Lesson 6: Drawing Everyday Objects

As of October 8th 2016, after roughly two years of offering free critiques, I will now be limiting my own critiques to patreon supporters ($3 or more). But don't fret - you are still welcome to freely submit your work and questions directly to the /r/ArtFundamentals subreddit to be reviewed by the community.

Before we start, I assume you've completed Lesson 5 (and its prerequisites). Each lesson builds upon the last, so while you think you may know enough to jump in half way, or that the previous topics are of little interest to you, you'll be missing out on quite a bit. Start from the beginning, and you'll be glad you did.

Analytical and Constructive Drawing from Observation: Drawing Everyday Objects

Originally, at this point I tackled 'hard surface objects' by diving into vehicles like tanks and locomotives. This time I've decided to add one more lesson to the list - every day objects. The vehicles will come in the next one. The last handful of lessons all dealt with fairly organic subject matter. The constructions involved fairly fluid interpretations of geometric forms at most, though usually we'd construct voluminous blobs and then chisel them into planar forms. So, lets look at some basic concepts before we go into the demos.

Form Intersections from Lesson 2

If you remember lesson 2's form intersections, this is going to be very similar. The only difference is that instead of arbitrarily dropping in forms and connecting them however you like, we're going to attempt to construct concrete objects. This means keeping an eye on the proportions and the positions of your forms.

Finding the Center of a Quad

On the left, you'll see an invaluable technique for finding the center of a quadrilateral plane. Finding the intersection point of the two diagonals of your quad will give you its physical center.

This technique can be used multiple times, as every time you find the center of a quad, you can use it in conjunction with vanishing points (whether explicit or estimated) to divide your quad into four smaller quads. You can then repeat the technique on those quads to further subdivide them.

This can be a great way to create a grid on a surface in perspective, which is a great way to pinpoint the correct proportions, or the accurate positioning of a detail or other intersecting form.

Using the Minor Axis of an Ellipse

Back in lesson 1, when we introduced the idea of ellipses, I spoke briefly about the major and minor axes of an ellipse, and how the minor axis could be used. This specifically applies to the construction of a cylinder.

The minor axis of an ellipse stretches across the narrower dimension, splitting it into two symmetrical sections. If you were to extrude this ellipse into a cylinder, that minor axis line would align perfectly with the center line, or spine, of the cylinder. That means that you can use the minor axis to help orient your ellipses when constructing a cylinder.

Basically, the minor axis of both ellipses (on either end of the cylinder) should run along the same invisible line.

Wacom Cintiq 27QHD

To start with, the coveted Wacom Cintiq 27QHD. For the record, a beautiful machine, but probably overkill for most people.

For those among you who are current patreon supporters of drawabox, there is a video recording of this drawing available:

Start with a Box

As you'll find is often the case in this lesson, we start with a box. We're going to be employing the "encapsulating box" method - that is, we're creating a box, and we'll be building our object inside of it. When using this approach, it's important that you ensure that the bulk of your forms rest snug inside of the box. You can't just have things floating around arbitrarily, otherwise that undermines the purpose of the box entirely. Therefore you need to take a fair bit of time figuring out what size your box should be - consider the proportions of the object, and construct the width, height and depth appropriately.

Subdivide

In order to make use of the encapsulating box approach, we need to subdivide the planes of our box. Think of this like creating a three-dimensional grid within the box itself. In this case I've noticed the larger section at the back of the stand's base - this thing takes up roughly a quarter of the depth of the overall box, so I want to at the very least cut the box into halves so I can eyeball it with some accuracy. Even better would be to then subdivide it further into quarters.

Construct the Base

With a rough sense of where that larger section of the base ends, I now start constructing the boxes that make up the base, of which there are two. When drawing these lines, I'm always looking at those of the box itself to get clues as to how these new marks should be angled. After all, we're still only dealing with three sets of parallel lines - the box itself defines them quite well, giving us lots of reference to rely upon.

