Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

6:00 PM, Sunday April 21st 2024

Lesson 4 - DrawABox - Album on Imgur

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I'm also including at the end of my post the "follow along" exercises

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5:03 PM, Monday April 22nd 2024
edited at 5:07 PM, Apr 22nd 2024

Hello edravi5340, I'll be the teaching assistant handling your lesson 4 critique.

Starting with your organic forms it looks like you're aiming to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here, and most of your forms are fairly close. Sometimes a form will come out with ends of different sizes, or some subtle swelling through the midsection, so those are tings to watch out for when practicing this exercise in your warmups.

You're doing a good job keeping most of your linework smooth and confident in this exercise, and you're doing well with fitting your contour curves snugly against the edges of the forms.

You tend to keep your contour curves quite similar in degree. Keep in mind that the degree of your contour lines should be shifting wider as we slide along the sausage form, moving farther away from the viewer. This is also influenced by the way in which the sausages themselves turn in space, but farther = wider is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you're unsure as to why that is, review the Lesson 1 ellipses video. You can also see a good example of how to vary your contour curves in this diagram showing the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived.

Moving on to your insect constructions it looks like you put a lot of time and effort into these pages, and I see you have plenty of ability, particularly with the observational skills you're leveraging throughout the set. I do have a few points to bring to your attention, and think that applying these pieces of advice will help you to get more out of these constructional exercises in future.

First and foremost, how we use the space available to us on the page makes a big difference. There are two things that we must give each of our drawings throughout this course in order to get the most out of them. Those two things are space and time. Right now it appears that you are thinking ahead to how many drawings you'd like to fit on a some of your pages. It certainly is admirable, as you clearly want to get more practice in, but in artificially limiting how much space you give a given drawing, you're limiting your brain's capacity for spatial reasoning, while also making it harder to engage your whole arm while drawing. For example on this page the constructions were so small that you were unable to follow the leg construction methods shown in the lesson, particularly on the butterfly, where you'd tried to describe 3D forms with single lines, which are infinitely thin, and do not provide enough information for the viewer to understand how they are supposed to exist in 3D space. I strongly encourage you to make your constructions larger in future, about the size of your spider demo would give you a fighting chance at following the construction methods used in these exercises.

There's a tendency for some of your linework in your constructions to be stiffer than what was demonstrated in your organic forms exercise, which suggests you may be trying to combine your "thinking" and "doing" into a single step. Make sure you're using the ghosting method for every line (no matter how many lines the exercise may demand) as by using the planning and preparation stages we can then execute the mark smoothly, with confidence. I also think drawing larger will help with your markmaking, as this will make it easier to engage your whole arm.

The next point I want to bring up relates to differentiating between the actions we can take when interacting with a construction, which fall into two groups:

  • Actions in 2D space, where we're just putting lines down on a page, without necessarily considering the specific nature of the relationships between the forms they're meant to represent and the forms that already exist in the scene.

  • Actions in 3D space, where we're actually thinking about how each form we draw exists in 3D space, and how it relates to the existing 3D structures already present. We draw them in a manner that actually respects the 3D nature of what's already there, and even reinforces it.

Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose, but many of those marks would contradict the illusion you're trying to create and remind the viewer that they're just looking at a series of lines on a flat piece of paper. In order to avoid this and stick only to the marks that reinforce the illusion we're creating, we can force ourselves to adhere to certain rules as we build up our constructions. Rules that respect the solidity of our construction.

For example - once you've put a form down on the page, do not attempt to alter its silhouette. Its silhouette is just a shape on the page which represents the form we're drawing, but its connection to that form is entirely based on its current shape. If you change that shape, you won't alter the form it represents - you'll just break the connection, leaving yourself with a flat shape. We can see this most easily in this example of what happens when we cut back into the silhouette of a form.

For example, I've marked on your rhino beetle in red where it looks like you cut back inside the silhouette of forms you had already drawn. One thing I did notice is that some of the instances of cutting into forms (though not all) came down to the fact that your ellipses would come out a little loose (which is totally normal), and then you'd pick one of the inner edges to serve as the silhouette of the ball form you were constructing. This unfortunately would leave some stray marks outside of its silhouette, which does create some visual issues. Generally it is best to treat the outermost perimeter of the ellipse as the edge of the silhouette, so everything else remains contained within it. This diagram shows which lines to use on a loose ellipse.

On the same image I marked in blue a few places where you'd extended off existing forms using partial, flat shapes, not quite providing enough information for us to understand how they actually connect to the existing structure in 3D space.

