Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
1:33 PM, Friday September 2nd 2022
Thank you for taking the time to critique.
Alrighty! Starting with your organic intersections, I can definitely see that you are thinking a fair bit about how most of your forms slump and sag over one another under the weight of gravity. The far left of the first page, where you've got that one sausage kind of hanging off is probably the only one that is somewhat lacking in this regard, simply because it's definitely about to fall off the pile, which damages the illusion of stability we're after here. When placing your sausages, be sure to always try and place them in such a way that they feel like they're going to stay in their position from moment to moment, having found a position of equilibrium.
I'm also pleased to see that you're considering how your shadows are being cast from the sausages onto the surfaces around them - definitely still room for improvement on that front, but as a whole you're very much moving in the right direction.
Continuing onto your animal constructions, there are issues here but I can also see very clearly that you're trying quite hard to apply the points I raised in my critique of your Lesson 4 work. It's not entirely uncommon for students to, when trying to invest a lot more time and focus into the constructional aspects of their work, to end up taking that time away from something else - observation, for instance. Basically, you realize that something is not getting enough attention, and so you shuffle around the time that you've been spending.
The issue there is that while your construction improves, you may not take as much time as you need to identify the specific nature of each individual form you wish to add, and so you end up with significant deviations from the reference image. Our goal here is certainly not to match the reference perfectly - it's just a source of information, and it's perfectly okay to deviate from it proportionally as a result of marks not coming out exactly as we intend (since we're not perfect robots) - but we do need to ensure that we're giving each form we construct, every shape we draw, and every mark we execute as much time as it requires to be executed to the best of our ability. Observation - which precedes the addition of any form - is still very important, because it informs how we should be going about placing the given form, and I think that is the main issue you're running into here.
So just to give an example, looking at this cat construction in comparison to its reference, there are a lot of little inconsistencies. They may seem minor, but as they accumulate they impact the believability of the structure. So for example, in the reference your cat's back is sloping down from left to right, but in your construction it's sloping up in that direction. Similarly, all of the cat's feet are positioned along a straight line (the top of that very narrow fence), but in your drawing they're placed quite differently. The back leg which is lifted in mid-step in the reference is actually lowered in your construction.
Little discrepancies like this are no big deal - but when we see many of them like this across many of your constructions, it definitely suggests that you're underestimating how much time these constructions should be given in order to be done to the best of your current ability. Fortunately, that's something you can solve by altering your approach and focusing more on giving yourself as much time as you need. Some students mistakenly think that they need to be completing a given drawing before they get up from that session - though there's nothing in the lesson material that imposes this requirement. Rather, quite the opposite - in the spirit of taking as much time as you need, if you don't have enough time in the given sitting, you can of course spread a single drawing across as many sittings and days as you require.
This lesson on its own is very time consuming - you'll actually find that the further into the numbered lessons we get, the more demanding the work becomes, with many students spending upwards of 4 hours on a single construction from Lesson 7. So, be sure to give yourself ample time, and always push yourself to look at your reference constantly, using it to infer the specific requirements for every form you wish to add to the construction.
Continuing on, you're definitely working hard in your use of additional masses, and I can see that you're leveraging the diagrams I shared with you in my last critique. Many students end up forgetting about them, needing them to be repeated, so I'm very pleased to see this here. That said, how you're using those additional masses can still be improved, though many of the little mistakes are not consistent - rather, you sometimes do them correctly, and other times not. This simply means that it's an opportunity for me to explain it further, and solidify your understanding.
Here are some notes on your first horse construction. There are a few things to note:
Firstly - and this is more of a tip than a correction - the more we can get our masses to fit together like pieces of a puzzle, the more grounded and solid the overall structure will feel. One way we can take advantage of this is when adding masses along your animals' backs, extend them further down along the side. Not only does this give those masses more to "grip" in the body to hold them in place (this is similar to the organic intersections where we want to achieve a sense of stability), but it also allows us to press these masses up against the hip and shoulder masses, which we can use to block in the big engine muscles that help the animal to walk and run. Since we always place complexity (inward curves and sharp corners) where forms and structures press up against one another, this gives us an opportunity to do that.
Secondly, while you definitely have spots where you're designing your additional masses' silhouettes correctly (and there are many more cases of this in other constructions), there is also a tendency to be a bit too blobby with their shapes. That basically means that you're actively avoiding using inward curves and sharp corners, and rather trying to make some masses entirely out of outward curves and gradual transitions. Unfortunately this makes those masses feel more like stickers pasted on top of the drawing, and don't give us any information to understand how the mass wraps around the existing structure.
This one's not marked out on the diagram (though I put an example of it in the back leg), but don't limit your additional masses along the legs to capturing specific, one-off bumps and protrusions. Consider the masses that fit inbetween, that exist only within the silhouette, because this leans into making our structures more grounded, as noted before in regards to the whole "puzzle" analogy. You can also see this in action here on another student's work. Admittedly you do this more in other constructions, so perhaps I shouldn't have included it - but no sense removing it now.
Lastly, if you've got two masses that end up sitting right next to one another without overlapping (like neighbours - I highlighted this at the horse's neck) you may want to consider whether you can get away with forcing an overlap between them. This will establish a stronger 3D relationship between them.
