Lesson 2: Contour Lines, Texture and Construction

3:54 PM, Saturday October 8th 2022

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Those sausage forms are really difficult for me create because they use C and S curves. Any way to improve the confidence of my C and S curves?

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9:34 PM, Monday October 10th 2022

I'll be the TA handling your Lesson 2 critique.

Improving your confidence with C and S curves mostly just comes down to utilizing the principles of line making from lesson 1 (ghost your lines, then draw them confidently) and building up more mileage by practicing these exercises in your warm ups.

You're making progress towards understanding the concepts introduced in this lesson and hopefully this critique will help you in your future attempts.

  • Starting off with the arrows section you want to be making sure you're drawing confidently to keep your arrows as smooth as possible, accuracy will come with mileage. There are spots where your arrows bulge/narrow suddenly, this is an issue because it gives the impression that your arrows are stretching which hurts their solidity. Remember that as our arrows move closer to the viewer we want them to widen consistently. It's good to see that you're trying to implement line weight, just remember that you want to keep your applications subtle and you'll become consistent with mileage. here are some things to look out for when applying it. At times you don't overlap your edges when you should, this results in your arrows flattening out as you can see here. I'd like you to experiment more with foreshortening in your future attempts, by utilizing it in both the arrows themselves as well as the negative space between their curves we can create a stronger illusion of an object moving through 3D space as demonstrated here.

  • Moving into the organic forms with contours exercise your forms are getting a bit too complex. We want to create our forms with both ends being the same size and to avoid any pinching, bloating, or stretching along the form's length as discussed here. Some of your line work here shows a lack of confidence as well, remember that our first priority is that we want all of our linework/ellipses/contours to be drawn confidently and mileage will improve our accuracy. Speaking of contours I'd like you to try and shift the degree of your contours more. The degree of a contour line basically represents the orientation of that cross-section in space, relative to the viewer, and as we slide along the sausage form, the cross section is either going to open up (allowing us to see more of it) or turn away from the viewer (allowing us to see less), as shown here.

  • In the texture exercises you're focusing largely on outlines and negative space rather than cast shadows created by forms along the texture itself. This makes it difficult to create gradients with implied information which we could then use to create focal points in more complex pieces, by doing so we can prevent our viewers from being visually overwhelmed with too much detail. You also show that you're drawing from memory rather than giving yourself enough time to focus on your reference. Most of our time when doing exercises like this will be spent observing our reference and looking away for a quick second to add something to our page. For more on the importance of focusing on cast shadows read here. I'd also like to quickly direct you to this image which shows that when we're working with thin line like textures if we outline and fill the shadow we will create a much more dynamic texture than simply drawing lines.

  • It's quite common for people to feel like they don't fully grasp the form intersections exercise, if you feel like you may fall into this category try not to stress too much. This exercise is just meant to get students to start thinking about how their forms relate to one another in 3D space, and how to define those relationships on the page. We'll be going over them more in the upcoming lessons. Some of your forms here appear a bit hastily done, it looks like you needed more time planning them with the ghosting technique before drawing them. One notable example of this is your boxes end up having diverging sets of lines quite often, remember to practice boxes in your warm ups and use the line extensions to prevent creating overly parallel lines. Remember that whether our goal is to draw 1 form or 100, we want to be giving each line the same amount of time planning/ghosting before drawing it.

  • While wrapping up your submission with the organic intersections exercise you do a great job demonstrating that your sense of 3D space is developing as your forms begin to wrap around each other believably. You're keeping your forms simple and easy to work with which is a good strategy to help produce good results. When it comes to your shadows you're pushing them enough so that they cast rather than just hugging the form that creates them which is a great start. It appears like your shadows aren't following a consistent light source, I recommend pushing your light source to the top left or right corner of the page to start with, it's easier than working with a light directly above your form pile.

Overall this was a solid submission, while you may have some things to work on I have no doubt you will improve with more mileage. I'll be marking your submission as complete and move you on to the next lesson.

Keep practicing previous exercises as warm ups and good luck in lesson 3!

Next Steps:

Keep practicing previous exercise as warm ups.

Move on to lesson 3.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
12:06 AM, Tuesday October 11th 2022

hey I have some follow up questions:

Regarding the texture critique:

  1. I'm not sure how to go about not drawing from memory (i'm assuming thats observing the reference and then trying to copy it to figure out the pattern) and what else I'm suppose to do other than that.

  2. Also I was wondering if there any good examples of me doing the texture study correctly (either on the texture analysis exercise or on the Dissection exercise)? If i know this then I can try to make that result more consistent when I do those for warm ups.

Appreciate the criticism,


12:43 AM, Tuesday October 11th 2022

I don't think it's super productive in this case to focus on examples of good and bad, so I'm going to try tackling this in 3 parts.

