Today’s critique comes from young artist Faisal Mansour who has painted this swan in acrylics. Faisal said that his goals for this piece were realism. I love how strong your contrast is on this piece! You’ve also got beautiful texture in your brush strokes!! Also, my 13 year old self is quite jealous of what you completed at your age!!! My work was NOTHING near this at that time! You are going to grow into an absolutely amazing artist!!
I don’t have your reference photo for this one, but my first tip is on the beak. Because of how you have the highlights, it makes his beak look very wavy. When adding highlights, weather to feathers, fur or a beak in this case, make sure not to add strokes just for the sake of adding highlights. Make sure that those highlights are shaped right and in the right area because this is a huge part of what creates dimension in your work. If the dimension is created in the wrong spot, it can make the area look warped.
You said in your submission that you really wanted to make the feathers look realistic, to get the little hairs to look right.
This is pretty easy to do when you get the hang of it…but time consuming. I use a small round or a liner brush and paint in the clusters of feathers. In this case, if we look at this sample of a swan, notice how those feathers are clumped together in little mini triangles. They are slightly curved, not random straight lines (although some are straighter than others). You want to watch the direction of each of those clusters as well. Notice on this guy how they almost appear to be in rows going down his neck. Take your time in creating this texture with your smaller brushes. I generally like to get my detail work lined in like this, then glaze my shadows over it where needed 🙂
Here is a video showing you how to glaze https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33_OjNxC15k
And another showing you how to use a liner brush for small detail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQP9fjbl4fg