Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

5:48 PM, Saturday July 1st 2023

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3:50 PM, Thursday July 6th 2023

Hello MurcDirty, I'm ThatOneMushroomGuy and I'll be the TA handling your critique today.


Let's start by talking about your arrows which have a nice initial fluidity to them, but unfortunately you add too much lineweight and end up "sculpting" or chicken-scratching your lines on top, which communicates hesitation to the viewer and makes it unclear which line is the defining edge of the form, and thus stiffens your linework and your arrows.

Remember the principles of mark-making introduced in the first lesson, above all else we wish to create smooth, confident lines, in order to achieve this we must respect each mark that we make and execute them with the ghosting method, only once. If our mark doesn't turn out the way we hoped it would, we should simply accept that and move on. When adding extra lineweight on top the same principle applies, as it should be added subtly, on top of the overlaps only.

Something else you must keep in mind when tackling arrows is your hatching, while it's well applied for the most part you often contradict the illusion of depth you wish to achieve by placing it at the incorrect side of the arrow's overlaps.

  • Due to the way perspective works objects appear bigger when closer to the viewer and smaller when further away, even if they're the exact same size. The way this affects an object of consistent size moving through space means that parts of it will look bigger, and others will look smaller based on the perspective of the scene and how close each part of that object is to the viewer, according to this logic this means that the smaller part of the arrow segment should always be the part getting the hatching.


Moving on to your leaves some of the mistakes present in your arrows carry over into these new objects, for exemple your arrow's edges don't always overlap when they should which partially flattens and stiffens the form, the same can be said for some of your leaf structures such as in here which fold unaturally.

Other than that your linework is generally looking smooth which helps convey a sense of flow and energy in your leaves, but be careful about leaving gaps in your leaf's construction, as that undermines the solidity of the form, all silhouettes must be completely enclosed.

Your application of edge detail is looking good as you don't seem to attempt to capture more than one piece of edge detail at a time, but make sure that when you're adding edge detail that you're putting the time and care into each and every line in order to ensure all marks properly lift up and back into the outer edge mark. In that same vein, make sure to always keep the thickness of your lines roughly consistent in between phases of construction, in order to avoid redrawing more than you strictly need to.

Your contour lines don't follow the form of the leaf structure and are vague because they don't always connect to the edges, as such they can end up flattening the form instead of enhancing it, avoid contour lines whenever possible.


Moving onto your branches they're looking decently made, as you're making a good effort to follow the instructions to the exercise which help you in creating a more solid structure, however there are some changes that you can make which will help you create even tighter looking branches.

It's great that you're following the correct methodology for the edges, but you still have many visible tails in your compound strokes, while this is a very common mistake, it's one we can attempt to mitigate by placing our ellipses further apart, ensuring a bigger length of runway between lines and a smoother transition between segments.

You're putting in the effort to always draw through your ellipses twice which is good, but sometimes you're missing the mark, make sure to always draw through your ellipses at least twice before lifting your pen from the page. Lastly it's seems you're aware of the ellipse degree shift, and you're applying variety to them throughout your branch's length, while some changes could be more subtle or gradual this greatly aids you in creating much more believable tridimensional structures.

Plant Construction Section

And lastly let's talk about your plant constructions which are looking a little bit mixed, this is because while you make use of the techniques and construction methods you're not always consistent or thorough in your application of it. This coupled with some other issues present in your work generally brings down the quality of your pages, as well as how much you're getting out of each individual construction.

Let's take a look at some of the places where you don't completely make use of the construction techniques introduced in the lesson and how that ends up flattening your work.

  • In this cactus you're not following an important Drawabox principle, which is to always draw your forms in their entirety, if we take a look at the demo of this same type of cactus, we can see that in the demo the cactus' pads are still drawn in their entirety, not just the part that would be visible to the viewer.

As small or as unnecessary as parts of a form may seem, the pieces of our structures don't stop existing when they become obscured by others,, therefore you should make sure you're always drawing forms in their entirety, as this will help you develop your sense of spatial reasoning as you make sense of all the different parts of your structure and how each of them relate to one another, as well as help you make the relationships between phases of construction in your work much clearer and more defined.