Instead, when we want to build on our construction or alter something we add new 3D forms to the existing structure. Forms with their own complete silhouettes - and by establishing how those forms either connect or relate to what's already present in our 3D scene. We can do this either by defining the intersection between them with contour lines (like in lesson 2's form intersections exercise), or by wrapping the silhouette of the new form around the existing structure as shown here.

This is all part of understanding that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for both you and the viewer to believe in that lie.

You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. You can also see some good examples of this in the lobster and shrimp demos on the informal demos page. As Uncomfortable has been pushing this concept more recently, it hasn't been fully integrated into the lesson material yet (it will be when the overhaul reaches Lesson 4). Until then, those submitting for official critiques basically get a preview of what is to come.

You'll get more out of these exercises if you "draw through" and complete forms that may be partially obscured in the reference. This will help you to develop a stronger understanding of how all these forms exist in 3D space and connect together with specific relationships. Right now you draw through your forms some of the time, but not consistently. For example on this page you did a good job drawing through your ant's legs and bee's wings, but cut off the mantis' limbs where they overlap one another, making it harder for the viewer (and you) to understand how the forms exist in space.

The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. It looks like you tried out lots of different strategies for constructing legs. It's not uncommon for students to be aware of the sausage method as introduced here, but to decide that the legs they're looking at don't actually seem to look like a chain of sausages, so they use some other strategy.

The key to keep in mind here is that the sausage method is not about capturing the legs precisely as they are - it is about laying in a base structure or armature that captures both the solidity and the gestural flow of a limb in equal measure, where the majority of other techniques lean too far to one side, either looking solid and stiff or gestural but flat. Once in place, we can then build on top of this base structure with more additional forms as shown in these examples here, here, and in this ant leg demo and also here on this dog leg demo as this method should be used throughout lesson 5 too.

On some of your constructions with texture and detail you'd added quite thick additional line weight to arbitrary places, such as all the way around the abdomen of this spider. The most effective use of line weight - at least given the bounds and limitations of this course - is to use line weight specifically to clarify how different forms overlap one another, by limiting it to the localised areas where those overlaps occur. You can find an explanation on how to use line weight in this course in this video. It was added to lesson 1 after you completed it, so you may not have seen it yet. What this keeps us from doing is putting line weight in more random places, or attempting to correct or hide mistakes behind line weight.

Now the last thing I want to discuss is in regards to your approach to the detail phase, once the construction is handled. In effect, there are some places you're getting caught up in decorating your drawings, making them more visually interesting and pleasing by whatever means at your disposal - usually pulling information from direct observation and drawing it as you see it, for example capturing the colour patterns on the butterfly and potter wasp on this page. This is not what the texture section of Lesson 2 really describes. Decoration itself is not a clear goal - there's no specific point at which we've added "enough".

What we're doing in this course can be broken into two distinct sections - construction and texture - and they both focus on the same concept. With construction we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand how they might manipulate this object with their hands, were it in front of them. With texture, we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand what it'd feel like to run their fingers over the object's various surfaces. Both of these focus on communicating three dimensional information. Both sections have specific jobs to accomplish, and none of it has to do with making the drawing look nice.

Instead of focusing on decoration, what we draw here comes down to what is actually physically present in our construction, just on a smaller scale. As discussed back in Lesson 2's texture section, we focus on each individual textural form, focusing on them one at a time and using the information present in the reference image to help identify and understand how every such textural form sits in 3D space, and how it relates within that space to its neighbours. Once we understand how the textural form sits in the world, we then design the appropriate shadow shape that it would cast on its surroundings. The shadow shape is important, because it's that specific shape which helps define the relationship between the form casting it, and the surface receiving it.

As a result of this approach, you'll find yourself thinking less about excuses to add more ink, and instead you'll be working in the opposite - trying to get the information across while putting as little ink down as is strictly needed, and using those implicit markmaking techniques from Lesson 2 to help you with that. In particular, these notes are a good section to review.

So - I've outlined some things to keep in mind, but these are all things that can continue to be addressed into the next lesson. I'll go ahead and mark this one as complete, just be sure to actively tackle these points as you handle your animals. It's not uncommon for students to acknowledge these points here, but forget about them once they move on, resulting in me having to repeat it in the next critique (which we certainly want to avoid).

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5. Make sure you apply the advice in this critique as you tackle your animal constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
edited at 5:07 PM, Apr 22nd 2024
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5:10 PM, Monday April 22nd 2024
edited at 5:11 PM, Apr 22nd 2024

I accidently clicked request revisions instead of marking as complete. I'm hoping that this message will mark the lesson as complete for you.

Edit Looks like it worked, you have the badge now.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
edited at 5:11 PM, Apr 22nd 2024
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