Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals

3:48 PM, Tuesday June 7th 2022

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ye.... really bad work, i got more and more depressed over the quality each passing day.

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10:05 PM, Wednesday June 8th 2022

In the future, refrain from including any self-deprecating comments with your submission. I recommend you watch this recently updated video from Lesson 0.

That said, I do want to take that one step further. As explained in that video, students often resort to general, non-specific statements not because they're somehow providing themselves with self-critique in order to benefit and grow. Rather, it's more common that a student puts that self-deprecation up like a shield, to protect themselves from the sting of the feedback they're going to receive. If you already thought your work was bad, then nothing in the feedback you receive can really hurt all that much. And in that, it also serves to make the feedback itself less impactful.

When you do attempt to critique yourself in the future, I want you to adhere to a few points:

  • Firstly, be specific. If all you can say is "my work is shit" but do not point to anything in particular that you did wrong, then that's less than useful.

  • Secondly, when you do identify specific issues in your work, reflect on why they occurred. Don't settle on "i'm just bad at this" - ask yourself what was going through your mind when you did it, what factors were at play. There are many different kinds of mistakes, from those made because we're tired and not focusing (in which case it would have been better to take a break), to those made because we were not aware that what we were doing was somehow incorrect (which is a core part of learning as a whole), to those made because we rushed, and did not give ourselves the time we needed in order to execute the work to the best of our current ability.

  • Thirdly - and this is critical - for every criticism you offer yourself, identify a strength. This will probably be much harder, especially towards the beginning, and you will feel tempted to say that there are no strengths - but I can tell you as someone who's critiqued thousands of homework submissions over a matter of years, that even the weakest submissions have strengths to them. Your work, fortunately, is not even close to the weakest I've seen, which only serves to highlight the comment you included with your submission.

Of course, any such self-critique should be for you alone, and should not be included with your submission (as mentioned in that video).

Anyway, getting into your actual critique, your work is certainly not perfect, but it's about average as far as the submissions I generally see for this lesson. Starting with your organic intersections, you're doing a good job of drawing the sausage forms such that they slump and sag over one another in a believable fashion, as though they are subject to gravity. You're also generally handling your cast shadows pretty well, although on the first page you'd definitely want to expand the shadow being cast onto the floor. Right now it's only really considering the sausage that is on the ground, but there are other sausages sticking out and hanging over the ground that are not casting any shadows of their own upon the floor.

Continuing onto your animal constructions, from what I can see here, I think the only issue comes down to a single overarching thing: you're not giving yourself as much time as you really need here, and so a lot of your markmaking is a little rushed, and is not given the consideration it requires. It's not uncommon for students to, for whatever reason, feel as though the amount of time they have for a given drawing session is how long the drawing they're working on is going to have to take. So, if they have only 30 minutes in a given day, they'll give a construction 30 minutes - even if the complexity of that particular subject requires 40 minutes, or an hour, or an hour and a half.

The time we have has to be allocated to a number of different areas:

  • Observing our reference carefully and frequently in between each mark we put down to ensure that the information we're transferring to our drawing is informed by that reference, pulling a new form from it and adding it to our construction one at a time.

  • Ensuring that we're designing our forms' silhouettes with intent - considering where we place inward curves, outward curves, sharp corners, and more gradual transitions, especially when building up additional masses, to ensure that we create a believable relationship between the new form we're adding and the existing structure.

  • Taking care to employ the ghosting method for every structural mark we put down - meaning investing our time into the planning phase, where we ask ourselves what the purpose of each mark is meant to be, and how that goal can be achieved as effectively as possible, as well as the preparation phase to get comfortable with the motion.

If we take a 90 minute task and try to compress it into 30 minutes, then we will inevitably cut corners, rush through marks, and so on. This keeps us from accomplishing the one responsibility students of this course have - which is not to produce perfect work, or even good work, but to submit the work that is done at the best of their current ability. I believe that is what is getting in your way.

Fortunately, there's a pretty easy solution to this: allow yourself to spread a single construction across as many sessions and days as it needs to be done to the best of your current ability. Case closed, critique done- I kid, of course. Let's take a look at some of the specific issues you'll need to keep an eye on.

The first of these comes down to the specific design of our additional masses. I can see already that you are putting some clear thought into how you're designing those additional masses, and how you can use inward curves to capture the way in which a mass wraps around the existing structure, though I'm going to reiterate how we need to be thinking about those tools anyway, just to make sure that you're not missing anything important:

One thing that helps with the shape here is to think about how the mass would behave when existing first in the void of empty space, on its own. It all comes down to the silhouette of the mass - here, with nothing else to touch it, our mass would exist like a soft ball of meat or clay, made up only of outward curves. A simple circle for a silhouette.

Then, as it presses against an existing structure, the silhouette starts to get more complex. It forms inward curves wherever it makes contact, responding directly to the forms that are present. The silhouette is never random, of course - always changing in response to clear, defined structure. You can see this demonstrated in this diagram.

Here's this concept in action on one of your wolves. There are a few things to note here:

  • I'm not drawing each additional mass in a single stroke. As soon as I hit a sharp corner, my line ends, as per this principle of markmaking from Lesson 1. Building up one of these silhouettes with different line segments (as long as they flow together to create a seamless, closed silhouette) is fine, and it helps us build the masses up with a greater sense of intent and purpose. Conversely, attempting to draw the whole mass without lifting your pen leans into a less intentional, more vague design that ends up feeling blobby and flat.