1) Let's address your first question. Drawing from memory is also referred to as symbol drawing (this will be a separate explanation than the texture one upcoming later). This concept is a fairly common one so you've likely seen it at some point, it's when you ask someone to draw something they see quite regularly like an eye for example. If you ask them to draw an eye they may start out making a circle or a oval-ish shape. If you ask them to draw a house they may draw a rectangle with a triangle on top. Basically symbol drawing means instead of observing something, you're allowing your brain to jump to the most convenient solution and fill in the space as quickly as you can. Looking at your texture attempts your pizza attempt is a good example of this, you drew a bunch of ellipses (which I'm assuming are meant to be pepperoni). If you take the time to actually look at a pizza and make note of every line (explicit or implied), every shape and shadow that is along the pizza's surface it wouldn't just be a few ellipses, nor would the pepperoni necessarily be as tidy ellipses as you've drawn here (if you were attempting to represent the pepperoni in regards to these texture exercises you wouldn't explicitly draw the pepperonis, you would draw the shadows they've created and imply that the pepperoni exists). What you've suggested is half of what you want to be doing:

(i'm assuming thats observing the reference and then trying to copy it to figure out the pattern)

You should be observing your reference, taking the time to look at and decide which lines/shapes/forms to capture in order to create the illusion of what you're looking at, not trying to create a pattern or just copy what you see.

2) I'll point you to the reminders for the texture section which went over these ideas quite a bit, so it's worth going over in case you've forgotten some of the ideas mentioned (it's a dense section, it happens).

3) I'll include a quite lengthy texture write up I've given to students in the past that seems to help them quite a bit with the hopes it helps you as well.

Texture explanation

Rather than being able to give you just one or two pointers about things to work on, texture is often a case of people trying to simplify the steps too much and it's easier for me to just explain the entire process.

First things first, open up this leaf texture picture, I find leaves are a good example and a texture that people are often drawn to and do incorrectly.

The first thing you may notice is that this image isn't in colour and instead in black and white, this is helpful because people often get distracted by shifts in colour and will try to darken an area in their drawing if the colour happens to be darker. We shouldn't rely on converting images to black and white but it is helpful and something you may want to consider when practicing.

Now if I handed a student this image and told them to use it for their texture exercises there are two typical outcomes I would expect.

The first is that they would draw all of the veins (or many of them if they aren't extremely patient), and this would be an example of focusing on outlines.

The second result that I would expect is that instead of drawing the veins themselves they would either fill the veins in completely with black or they would fill in everything but the veins completely with ink, and this would be them focusing on negative space.

This is where students get a bit confused at the start, they feel like they're looking at the image and drawing what they see but it comes out wrong. I should clarify that it's not necessarily incorrect, there is a time and place when obsessing over small details can be helpful but this is largely an exercise about learning how to imply information and thinking in 3D space. Remember that what we're learning here isn't observational drawing, it's constructional and while observation is definitely a part of the construction method there's an extra step that people tend to neglect in the beginning.

With that in mind let's go over the correct way to tackle these problems, bring up the leaf image (it's here if you closed it) and let's break down what we're working with. What people tend to neglect is that we're trying to think about the 3D space of the image we're observing and drawing. If we look at this leaf the veins are really just long organic forms, or cylinders if they're particularly rigid. The fleshy bit of the leaf could be thought of as either a plane or a thin box, and due to gravity's effect it will likely curve a bit (we don't need to think too much about it curving in this case because we're working so close up, but it's good to think of how the environment can have an effect).

To put it simply, a leaf is just organic forms that are intersecting with each other and a plane/box, just like the forms we practiced with in the form intersections exercise. With all of these forms in mind we can place a light source and depending on it's position and intensity we can create cast shadows much like we did in the organic intersections exercise.

An example of this can actually be seen in the picture itself. Let's just focus on the large main vein as well as the branching vein on the left. You'll notice that if you look along the bottom edge of the main vein there's a cast shadow, and on the right of the branching vein there's a shadow. From this information we can assume that the light affecting the leaf the most is somewhere to the upper left of the image and it's creating the cast shadows we want to draw.

This is an example of what drawing cast shadows might look like, it comes up early on in lesson 3 when Uncomfortable shows the process of drawing a leaf. You can see that he's not actually drawing the veins themselves, and instead just implying that they exist by creating cast shadows. Keep in mind that this leaf is fairly evenly lit and the point of the texture exercise is to work with light gradients but regardless it's a good example of what we're trying to achieve. There are times where capturing shadows doesn't immediately give the impression of what you're attempting to draw but it's just a single tool that you can use. You may not think that drawn leaf looks like a leaf, but if it was green, had a stem, and was attached to something that resembled a plant your brain would begin fill in the gaps until it goes "oh that's a leaf".

Implying information helps both the creator as well as the viewer, it saves the creator time from having to obsessively capture every tiny detail and it prevents the image from becoming too visually noisy and overwhelming for the viewer.

Craig Mullins is a painter whose work I appreciate a lot and I feel does an amazing job of implying information through shadow, colour and brush strokes. I highly recommend looking up some of his work if you'd like some examples of just how powerful implied information can be.

Hopefully this helps alleviate some of the confusion in regards to these exercises.

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