Build the Screen

This one's tricky, and frankly it appears that I screwed up a little. Oh well, minor mistakes like this are no big deal - just keep trecking forwards. This is where we introduce a fourth set of parallel lines - those that define the slant of the screen itself, and a fifth set (small ones that define the depth of the screen). For now, all we have to worry about is creating another box. I've also found the center of this box and subdivided it into two halves. I'll use this center line in the next step.

Placing the Hinges

Using the center line of the screen that I created at the end of the last step as the minor axis, I construct two cylinders on either end of the screen for the hinges, and two more near the larger section of the base. Subdivision can often be extremely useful when it comes to creating the necessary information to align our ellipses and cylinders, so leverage this method whenever you can.

More Minor Construction

There isn't much to this step - I'm just adding some of the simple box forms to construct the mounting arm and other minor portions.

Details and Line Weight

Lastly, some clean up - adding line weight to solidify my forms, the outline of a drop shadow to ground the object, rounded off some corners and also added an inset to the screen. If you're unsure of how I went about that, check out the intro video, I discuss it when doing the speaker demo.

Wooden Barrel

The one thing I know all of you have in your house - ye olde barrel. I wanted to find something with lots of ellipses, and instantly hated myself for it. Ellipses are the worst.

For those among you who are current patreon supporters of drawabox, there is a video recording of this drawing available:

A Box!

Goodness, we draw so many boxes here, we should practically name the website drawa- oh wait. I subdivided the crap out of this one, knowing that it's blocking in my barrel. Finding the center point of the two opposite sides of this box will let me find my minor axis, and generally subdividing my form will also make it easier to align other forms to it.

Another Box

This looks like a bit of a jump, but just compare this step and the previous one - I've done a few things. I've added the box underneath, which is just as wide as the initial box, and I've cut into it. I did so by drawing a line on the closer side to mark how far in I wanted to cut, then I mirrored this line across the box's center to find the equal cut on the opposite side. I explain this in the intro video, specifically at the end of the part about how to subdivide your forms.

Preparing to Draw My Ellipses

If you look at the barrel in our reference, it's not a perfect cylinder. In the center, it's wider than at the ends. In this sense, I'm using the initial barrel block-in-box in the same way I constructed the wacom cintiq in the previous demo with the "encapsulating box" approach. I want to make sure that my barrel remains snug within the box itself, and so I cut an inset into both sides of the box (again, I discuss this in the intro video, during the speaker demo). I could technically expand the midsection of the barrel out, but I feel that this would be much more difficult to achieve without messing up my proportions. The encapsulating box approach instead allows me to set out how much space I'm going to be using for a given form. Doesn't always work out that way, but it's usually close enough to be a useful block-in tool.

Drawing the Ellipses

Ghost a LOT. Also, do some practice runs off to the side. Ellipses are tricky as hell, and there's a lot of things you need to try to achieve (aligning to your minor axis, fitting within the alotted space, getting your contact points with the top and bottom of the enclosing plane to line up, and so on). It won't come out perfect, because you're not a machine. A lot of artists use ellipse guides for this sort of thing, so you don't have to feel compelled to nail this. Hell, if you HAVE an ellipse guide, go ahead and use it. Either way, do the best that you can.

Building the Barrel

This one's also challenging, so take your time and think through the problem. I need the barrel to smoothly swell out to its midsection, then come back down to the far end. I could have constructed another ellipse in the center, but I decided to wing it somewhat, trying instead to visualize that ellipse.

Additional Muscle Masses, and Starting the Legs

Detail's something I usually leave for the end, but I was honestly so drained by this barrel's stupid ellipses that I just wanted to get it out of the way. Boxes are easy, but ellipses can really be a nightmare. The iron bands that wrap around the barrel are really just contour curves. Still, maintaining the thickness between them was a little tricky at times. Always remember that this stuff is hard, and no one's expecting perfection. The final drawing does not matter, it's all about what you learn from the construction of the object. Each one of these drawings really pushes you to flex your brain, thinking through spatial problems and understanding how every form relates to its neighbours. Mistakes don't take away from that.