  • These masses build upon one another, and take advantage of any opportunities to establish clear relationships between them in 3D space. In your original drawing, you'd have one mass end completely before starting another. Here, we're allowing them to overlap - not just in two dimensions, but in three dimensions - considering how they pile atop one another. As soon as a mass has been added to the construction, it becomes part of the existing structure, and so anything that gets built up on top of it is going to have to also wrap around it as part of the body.

  • As much as possible, we avoid arbitrary gaps. Everything fits snugly together, like the pieces of a puzzle. The more we do this, the more grounded and solid the whole structure feels, because we're dealing with all of these coinciding illusions - each shape is still just flat, just lines on a page, but in the way that each one is drawn, considering how it's meant to relate to the other structures around it in 3D space, we're ending up with all of these little illusions that agree on the same thing: that the object being drawn is three dimensional.

Continuing on, another point I noticed is that in some cases - mainly just the bears on 3 and 4 - you're prone to drawing quite small. There are two things that we must give each of our drawings throughout this course in order to get the most out of them. Those two things are space and time. In artificially limiting how much space you give a given drawing, you're limiting your brain's capacity for spatial reasoning, while also making it harder to engage your whole arm while drawing. The best approach to use here is to ensure that the first drawing on a given page is given as much room as it requires. Only when that drawing is done should we assess whether there is enough room for another. If there is, we should certainly add it, and reassess once again. If there isn't, it's perfectly okay to have just one drawing on a given page as long as it is making full use of the space available to it.

The third major point I wanted to call out is that while you are clearly making an effort to use the sausage method in constructing your animals' legs, which is itself a good thing, you're not as attentive to following the specific aspects of the sausage method as you could be. The biggest issues here is that you don't really stick all that closely to the characteristics of simple sausages. You'll often draw a segment as an ellipse, or with one end being larger than the other.

Also, when building on top of your sausage structures, you are more prone to using "blobby" masses - that is, masses that do not feature any inward curves, and thus never are able to establish how they wrap around the existing structure. As a whole, you don't build upon your sausages all that much, and when you do, you end up focusing more on masses that impact the silhouette of your animal's legs. I would encourage you to also think about the masses that exist internally within that silhouette, as they help us understand how they all fit together as a singular grounded structure. You can see what I mean here on another student's work.

I did notice that you're putting a lot of thought into how to tackle the feet on your animals. You've got some good ideas going, and some solid experimentation, but I think I can provide some advice to help with this. Here's a diagram I've been sharing in critiques more recently. It demonstrates how we can create "boxy" forms - basically forms with strategically placed corners that help imply the presence of distinct faces/planes without having to actually draw the internal edges that separate them, saving us from some potential clutter. These forms, despite having no internal edges can still feel entirely 3D - and then we can build upon them with yet more boxy forms to introduce toes one at a time, rather than trying to tackle it all at once.

Now, the last thing I wanted to discuss is 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.

So! As a whole, you're not doing nearly as bad as you think - and I am quite convinced that the statement you made was coming entirely from a lack of self-confidence (which is understandable, and fairly normal) but with no actual reasoning nor specificity behind it. Always remind yourself of that - if you think you're shit but can't really explain why, chances are you're just being an ass to yourself, and you deserve better. You certainly wouldn't give the same lack of consideration to anyone else.

You'll find some revisions below to give you a chance to work on the points I've raised above. Just be sure to give yourself lots of time - I recommend that you not work on more than one animal construction in a given day (so if you just finished up one, even if you only put the finishing touches on it, you should not start another until the next day), and that you allow yourself to spread a single construction across multiple sittings and days as needed.

Also, on the pages of revisions, I'd like you to write down the date of each session you worked on the construction, along with a rough estimate of how much time you spent.

Next Steps:

Please submit an additional 5 pages of animal constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
2:17 PM, Sunday July 3rd 2022

https://imgur.com/a/zOmjroN

yes, i probably did rush, looking at discord i saw a user that did 70 minutes while on average mines are 10 minutes,

so i tried taking my time and observing so 30 minutes a drawing is pretty good i think

as for me being afraid of feedback is true i guess, even tho i never realised it

5:04 PM, Monday July 4th 2022

Going from 10 minutes (which is certainly rushing) to 30 minutes is definitely an improvement, and I can generally see more care going into your constructions. This can certainly be improved upon further, as you continue to get used to the idea of investing as much time as you need into each stroke, rather than deciding how long you'll spend based on your own patience. Remember - if ~30 minutes is the most you can bring yourself to do in a sitting, then it's totally okay to spread it across multiple drawings.

Now, to that point, there's one other main thing you need to keep in mind: you're falling back a fair bit to making marks more quickly and more haphazardly. There are areas where your linework gets chicken scratchy, where you go back over your marks repeatedly, and where you break up what should be a single stroke into separate pieces.

Above all else, be sure to adhere to the principles of markmaking from Lesson 1. A big part of maintaining these things to the point that they become habitual is keeping up with your warmups, as explained back in Lesson 0.

Anyway, as you have indeed improved, and all that's left is primarily for you to work on the points I raised above, I'll leave you to it and mark this lesson as complete.

Next Steps:

Move onto the 250 cylinder challenge, which is a prerequisite for lesson 6.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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