Somehow, I think this is actually my favourite stage... The final is very beautiful in a more classical sense, but I like this one because it is... colder. Which, based on my interpretation of the image, is a bit more fitting.
First of all let me say, I love the man's face! The high contrasting detail in it are wonderful. Then contrasting that to vagueness of his legs really works. Having said that, I would say there are just a few minor tweeks that might help, and maybe one or two of these suggestions would be enough, so please take them or leave them lol - I would say the two stuffed animals and, to a lesser extent, the second figure are competing with forefront figure. You might try a light wash (though I'm not sure if a tint or shade would be better) to knock them back a bit, or use the same technique you used on the man's legs to lessen their importance. - I'm a little distracted by that hard line in the background between the black and white. The contrast is just really high there and it's a stopping point in the composion, and it doesn't need to be, especially in it's relationship to the legs. - It's a minor distraction, but the man's arm in the foreground reads a little wonky, both in the upper arm and in the hand/thumb as it attaches to wrist. Maybe just a minor adjustment to the anatomy there (I'd suggest bumping up the highlights), but it's hard to say without looking at your reference. - Lastly, this is a VERY minor suggestion, his torso and head seem to be floating a little bit. Just a hint of shadow or overlap to ground them to floor. Again, I really like this piece, I wouldn't bother to critique it if I didn't.
thanks a lot for taking the time! i reworked the painting here [link] and *hopefully* incorporated some of your very good suggestions. not sure if i did what you suggested with the wrist and stuffed animals (tried a wash but it screwed up other parts of the composition so I changed them back), but I did put in cast shadows for the guy, and got rid of the hard line in the background
No, the arm works better for me now, and that misty outline on his left side really moved him forward and made him more prominent than the stuffed animals... nice! I never would've envisioned that. THANK YOU!
I think the background needs to be knocked back and the man's left arm (over his head) needs to be resolved a bit more. Maybe brighten up his arm a bit to bring the eye down... Love how you're treating the paint though. I wouldn't work on it too, too much more.
Although, I do really like the white shape in the back ground. If you want to keep it, I would put something equally as eye-catching (maybe with high contrast color) in the foreground. You could probably use the arm and that diagonal you have working in the corner. But I'm a fan of fucking around with space