Photo-real render honest critique wanted

With the situation in Afghanistan filling the news at the moment I felt like I wanted to make a scene related to that crisis. This feels like the most ‘artistic’ render I’ve worked on (as in not just modeling something and lighting it, instead trying to make a scene that conveys emotion and tells a story). I had a story in my head that I wanted to try and depict with this image and I am interested to see if people are able to read the story through this WIP render.
I am trying to pay extra attention to my composition and thinking about how the position of the elements in the scene helps tell the story.

In terms of things I am aware need work:

  • The dirt on the toy rabbit (not sure the best way to do this)

  • Altering the colour, clumping, and texture of the fur in places to make the toy look like it’s been run over and is wet.

  • The solider/gunman is placeholder.

  • I think the lighting could do with some work, maybe a darker setting would help acheive the atmosphere that I don’t feel like this scene currently expresses. Darker scene would make it easier to place emphasis on the two focal points however how would I naturally light the foreground element in the dark?

  • I like the composition of having one story telling element in the foreground, with a contrasting story element obscured and out of focus in the background, however I wish the toy rabbit could take up more of the frame while still having the background element in frame. I spent a lot of time trying to get the camera setup I wanted before fleshing out the scene but I never got it 100% there. I am also trying to keep the foreground and background elements on opposing intersections on the rule of thirds.

In terms of things I’m happy with:

  • I think the grass elements look nice and blend well into the ground.

  • I like my vertex colours texture blending work, I think the pilled up mud on the side of the dirt track looks really good and the way the dead grass casts shadows into the wet mud on the right of the frame.

  • While it still needs work, I think the toy fur looks nice and for the ‘dry’ parts of the toy, this texture feels believable.

Here is a collage on pureref of my reference and inspiration:

Another concern I have is with the morality of making work like this, work that plays on very real and current emotions. The last thing I want to do is offend somebody or come off as if I’m using other people’s misfortune to gain recognition for my own art. If anybody reading this has worked on an artwork that’s subject could be considered a ‘touchy’ one, could you talk about how you made sure you were creating your work in good conscience and respecting the people that could relate to it. I have considered posting this artwork, when it’s finished, alongside links to ways of educating yourself on the crisis and methods for helping people in the crisis, but then again I don’t want to come off as preachy or pretentious.

That is about all the critique I have for myself, I’d love to hear what you agree/disagree with and what additional critique you feel is needed. Also let me know what story you see in this WIP render, this will help me decide if I need to make any big changes to the composition or focal elements. Don’t hold back, please be honest!


Amazing work! I love how it looks and the message you’re trying to send, on what you’d like critiqued I’d say what you could do is;

  • Add clouds. A lot of people omit as they’re a pain to do is add clouds, with the proper cloud coverage you could light only the bear and the soldier / house, emphasizing what’s going on in the scene.

  • Make the toy way dirtier, broken, would tell a “Sadder” Story, as someone with a dog who loves to cannibalize toys eyes, they look like they went to Vietnam, lol

Again, cheers man, lovely work!

On the topic of “Morality” As an Arab myself who’s got family in Syria and my father’s brother recently bombed out of existence, don’t mind man.

It doesn’t matter, people will always criticize the work you do, no matter what you’re doing and what the topic is. As long as you’re not breaking “Extreme” Taboos, what you’re doing isn’t romanticizing war, either. Something that a lot of media (Looking at you, US News channels) Do on the daily and no one bats an eye.


Thank you so much man, both for your suggestions and your input on the morality situation. I think the clouds idea is genius and I’ll definitely give it a go, and you’re totally right about making the toy dirtier, I was struggling to find reference on dirty toys but dog toys is actually a really good shout.

Your words on morality make me feel more confident in making art like this so thanks for sharing.

Glad I could help :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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I really like it … but there is one thing (besides the missing gun):

Sorry but the reflectioons on the legs are eerie :wolf: . Maybe its because the material is brown?? Or i don’t know… (it’s not a big deal but breaks the feeling i think… just my thought and not thinking in composition rules etc…)


Yeah hahaha I see what you mean, the soldier model is purely there to block out the scene, I plan on completely changing this character and of course giving him a gun. I think the blur from the DOF is also causing light to wrap around the leg making it look too thin.
Thanks for the input!

I featured you on BlenderNation, have a great weekend!

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You have a excellent concept! other than the minor tweaks that you are already aware of. For the doll, maybe do some creative pinning, run a cloth sim and “deflate” it where it got run over. grind it into the mud a little?

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First off fantastic work!
If you look at a teddy bear in water, you will see that water absorbed into the bear creating dirtying effect.
You can probably achieve this with a gradient. Also the grass seemed a bit off, I think this is cause there is no smaller grass.
The soldier is also weird looking, and he needs a gun. You need at least two for a finished look.
I hope this was helpful.

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You’re on the #featured row! :+1:

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Amazing work!

These changes might help:

  1. What I would recommend is instead of the teddy bear make it a doll as you are depicting a child in a mud house and poor kids in Afghanistan don’t have teddy bear like Lotso or a bunny. Girls in Afghanistan or surrounding areas play with dolls made of folded cloth and boys play with guns made up of sticks. I can honestly tell you don’t do the teddy.

  2. I think you should add just a spatter of blood on the toy, it would show the suffering of children during the war.

  3. You should change the soldier into a terrorist or Taliban because they are the ones causing the bloodshed.

  4. You should also add a few broken glass bangles as the child might be with her mother and to show the suffering of women which is at its height now. :disappointed_relieved:

Maybe this image might help.

I hope this helped :blush:

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Thank you for the art and the powerful image. May peace be with the Afghan people some day.

I am curious about the story. It was snowing up in the mountains when I got there but it soon became mud much like that.

The depiction looks like a road checkpoint with a humvee checking in with the guards. The discarded/lost toy represents to me the loss of innocence (what little they retain) for the children of a war torn country and even worse due to the country being one of the poorest in the world.

Though what the previous post mentioned is all true, I like the bunny. Not real to life but has more meaning to a Western audience.

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I did a paint over on what I think could be done.


I think you did a great job so far!
Small things to enhance realism would be taking into account the sun’s thermal effect on things in the picture. If it is hot and dry out there, which I guess you intended, is every bit of the muddy road wet even after a fairly recent vehicle passage? Also, there is no signs of heated air causing distortion on the background. Toy is perfect imho as it looks like it just hase been dropped. It creates action. But that’s more storytelling than actually a realism thing.

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Extremely good! But things do jump out at me.

  • The background hills and sky seem too dark for the lighting of the rest of the scene. Perhaps it’s a texture thing (light grass in the scene, dark in the background), or maybe it’s a lighting issue.
  • I realise the soldier model is a placeholder, but a more dynamic pose would massively help.
  • Think about how the bunny would get splashed. Think how the freshest tracks should have splashed water and mud mostly onto one side of it.

Thanks a lot Bart!

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Sounds like a good idea, I thought it might be good to deform it slightly along the tracks in some way. Thanks for the help!

Thanks for the advice, I’ll take this into consideration when I’m working on it again!

Wow thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate it and I’ll definitely take this on board!

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I like your interpretation, thanks for sharing! This helps a lot for me to work out what story elements are working and which aren’t. Cheers!