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7:27 PM, Wednesday April 6th 2022

Starting with your organic forms with contour curves, there are two things to be sure to keep in mind:

  • As explained here, sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages is an important part of this exercise, and while you appear to do so in some cases, there are enough deviations that suggest that you may not have this as a major priority in your mind. Be sure to go through the instructions for the exercise before doing it when it's assigned as part of the homework, to ensure that you haven't forgotten anything - we want to stick as closely as we can to having two ends of equal size and circular shape, connected by a tube that maintains a consistent width throughout its length. You frequently have ends of different sizes, with some getting quite small and pointy, and other cases where the midsection widens quite a bit.

  • Keep in mind that the degree of your contour curves shouldn't remain consistent - rather, as explained back in Lesson 1's ellipses video, they should generally get wider as we slide away from the viewer, along the length of the cylindrical sausage.

Continuing onto your insect constructions, your work is a bit of a mix. While it demonstrates a lot of core and important strengths (specifically when it comes to understanding how the forms you're drawing relate to one another in 3D space) that will serve you well as you continue to move through this course, there are a few things I can call out - some which will be new to you, and some which were mentioned in the instructions - which will help you get as much as you can out of these exercises.

the first thing that jumped out at me is that there is a very strong distinction between the fainter initial marks you put down, and the darker ones you followed up with. While I wouldn't say that you're falling into the trap of an underdrawing/clean-up pass (because you're definitely allowing many of those fainter strokes still stand up for themselves, and establish their own solid structures), it does appear that you're actively making your linework thicker as you progress through the set, and in general, ending up with very heavy line weight - heavier than is strictly necessary.

When it comes to line weight, it really helps to keep it subtle, and to maintain its use towards a specific targeted purpose. Given the particular tool restrictions we have in this course (working with a 0.5mm fineliner for all of our linework, and only reaching for anything thicker/heavier to fill in predefined cast shadow shapes), I've found that line weight is used most effectively to help clarify how different forms overlap one another, in the specific localized areas where those overlaps occur (as shown here in these two overlapping leaves).

By focusing its use towards a specific target, we can limit how much linework we have to go back over (which helps keep our line weight strokes confident, and allows us to continue using the ghosting method to execute them). It also keeps the use of line weight subtle, which is important - we want line weight to feel more like a whisper to the viewer's subconscious, rather than a very obvious shout.

To a similar point, I did notice that when you hit the detail phase of your drawings, you did have a strong tendency to aim to 'decorate' your drawing - that is, with the construction completed, the focus shifted to a general desire to make your drawing more visually pleasing, however that could be achieved. This led you down the path of hunting for reasons to put more ink down, and more marks down. Unfortunately decoration is not a very clear goal that can be targeted easily - after all there's no clear point at which one has added enough decoration.

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.

Continuing on, let's talk about your constructions. While there's a lot of good here as far as you demonstrating a clear and strong understanding of how the forms you're building up exist in 3D space, your approach does blur the lines between actions taken in 3D space (where we're actually solving 3D problems, establishing the relationships between forms in 3D space) and actions taken in 2D space (putting down one mark at a time, establishing changes to the drawing but without necessarily providing enough information about how this change is meant to exist in three dimensions).

Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose - it just so happens that the majority of those marks will 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.

Most of the examples of this in your work aren't too significant, but they do come up. For example, I've marked out on this mantis and on this other insect some spots in red where you ended up cutting back into the existing structure's silhouettes, and in blue where you extended off existing silhouettes with individual marks or partial shapes. The latter - the extension of the silhouettes - are a little harder to pinpoint as it tends to happen quite a bit when we're very aggressive with our line weight.

Instead, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by introducing new 3D forms to the structure, 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 accepting that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for 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 I've 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.

Moving on, I did want to take a quick moment to call out the very heavy use of contour lines you've got here. Unfortunately, the majority of them aren't actually contributing or improving the drawing - it seems that you've fallen into a manner of thinking where you understand that "contour lines = more 3D" and thus you've started applying them everywhere, instead of asking yourself for each mark what that mark is meant to contribute, how it could be drawn to achieve its goal as effectively as possible, and whether another mark is already accomplishing the given task (which you'd find with these contour lines to always be the case, given how many you've put down). These questions are things we can, and should, ask ourselves in the planning phase of the ghosting method (which of course should be applied to every mark we put down). Be sure to do so as you move forwards, as this will help you avoid putting down frivolous marks that do not strictly contribute in a manner of your intending.

Lastly, I noticed that you seem to have employed a lot of different strategies for capturing the legs of your insects. 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 here, here, in this ant leg, and even here in the context of a dog's leg (because this technique is still to be used throughout the next lesson as well). Just make sure you start out with the sausages, precisely as the steps are laid out in that diagram - don't throw the technique out just because it doesn't immediately look like what you're trying to construct.

Now, I feel that these are all things you can address going forwards, so I am going to mark this lesson as complete. Just note that I have shared with you quite a few things, and this critique is quite dense. I expect you'll have to go through it a few times, and you will be at risk of missing points if you do not go through this feedback carefully, and multiple times as you move into the next one. My expectation is that these issues will not come up in your animals.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
6:01 AM, Thursday April 7th 2022

Thanks for the critique, that's a lot of things to work on. I think I understand a little better what you've meant about adding 3d shapes on top of each other.

I know I'm still having issues with line accuracy when doing my ghosted lines. Is there anything I can do to address this?

10:49 PM, Thursday April 7th 2022

It really just comes down to two things - practice, of course, but also being aware of the three distinct steps that make up the ghosting method. Here's an explanation I just shared with another student:

The thing to keep in mind is that the ghosting method is about splitting your markmaking into 3 distinct steps: planning, preparation, and execution.

  • Planning is where you ask yourself the purpose of the mark you're making, how you can set yourself up to execute it as effectively as possible (rotating the page, identifying start/end points in the case of straight lines, and otherwise establishing the nature of this mark for yourself so you clearly know what you're trying to achieve) and assessing whether another mark is already doing the job this one is meant to accomplish.

  • Preparation is where you ghost through the motion, getting familiar with what is physically required to make it, but without actually putting the mark down on the page yet.

  • And finally, execution is about making the mark confidently, without hesitation, from that moment the pen touches the page. No second-guessing, just push through and commit to the planning/preparation you've already completed.

This can apply to a mark of any nature, be it straight, curved, an ellipse, etc. and as you make a point of applying these for each structural mark you make throughout this course, it will train the habit in your subconscious to think before you act, so that outside of this course even if you don't use the ghosting method as explicitly as you are required to here, you will still show the capacity for greater control and awareness of your actions.

As long as you are working through those steps properly for every structural mark you put down, the rest is simply a matter of practice. Practice in its application in each of your constructional drawing throughout the course, as well as practice of the specific related exercises as part of your warmups (as discussed back in Lesson 0).

The recommendation below is an advertisement. Most of the links here are part of Amazon's affiliate program (unless otherwise stated), which helps support this website. It's also more than that - it's a hand-picked recommendation of something I've used myself. If you're interested, here is a full list.
Sakura Pigma Microns

Sakura Pigma Microns

A lot of my students use these. The last time I used them was when I was in high school, and at the time I felt that they dried out pretty quickly, though I may have simply been mishandling them. As with all pens, make sure you're capping them when they're not in use, and try not to apply too much pressure. You really only need to be touching the page, not mashing your pen into it.

In terms of line weight, the sizes are pretty weird. 08 corresponds to 0.5mm, which is what I recommend for the drawabox lessons, whereas 05 corresponds to 0.45mm, which is pretty close and can also be used.

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