjoyed working with you.