  • In this Lily of the valley you're jumping construction steps and attempting to capture the complex form of the petals straight away, but because you didn't clearly define how each petal attaches to the structure and how they relate to one another the structure is left flat. Another issue present in this construction and others is how you're not always making use of the forking branches construction method when approaching these structures.

For this daffodil you're skipping ahead and not properly considering how each different section of this flower structure can be broken down into simpler, easier to manage steps which you can use in order to create a more specific, solid and generally more tridimensional structure. Because you're skipping ahead and not drawing the petals of the daffodil with the leaf construction method you end up flattening and stiffening the structure.

Despite it's more uncommon shape, the inside of a daffodil flower is still very leaf-like in nature, as such it should still be approached with the leaf construction method. There are two ways you can generally approach it.

In the first you can start by drawing different sections of this structure with the leaf construction method right away, and afterwards connect the different leaves together in order to create the complex shape of the flower.

Or you can approach this plant by using a slightly tapered cylinder in order to construct the main body of the leaf shape, then afterwards make use of the leaf construction method, building it on top of the cylinder in order to capture the flow of the different sections of the petal structures, and lastly connect them together, making use of edge detail in order to finish the complex structure. I actually put together a quick demonstration of how this would look like for another student once and you might find it helpful.

Your usage of lineweight is still an issue in your plant construction pages, line weight shouldn't jump from one form's silhouette to another, as it tends to smooth everything out too much. Almost as if you pulled a sock over a vase, it'll soften the distinctions between the forms and flatten the structure out somewhat, and lineweight that's too thick and dark will only serve to remind the viewer that they're looking at a series of marks on a page, and not an actual object that exists freely in 3d space.

  • Keep your phases of construction tight and specific, don't leave arbitrary gaps between a leaf's flow line and it's outer edges, they must connect.

Final Thoughts

You're moving in the right direction, I can see that you're making the effort to apply these construction methods to you work and draw through your forms, but you need to be a bit more attentive to them, as well as more thorough when applying them, in order to make sure you're not only trying to draw your structure but truly putting in the effort to understand how that structure exists in 3d space.

It's important that you show you truly understand how these methods and techniques work by applying them properly to your work, as such I'm going to be asking you for some revisions.

Please reply once you've revisited the appropriate lesson material with:

1 page, half of leaves, half of branches.

2 plant construction pages.

Next Steps:

1 page, half of leaves, half of branches.

2 plant construction pages.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
12:28 AM, Wednesday July 12th 2023


Thanks for the critique, this one has really given me a lot trouble. I tried my best, but I still think my plants look a little weird.

10:56 AM, Wednesday July 12th 2023

Hello MurcDirty, thank you for getting back to me with your revisions.

Taking a look at your branches and leaves they're looking better than your initial attempts, although your leaves still look slightly unnatural at times, remember to be aware of their size and do your best to keep it consistent.

Your tulip is also looking better, but you may be finding it odd because there are gaps in between your branch's outer edges and the inner ellipses, which is not something that should happen as it undermines previous phases of construction. Instead, follow the instructions to the exercise and make sure that each new line for your edge segment starts at the ellipse point before being extended.

For your Venus fly trap there are a couple of changes that could have been made which would have allowed you to create a tighter and more specific construction. Currently you approached the "body" or the "stem" of the venus fly trap as a sort of leaf shape, while this is a valid way to approach this structure it leans too heavily on the side of oversimplification for this part of the plant structure and makes the structure feel fragile and flimsy.

This part of the Venus Fly Trap is actually called the petiole, it's cylindrical in nature, but it's hidden underneath the more leafy part of the stem, it's helpful to understand this because you can then simplify the forms by capturing this part of the structure as a cylinder ( and then make it clearer how the "trap" of the venus flytrap connects to the rest of the structure ) and afterwards build the rest of the structure with the leaf construction method, which will allow for a structure that feels less flimsy and much more solid.

I don't believe you'll benefit from further revisions, as such I'm going to be marking this submission as complete, however make sure to not skip construction steps, and to carefully deconstruct your reference before tackling your construction, think about each form that makes up your structure and how it should sit in space, and what the best way to communicate this information on your page would be.

Good luck in Lesson 4.

Next Steps:

Don't forget to add these exercises to your list of warm ups.

Move on to Lesson 4.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
9:29 PM, Wednesday July 12th 2023

Okay thank you for the help. I'll try and get some more practice through the warm up exercises.

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