Add the Legs

Back to the wonderful world of boxes. This was really just a matter of observing my reference, subdividing my boxes, extending some of the resulting lines, mirroring details across center lines, and so on. All the sort of stuff I explained during the intro video.

Detail

With these everyday objects, I really don't care much at all about texture and detail and whatnot. I've had students in the past submit work that was purely focused on construction, and it was a pleasure to leaf through. There certainly is texture here, but it's not worth worrying about. Focus on the construction, make sure your hierarchy of line weight is clear so the drawing stands out from all the construction lines, ground your object with a cast shadow (doesn't have to be accurate), and push some deep blacks here and there to make any important sections pop out.

Computer Mouse

This is something more than a few people have struggled with, and for good reason. Computer mice combine both hard surface qualities with smooth, organic curves, and can be very challenging to construct with the standard geometric means.

For those among you who are current patreon supporters of drawabox, there is a video recording of this drawing available:

Guess what... it's a box!

So as usual, I construct a box. Here we're going to be using the encapsulating box approach, but with a bit of a twist. For now, make sure you subdivide the box and draw a line going down the center of the box length-wise, all the way around. Think of this as constructing a plane inside the center of the enclosing form.

Orthographics

So here's the twist - instead of constructing our object with geometric primitives, we're going to start out by drawing orthographic studies off to the side. That is, a flat drawing of the mouse's profile from the side, and from the bottom. Make sure to factor in proportion, as that is our main focus. Feel free to subdivide these orthographic studies as much as you want, but be sure to subdivide the actual 3D planes as well, as you will be trying to replicate the same shapes there.

Transfer the Side Orthographic
Transfer the Base Orthographic

Take your time, and absolutely take advantage of subdivision to transfer the shapes accurately. Don't worry about any major details, just focus on the silhouette. Also, keep in mind how perspective causes distortion, due to the basic principle of things being farther away appearing smaller.

The Hump

If you look at my side view orthographic, you'll notice that I've included both the overall silhouette as well as the shape that sits on the far sides of the mouse. Just as I transferred the other details, here I transfer this far side information to the planes on both sides of the box. Patience is key here, and make sure you draw the smooth curves from your shoulder, as your wrist will cause them to come out stiff and awkward.

Connect the Sides, Center and Base

Carefully looking at the overall form of your reference, start connecting the pieces. You'll notice here that initially I tried to do so within the encapsulating box, but I quickly realized that I had underestimated the amount of vertical space needed. It is okay to go beyond your bounds, but don't do so lightly. In most cases it's very important to respect the space enclosed by your box, and to work towards fitting everything snugly inside of it. Beyond a certain point though, mistakes made early on can't really be avoided.

Cut the Gap Between the Buttons

Aside from the extra details I've started adding (probably too early), the major change to the form here is that I cut a substantial gap between the buttons, where the scroll wheel will eventually go. Note that I cut this equally on both sides of the center line, and that I pay close attention to how this cut curves down towards the base.

Construct the Scroll Wheel Cylinder

When constructing the scroll wheel, I draw only one ellipse. You certainly can choose to draw two, and depending on your comfort level with visualization and cylinders in general, it may be the better choice. Still, here I made that decision in order to reduce the amount of clutter. As with everything else, with all of the subdivision, clutter is a major factor here. Still, the solidity of your forms and construction is of the highest priority. One of the main reasons I made that decision was because this was intended as a demo, so clutter would have made it much more difficult to follow.

You could also choose to build this cylinder as a box initially, but again, that would further compound the clutter problem and may not be entirely necessary. Make sure you pay close attention to the proportions and sizing of the scroll wheel in your reference image before beginning this phase.

Detail

Just as with the other demos, this last step is reserved for organizing our linework, bringing the major forms forwards and generally cleaning things up.