Continuing on, a quick note - while you are definitely more mindful of using the sausage method when constructing your animals' legs, you do frequently deviate from the characteristics of simple sausages. This is usually in subtle ways, like using a more ellipsoid shape rather than a sausage. We can see this in this cat's front legs for instance.
The last thing I wanted to discuss is on the topic of head construction. Lesson 5 has a lot of different strategies for constructing heads, between the various demos. Given how the course has developed, and how I'm finding new, more effective ways for students to tackle certain problems. So not all the approaches shown are equal, but they do have their uses. As it stands, as explained at the top of the tiger demo page (here), the current approach that is the most generally useful, as well as the most meaningful in terms of these drawings all being exercises in spatial reasoning, is what you'll find here on the informal demos page.
There are a few key points to this approach:
The specific shape of the eyesockets - the specific pentagonal shape allows for a nice wedge in which the muzzle can fit in between the sockets, as well as a flat edge across which we can lay the forehead area.
This approach focuses heavily on everything fitting together - no arbitrary gaps or floating elements. This allows us to ensure all of the different pieces feel grounded against one another, like a three dimensional puzzle.
We have to be mindful of how the marks we make are cuts along the curving surface of the cranial ball - working in individual strokes like this (rather than, say, drawing the eyesocket with an ellipse) helps a lot in reinforcing this idea of engaging with a 3D structure.
Try your best to employ this method when doing constructional drawing exercises using animals in the future, as closely as you can. Sometimes it seems like it's not a good fit for certain heads, but with a bit of finagling it can still apply pretty well. To demonstrate this for another student, I found the most banana-headed rhinoceros I could, and threw together this demo.
In all fairness where many other students end up with more floating eye sockets and such, you do adhere more closely to these principles - likely due to your closer study of the various techniques from the lesson. This approach just has some specific elements (those I listed) that I've found more recently really help improve the exercise-value of head construction. That is to say, it helps us learn better.
Now, I do want to see some revisions. There's a lot you're doing well, although the observation issue does diminish your successes somewhat, so I'd like to give you the opportunity to take a few more swings at that. I'll assign those revisions below.
Please submit 3 additional pages of animal constructions. For each of these, I want you to write down on the page the dates of all the sessions you spent on it, along with a rough estimate of how long you spent. In addition to this, I'd also like for you to avoid starting on your next animal on the same day you've worked on the previous one - so basically if you even put the finishing touches on your previous construction, wait until the next day to start the following one. This should help you diminish the likelihood of any kind of rushing to get onto the next construction.
Hello, thank you for your indepth critique!
The observation issue you mentioned is definitely correct. I think lesson 4 conditioned me to stop looking at the reference because everytime I looked at bugs and insects I felt nauseous and dizzy so I had to take frequent breaks and that probably caused me to stop looking at the reference as much. Since I started lesson 5 after receiving my lesson 4 critique that bad habit probably carried over and made me rush and not look at the reference even though it wasn't that bad to look at.
Normally I would only do 1 drawing everyday over 1 - 2 hrs which I did for lesson 3 and 4. But like you pointed out in the critique the cats were very rushed (I think I did them in only 15 minutes) and diverged from the reference alot. I also realised once I got to my 10th animal that I would probably need to do revisions but instead of restarting the whole lesson I just tried to finish to the best of my ability.
There are still observational issues in some of my drawings but I tried to do them to the best of my current ability while also applying the things you mentioned in the critique.
Also a question about warmups, for lessons 3-7 would we do constructions for warmups? So far I've still been doing exercises from 1 - 2 + boxes and branches.
This is definitely considerably better. There are some things I'm going to quickly note below, but all in all you've definitely shown a lot more thought to how the masses wrap around one another.
You appear to be drawing your ribcages quite narrow - remember that as explained here these need to occupy about half the length of the torso.
I only really saw this on the cow, but there are definitely places there where you're adding somewhat arbitrary line weight (especially here), to the point that it appears like you're trying to cover up little mistakes. Remember that line weight needs to be kept subtle (as explained here), cannot be used to hide mistakes or make corrections, and should be focused on the localized areas where your forms overlap one another, to clarify those overlaps, as explained here.
When it comes to head construction, you appear not to have applied what I explained in regards to the specific head construction approach I wanted you to use here. I'm assuming this was a simple lapse in your attention, as you had many things to keep in mind - so I would strongly recommend that you review that section at the end of my original critique, ask questions to clarify anything you might not understand, and be sure to apply that when practicing your animal constructions in the future.
As to your question about warmups, while the constructional drawings we do are indeed exercises, I do not expect you to do them as part of your 10-15 minute warmups prior to starting on your work. It would however be wise to set out sessions dedicated to these more involved exercises, though when, how, and in what quantity is up to you.
I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete.
Move onto the 250 cylinder challenge, which is a prerequisite for lesson 6.
Here we're getting into the subjective - Gerald Brom is one of my favourite artists (and a pretty fantastic novelist!). That said, if I recommended art books just for the beautiful images contained therein, my list of recommendations would be miles long.
The reason this book is close to my heart is because of its introduction, where Brom goes explains in detail just how he went from being an army brat to one of the most highly respected dark fantasy artists in the world today. I believe that one's work is flavoured by their life's experiences, and discovering the roots from which other artists hail can help give one perspective on their own beginnings, and perhaps their eventual destination as well.