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

Starting with your organic forms with contour curves there is something to call out, it seems you did one page of contour ellipses, though the assignment was for both pages to be contour curves. Not a huge problem, but it does suggest that you may want to be more attentive when reading through the instructions.

It looks like you're working towards sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here. Most of these reasonably close to simple sausages, though there are a couple of forms that continually swell through their midsection and become bloated like this one, or have ends of significantly different sizes like this one, which you should strive to avoid when practising this exercise in future.

It is good to see that you're keeping the majority of your lines smooth and confident in this exercise, and that you're starting to experiment with varying the degree of your contour curves/ellipses on some of your forms.

I noticed a couple of spots like this where you'd placed an ellipse on the tip of a form where the preceding contour curves tell us that the tip is facing away from us. Remember that these ellipses are no different from the contour curves, in that they're all just contour lines running along the surface of the form. It's just that when the tip faces the viewer, we can see all the way around the surface, resulting in a full ellipse rather than just a partial curve. But where the end is pointing away from us, there would be no ellipse at all. Take a look at this breakdown of the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived - note how the contour curves and the ellipses are always consistent, giving the same impression of which ends are facing towards the viewer and which are facing away.

Moving on to your insect constructions these are shaping up nicely. I've got a few pieces of advice for you, but overall it looks like your understanding of the forms you draw existing in 3D space is developing well.

Before I get into the meat of this feedback I'll just take a moment to address this statement from your submission comment.

"There were certain days and certain photos where I just couldn't imagine where the legs and such connected or what the obscured details should look like."

Uncomfortable touches on some strategies for this in the lesson intro video at about 21 minutes in. This can be tough, especially if we can't find an additional reference where the connections and obscured parts are easier to understand or more visible. There are times where we have to take our best guess. You did pretty well with this on your ant. This is something that does get easier with practice, so I strongly encourage you to try to "draw through" and include the obscured parts of your forms. Avoiding tackling this challenge by cutting off forms where they pass behind one another (as seen with some of the legs of this spider where they connect to the body) does make the exercise a bit less effective, in terms of how much you can gain with your spatial reasoning skills by treating these constructions as 3D puzzles.

Speaking of treating a construction like a 3D puzzle, the next point I wanted to talk about 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 one of your insects here in red where it looks like you cut back inside the silhouette of the ball-like form you had drawn for the head. One thing I did notice is that most 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 this ant I marked in blue an example of extending off an existing form using a partial shape, not quite providing enough information for us to understand how it actually connects 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.

The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. It looks like you were striving to use the sausage method of leg construction, but may have encountered some difficulties with sticking to the properties of simple sausage forms in some places, which are the same properties as for the organic forms exercise. This is quite common, and something you'll continue to practice with into the next lesson.

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.

Everything we add to these constructions serves a specific purpose, and additional line weight is no exception. What I'm seeing on a few of your pages is a tendency to go back over quite large portions of your constructions with additional line weight, such as the head here where your initially smooth and confident ellipse was entirely replaced by heavier lines added later. We shouldn't be thinking of later steps as an opportunity to completely redraw forms that are already on the page, as those are problems we have already solved. Instead, at each step we need only add the parts that change.

We find that 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 read more about this here. What this keeps us from doing is putting line weight in more random places, or worse, attempting to correct or hide mistakes behind line weight.

Keep in mind that when we apply additional line weight in these exercises we should aim to keep it subtle, like a whisper, not a shout. It doesn't take much additional thickness for our subconscious to pick up on it. Usually a single confident, ghosted, super imposed stroke will be enough to achieve the desired effect.

Oh and this is a fairly minor thing- if you choose to apply texture, try to work by designing a shadow shape based on the smaller forms you observe in your reference, outlining the shape, and then carefully filling it in. Here is an example. This forces us to be very intentional about the specific design of each little shadow, which isn't something we get from applying shading with a zigzagging line, which is what appears to have happened on some areas of this head. You can find an explanation of this approach in these reminders from the texture section of lesson 2.

All right, I think that covers it. I'll go ahead and mark this as complete. Please keep the points discussed here in mind as you work through the next lesson, as they will continue to be relevant to animal constructions.