Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

9:14 AM, Saturday July 25th 2020

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Black Widows are disgusting. They have BRISTLES.

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7:21 PM, Saturday July 25th 2020

Overall your work here is fairly well done. There are issues, but as far as the insects go you're largely doing a decent job.

Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, these are probably the only more significant issue present in your work, because you're demonstrating a few important misunderstandings here, and I think at least part of that may come from doing the exercise as you remember it to be, but not necessarily reading through the instructions to make sure you've got everything right.

First off, your forms aren't adhering to the characteristics outlined in the instructions regarding "simple sausages". You're letting the width through the midsection of the forms to continue to widen, rather than maintaining a consistent width throughout its length. A part of this is that it also makes the ends more stretched out, rather than properly spherical.

Secondly, your contour lines' degrees are entirely consistent over the full length of a given sausage. 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.

Lastly, the ellipses you're putting at the ends of the sausages are in many of these cases incorrect. The contour curves and the contour ellipses are basically the same thing - it's just that since in this exercise we're only drawing the portion of a given contour line that is visible to the viewer (without x-ray vision), the only place where we get a full ellipse is where the full surface is pointing towards the viewer - usually at the tip of the form that we can see. Now, if you look at all the other contour lines, you can pretty easily determine whether a given end of a sausage is pointing towards or away from the viewer. In almost all of these, you've drawn the sausages with contour curves that suggest that the end you did place a contour ellipse upon, were pointing away from the viewer, rather than towards them.

All in all, you need to review the instructions for this exercise.

Moving onto your insect constructions, while there are minor issues here and there that I'll address, you've mostly employed the principles of the lesson fairly well. I'll step through the drawings one by one, make points about all of them:

  • For the ladybug, the biggest issue I have is that you drew this one really small. Drawing small impedes your brain's ability to think through spatial problems, so you'll always want to try and take advantage of the space available to you on the page. You do a better job of this elsewhere. Also, filled black areas should be reserved for cast shadow shapes only - don't try and capture any sort of local colour or patterning.

  • In the ant, I can see that it appears as though you constructed your original masses with a much lighter stroke, and then went back over most of your lines, replacing them with a much darker line. This is not how linework is meant to be applied - you draw your initial marks with confidence, not trying to go out of your way to hide them, and then add line weight to limited local areas to help clarify how certain forms overlap one another. Don't add line weight to the whole way around a given form's silhouette. This is an issue I see in a lot of other drawings you've done here as well.

  • Also for the ant, it looks like you constructed the pincers at the ant's mouth with vastly more complex shapes, rather than starting simple and building up that complexity as you go.

  • Last thing for the ant - when attempting to apply the sausage method here, you missed on a couple of points. First off, like your organic forms with contour lines, you didn't stick to simple sausage forms. You also didn't reinforce the joint between sausage segments with a concise contour line. Both of these points are demonstrated in these notes, read them carefully. The sausage method will also be used throughout the next lesson, so make sure you're familiar with it.

  • Aside from previously mentioned issues, the black window demo drawing is pretty well done and feels more solid and three dimensional than previous drawings. Do keep in mind though that the demos, being older, don't always apply the principles in more updated versions of the lesson, so there will be contradictions. When this happens, always adhere to the concepts covered in the lessons (for example, don't get into any form shading, as explained back in lesson 2, use the sausage method for constructing legs, etc.)

  • The scorpion honestly feels a lot more clumsy than the other drawings. The segmentation along its back is actually skewed (it's positioned diagonally across its back, rather than straight across). Once again the use of the sausage method isn't entirely consistent with the instructions for that technique. For the claws, take a look at this demonstration about how I approach constructing those kinds of things in such a way that they read as being entirely 3D.

  • For the second black widow, the main construction is okay. Legs still need to use the sausage method, and your use of line weight really goes a long way to flatten the drawing out (specifically because you're tracing back over your lines in an attempt to add line weight to everything - tracing focuses too much on how those lines exist on the flat page, rather than how they move through 3D space). With the hour glass symbol on its abdomen though, you've drawn the symbol quite flat, as though it's resting on a flat page. Always consider the fact that the abdomen is quite bulbous and rounded, and so the surface would be curving. The head also seems really oversimplified, and almost a bit cartoony.

  • I think from this point things start to get better in a more meaningful way. There are still common issues, though your addition of line weight is, while still overdone and falling into the pattern of an underdrawing + clean-up pass that you should not be employing for these lessons, at least you're not really tracing over the lines anymore and are drawing them with more confidence. Sausage method's still not correct (not drawing sausages), but one minor but notable issue that stands out to me is the fact that you went over the eyes with really lazy hatching lines. More importantly, straight hatching lines that make those ball-like forms totally flatten, out. Those lines function like contour lines - they describe how that surface deforms through space, and by putting a straight line across a rounded surface, you turn it into a surface that is completely flat.

  • The construction of the praying mantis is coming along well - though the crab claw demo I linked earlier has some useful advice on how to tackle the little spikes/serrations along the praying mantis' arms. Don't just take the flat, 2D silhouette of a form and extend it - make sure that every last little addition to the construction is added as a separate 3D form, one whose relationship with the existing structure you need to figure out.

  • The fly is also coming along better than many of your other drawings, and while it has issues, they're the issues I've already addressed with other drawings.

The last thing I want to point out in greater detail has to do with the sausage method thing. I know I linked you to the diagram which explains the basic premise of how to construct a chain of sausages, but I want to stress that this technique should be used for all the legs you draw. There will be plenty of cases where the legs don't appear to be a chain of sausages. That's fine - use it anyway. The point is that we're not building the leg itself, but rather an armature or base structure, upon which we can then add additional forms to add bulk where it's needed, as shown here.

Now, I still believe your work has largely been done well, but as I've written this critique and looked over your work in greater depth I think it would make sense to give you the opportunity to apply what I've mentioned here before moving onto Lesson 5.

Next Steps:

I want you to submit the following:

  • 2 pages of organic forms with contour curves.

  • 1 page of sausage chains (3 sausages each) showing that you can apply the basic principles of the sausage method correctly, with simple sausages that overlap, and their joints reinforced with a contour line.

  • 2 additional insect drawings. Remember NOT to treat it as though you're doing an underdrawing, then replacing the lines with a clean-up pass. Every single mark you draw is going to be part of the end result. Line weight is only used to clarify how certain forms overlap, and is applied to limited sections of lines, then smoothly transitioned back into the original weight of the mark through the natural tapering we get when drawing a line with confidence.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
1:07 PM, Tuesday July 28th 2020
3:50 PM, Tuesday July 28th 2020

Here are two sets of redline notes directly on your drawings. Aside from the starred one on the far right of the dragonfly, each of these issues were explained in my original critique. I tried demonstrating them on top of your drawings like this in the hopes that it'll be somewhat clearer for you, but it seems to me that you need to put more effort in absorbing the information I'm giving you. Reread these critiques as many times as you need to, and make sure it is all fresh in your mind before each time you sit down to work on the revisions.

I want you to do the assigned revisions again.

8:22 AM, Tuesday September 1st 2020
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