These exercises should be done traditionally, using a felt tip pen (0.5mm is ideal). I use the Staedtler Pigment Liners, and sometimes the Faber Castell PITT artist pens (more expensive and higher quality), though there are plenty of other brands that work just as well.

Felt Tip Pens

In previous exercises, I allowed ballpoint pens to be used. For these, I insist you use a felt tip pen, as it will force you to deal with your pressure control - an issue that will help across various other drawing media.

As homework, I recommend doing at least:

  • 8 pages of everyday objects (roughly 2 drawings per page). Vary your subjects, in terms of their general forms. Choose some cylindrical, some boxy, etc.

Take your time, and take as many breaks as you need. No need to rush. I expect this to take you at least eight hours, likely more.

Either draw from life, or use high-resolution reference images. Google images (be sure to set the size to large under search tools) and pinterest tend to be good sources of reference. For this lesson in particular, I can't imagine any reason why drawing from life would not be an option.


The demos below are outdated, but still have some relevant information so I've decided to leave them up. Keep in mind that when I wrote and recorded these, I was putting much less focus on the importance of dealing in solid forms and construction than I do now.


Shaving Cream Can

To start off with, I wanted to go with something simple that focused on a single, yet somewhat challenging form - a cylinder. As I demonstrated above, this focuses a lot on the minor axis of the ellipses involved.

Patreon-only Video Demo (13min, no audio)

Ellipses and Spine

The main form here, as I mentioned earlier, is a cylinder. In order to draw it, we establish our spine and draw two ellipses. Remember that the ellipse that is further away will always be of a larger degree than the one that is closer to us. You can differentiate the two fairly easily - the one that's closer is the one you'll be able to see, while the further one will be blocked by the cylinder itself.

It is also possible to start by drawing one ellipse, finding its minor axis and extending it down. This may be less reliable however. Starting off by determining your spine means that both your ellipses will have to match it (which is difficult), but you'll know exactly which way your cylinder will be oriented from the very beginning.

Block in Other Forms

The nozzle component is made up of a couple rudimentary forms - a hemisphere and a few cylinders. At this point it's no different from a standard form intersection. Contiue to build off the cylinder's spine to keep your alignment consistent, and keep connecting forms to that main body.

Refining

Carve your forms, add whatever detail you like, and don't forget to ground your object with the outline of a dropshadow. I'd really prefer it if you didn't try to go too heavily into detail for this lesson. The form is what will sell these objects, so detail really isn't what I'd like to see.

Toaster

What list of every-day items is complete without our friend the toaster? This one's got a very simple core with a little more variation to its shape. It's boxy, but you'll notice its rounded sides mean that we'll have to do a bit of carving to accurately capture its form.

Patreon-only Video Demo (27min, no audio)

Lay in your core box

As I mentioned above, this object's core is a box, so we'll start off with that. Here I'm trying out that subdivision technique, mainly so I can find the center line to which I will later align the toast-holes. Toast-slits? Toast-ports. The things where you put the damn bread.

I actually drew the box once, then decided I didn't like the proportions, so I extended it. That's the beauty of a box. It's very easy to simply extend it in any of the three dimensions.

Carve your forms

Since these forms aren't perfectly boxy, we're going to need to carve in those rounded sweeps. Having the box as a framework makes this much easier, however. Just keep in mind which dimension you're working in. Attempting to carve in multiple directions at once can get tricky, but you can have a fairly easy go of it if you work only along one of the axes of the box at a time.

I'm also adding some of the smaller forms - small cylinder-type things for the buttons, and a cylinder with a boxy protrusion for the knob.

Finalize your forms

At this point I'm committing to my decisions. Working with a felt tip pen definitely forces you to do this, but with other media it becomes very easy to waffle. It's extremely important to commit to a decision in regards to how your form is carved. Any other details will rest upon this solid structure, so if it is in fact not solid, then the whole drawing will fall apart.

Detail

As I mentioned above, details are not important for this lesson. Feel free to add a few minor touches here and there for presentation's sake, but don't spend too much time on it. All I'm really interested in are your forms.