Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

11:32 AM, Wednesday March 9th 2022

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Hello again :)

I like Insects but constructing them is difficult. :c I made a ton of mistakes that I will try to avoid in the future. As always thank you for taking the time to look at my submission!

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12:19 AM, Saturday March 12th 2022

Starting with your organic forms with, you're doing a good job of drawing confident, smooth, evenly shaped contour curves, and fitting them snugly within the silhouette of your forms. There are a couple things to keep an eye on however:

  • While I can clearly see that you're trying to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages, you do have a tendency with some of them to draw shapes more similar to ellipses rather than sausages.

  • Also, keep in mind that the contour lines should not maintain a consistent degree. Instead, as discussed in the Lesson 1 ellipses video, they should be getting wider as we slide along the length of a given cylindrical structure, like a sausage.

Moving onto your insect constructions, I can definitely see that you're putting a lot of effort into approaching your constructionis by starting simple and gradually building up complexity as you go. There are still a number of areas where you tend to jump in with some shapes that are quite complex from the start (causing them to feel flat), like this form towards the end of your grasshopper's leg. There are also other similar cases where you'll start out with a really complex shape, then try to "fix" it by adding contour lines (like along the top of this drawing) - but unfortunately contour lines will only reinforce solidity that is already present, rather than adding it where it has been lost. Still, by and large you are starting most of your structures out simple.

That said, there are ways in which your approach can still be improved, and that comes down to understanding the difference between actions we take in 3D space, and those we take in 2D space.

Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose - it just so happens that the majority of those marks will 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.

I've identified quite a few places on this ant where you've cut into silhouettes of your forms in red, and where you've added onto them with flat shapes in blue - although I mainly focused on the big examples.

Instead, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by introducing new 3D forms to the structure, 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.

You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. You can also see this demonstrated more fully in the shrimp and lobster demos at the top of the informal demos page. While I am hard at work at updating the lessons to incorporate these newer ways of explaining and demonstrating concepts, my overhaul is still way back at Lessons 0 and 1 - and so for now, I add what I can to the informal demos page, and in the critiques I do for those submitting for official feedback, giving them a sort of preview to what the course material eventually will become.

This is all part of accepting that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for the viewer to believe in that lie.

Continuing on, I noticed that you seem to have employed a lot of different strategies for capturing the legs of your insects. It's not uncommon for students to be aware of the sausage method as introduced here, but to decide that the legs they're looking at don't actually seem to look like a chain of sausages, so they use some other strategy. 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 here, here, in this ant leg, and even here in the context of a dog's leg (because this technique is still to be used throughout the next lesson as well). Just make sure you start out with the sausages, precisely as the steps are laid out in that diagram.

The last thing I wanted to call out is that when you get into more detail with your constructions, you have a tendency to focus on decoration - that is, doing what you can to make your drawings look more visually pleasing. In that sense, it's like the construction is where we do the learning, and then the decoration is where we can let loose and just make our drawings look nice and gratifying. Unfortunately, that is not so.

Decoration itself as a goal is a very vague one, without clear definition. After all, there's no specific point at which one has added "enough". What we're doing in this course can be broken into two distinct sections - construction and texture - and they both focus on the same concept. With construction we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand how they might manipulate this object with their hands, were it in front of them. With texture, we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand what it'd feel like to run their fingers over the object's various surfaces. Both of these focus on communicating three dimensional information. Both sections have specific jobs to accomplish, and none of it has to do with making the drawing look nice.

Instead of focusing on decoration, what we draw here comes down to what is actually physically present in our construction, just on a smaller scale. As discussed back in Lesson 2's texture section, we focus on each individual textural form, focusing on them one at a time and using the information present in the reference image to help identify and understand how every such textural form sits in 3D space, and how it relates within that space to its neighbours. Once we understand how the textural form sits in the world, we then design the appropriate shadow shape that it would cast on its surroundings. The shadow shape is important, because it's that specific shape which helps define the relationship between the form casting it, and the surface receiving it.

As a result of this approach, you'll find yourself thinking less about excuses to add more ink, and instead you'll be working in the opposite - trying to get the information across while putting as little ink down as is strictly needed, and using those implicit markmaking techniques from Lesson 2 to help you with that.

I'm going to assign some additional revisions below for you to put the points I've raised above into practice.

Next Steps:

Please submit 3 additional pages of insect constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
3:36 PM, Monday March 21st 2022

Hi Uncomfortable, thank you for the long and helpful feedback!

I followed the informal demo of the lobster drawing, hoping to get a better grasp of defining correct connections between the (ideally) three-dimensional elements my insect constructions should consist of.

In some of my first attempts i used the head-thorax-abdomen base as some sort of scale defining circles rather than solid forms and also started out with way too complicated, flat, shapes for the leg or mandible constructions. So this time i tried to not repeat my misunderstanding of that concept and work additively, avoiding cutting into already existing silhouettes.

However some additional shapes (on some of the legs, or the cone shaped part behind the abdomen of the ant-like insect construction) turned out to be quite flat. I feel like my imagination and ghosting of a specific sausage-like form, additional mass, or contour curve and the actual result, the lines i put down, still differ a lot sometimes, resulting in me making the same mistakes.

I kept the texture very minimal to not fall into the habit of decorating my drawings, as you called it out correctly. I still have the habit of putting an unnecessary amount of something like fur somewhere, where i messed up the initial construction to "cover it up" (i hope this is understandable, english is not my native language).

Anyways here are my revisions: https://imgur.com/a/wykgWx0

Please let me know if there are some more additional changes needed.

Thank you for your time! :)

7:05 PM, Monday March 21st 2022

Overall you're making good progress here, though there are a handful of things I want to call out:

  • Firstly, don't forget to draw through all of your ellipses two full times before lifting your pen. This will specifically help us to achieve smooth, even elliptical shapes. So for example, this is something you neglected to do for the abdomens of your ant and beetle. With the beetle in particular you might be thinking that your intent was not to create an ellipse (or rather a 3D ball form) - but that should have been your intent, given that it's the closest simple form we can use to establish that structure, and going forward we'd then build upon it to push the result in the direction of our reference image.

  • In regards to how you approached building up masses along the length of your ant's legs - specifically the ones where you engulfed the entire sausage with a new structure, take another look at this diagram. Also, in regards to the ones where you did build upon it with multiple masses, note the "twist" in the diagram - this helps us to avoid the "hotdog in a bun" effect of just running masses in parallel along the length of the sausage. As for the reason we break them up into separate pieces at all, it's that their silhouettes are able to make more contact with the sausage structure, thus defining a stronger relationship with it - whereas engulfing the whole thing results in minimal contact at the ends, and nothing else along the length.

  • Ease up on the contour lines - don't pile them on as a matter of fact, but rather consider what it is you're intending to achieve with each mark, and whether it's strictly necessary. Also, pay more attention to how those contour lines are behaving when they hit the edge of the silhouette of the form they're being added to - you tend to avoid curving them enough, and as a result they appear to be quite shallow, as we can see here. We should be accelerating the curvature of the contour line so hit hooks back around along the other side.

Anyway, I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete. You can continue to work on addressing these points into the next one.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
10:58 PM, Monday March 21st 2022

Thank you for the quick reply!

I will try to keep an eye in lesson 5 on drawing through my ellipses, creating over all less and more effective contour lines and avoiding the "hotdog in a bun effect", when it comes to adding additional masses.

Wish you a nice, battery recharging, break. :)

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