Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

4:27 AM, Friday November 4th 2022

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A wonderful challenge. I really enjoyed learning more about these little creatures and discovering some new ones; they are tiny, marvelously-designed, highly efficient, reproducing machines. If you want to be freaked out, check out this clip of a dragonfly's mouth; it really is terrifying! XD

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1:10 PM, Saturday November 5th 2022
edited at 5:52 PM, Nov 6th 2022

Hello NathanP, I’ll be the TA handling your lesson 4 critique.

Thank you for the footage zoomed in on that dragonfly, good job I wasn’t planning on sleeping tonight. XD

Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, you’re doing a pretty good job with keeping your sausage forms simple as explained here. though there are a few cases where you have one end larger than the other like this one,

I can see you’ve varied the degree of the contour curves, good work. The thing is the contour curves should get wider as we slide further away from the viewer along the length of a given cylindrical form. This is explained in the ellipses video from lesson 1, here. and can be seen in action in this photo. Right now it looks like a bit of a coin toss as to whether you apply this shift in degree correctly or have it reversed, so keep that in mind as you move forward.

Moving on to your insect constructions your work is generally pretty well done and I can see that you learned a great deal as you progressed through the set, good work. You’re demonstrating a developing understanding of how the forms you’re drawing exist in 3d space and connecting them together with specific relationships but I have a few pointers for you to help you improve your spacial reasoning and get your constructions to feel even more solid and 3d.

Because we’re working on a flat piece of paper we have the 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. Fortunately this is something you’ve mostly avoided doing, well done. I’ve just highlighted a couple of spots on your louse where you didn’t quite stick with what was already on the page.

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’ve done a great job of adding whole forms you your initial masses on your jumping spider and the result feels solid, nice work.

I’ve marked in blue on your pelican spider some places where you’ve extended the silhouette of an existing form with single lines, and in green some places where you’ve shown you’re thinking in 3d by adding complete forms to your existing structure. I did a little edit to one of your legs where you used a mixed approach of adding simple forms, then altering those forms with more single lines. Instead, if you treat your additional forms as malleable pieces of putty, you can wrap them around the existing forms and add complexity with more control and nuance without breaking the 3d illusion that you’re trying to create.

This image shows how to add forms to a construction instead of 2d shapes or single lines and this demonstrates the concept of wrapping additional forms.

You’re doing pretty well with this, but I’ll also share these examples beetle horn demo, and this ant head demo which you may not have seen yet. 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.

Moving on to how you’ve been approaching the construction of your insects legs I cans see you’ve mostly been sticking to the sausage method. These sausage forms do a good job of showing both the gestural flow and solid structure of the legs simultaneously, where most other strategies lean too far to one side, either looking solid and stiff or gestural but flat. Once the chain of sausages is in place, we can then build on top of this base structure with more additional forms as shown in this ant leg demo and also here on this dog leg demo as this technique is important for tackling animal constructions too.

You’re doing pretty well but as noted on your pelican spider you’re not always consistent with adding the contour line at the joints, to show how the two sausage forms intersect. These little contour lines convey a lot of information about how your sausages are orientated in space and how they fit together so please try to remember them in future.

While your use of line weight has improved since your lesson 3 submission, it’s less heavy handed and you’re using it to clarify overlaps, you’re still tracing back over some sections of your silhouette too. Tracing over your existing lines generally results in them becoming more wobbly, and you may accidentally alter the silhouette of your existing forms, undermining their solidity so please refrain from doing that in the future. Here is a reminder of how to use line weight in these lessons.

One last thing for you, I noticed one of your references here was a heavily cropped photo that had been expanded with an artists impression of what the rest of the spider might look like. I can understand why you would want to draw this, it is a very cool image, but I do think it is in your best interest to choose references where the whole creature is visible so you don’t need to extrapolate or make up large sections of your construction. I don’t want to discourage you from giving yourself extra challenges like this in your personal drawings, but these exercises are designed for you to learn to address a specific set of problems and if you make things more challenging than necessary you might just end up distracting yourself from their intended purpose.

Okay I think that wraps everything up. Your work is coming along well.You have some things you can improve on but I think you can address the points I’ve raised as you work through the next lesson so I’ll go ahead and mark this as complete.

Next Steps:

Feel free to move on to lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
edited at 5:52 PM, Nov 6th 2022
11:42 PM, Saturday November 5th 2022

Thanks, Andpie.

Right now it looks like a bit of a coin toss as to whether you apply this shift in degree correctly or have it reversed, so keep that in mind as you move forward.

Rather than keep my sausages straight (as in this photo), I try to bend and twist the sausages towards me and away from me to experiment; but I admit that I get confused about the 3D space & orientation sometimes. I often have in mind what I want to do, but then mess up the execution due to the difficulty of keeping all this information in my head and lack of pen control. I recall that it is discouraged to try to make corrections, even to your mess-ups, as doing so only draws more attention to them.

you’re not always consistent with adding the contour line at the joints, to show how the two sausage forms intersect

Sometimes with leg joints, I feel that the end bulge of the overlapping sausage adequately describes the joint, or the front sausage overlaps the further one and covers the joint. Do I still need to draw the joint intersection if it isn't visible or is already described by the end of a sausage? I have illustrated what I mean about the joints here. I think I need to overlap the sausages more than I have been; I've implemented that in my homework corrections below.

Also, when adding bulges to legs, I recall that Comfy said not to add contours in the middle of a leg, only at joints to avoid stiffening them. Should we add contours to bulges on legs if they break the silhouette?

Per this image, does this mean that my pelican spider's leg bulge was done incorrectly because I added the bulges using sausages rather than wrapping new forms onto the top and bottom of the leg? Comfy did mention not to worry much about leg form, but to focus more on the gesture and flow, but maybe that will be changed in the update. I've noticed in the new demos that very few cross contours are used to describe the additive forms; when adding forms is the intersecting line (where the forms meet) generally enough?

you’re still tracing back over some sections of your silhouette too. Tracing over your existing lines generally results in them becoming more wobbly, and you may accidentally alter the silhouette of your existing forms, undermining their solidity so please refrain from doing that in the future.

If I understand correctly, are you specifically saying I should only darken the lines at the point of overlap and not the entire form that overlaps?

I have made corrections to my constructions per your feedback. I wasn't able to undo the tracing I did to the silhouette, but I'll try to keep in mind going forward to only darken the overlapping points. I did the corrections on my computer with my mouse (I don't have a drawing pad); so the lines are wobbly; but the main point was to show that I understood your feedback.

Homework corrections

5:28 PM, Sunday November 6th 2022

Hello again NathanP.

With regards to the contour curves on your organic forms I perhaps could have phrased my feedback better. This diagram shows the 4 typical orientations I would expect to see for this exercise, demonstrated on bendy organic forms instead of the tube in the photo I sent before. This is also shown in this image and this image of a banana that I set up for another student. Your reasoning is correct though. If one end of that organic form is facing almost directly at the viewer and it bends quite strongly like that banana then the contour curves at the far end would be narrower than the contour curves at the near end.

What I wrote for you was designed to make sure that you are aware of how the shift in degree operates on cylindrical forms, not to admonish you for experimenting with them. And you are quite right that you should never redraw your lines to correct them, but to leave them and move on.

For the contour lines at the joints of legs. I’m going to say yes, you should still add them, even if they won’t be visible on the surface of the finished construction. The two sausage sections are not adjacent, and they are not just overlapping on a 2d piece of paper, they are occupying the same 3d space, and you should define the contour of where they intersect just like we do for the form intersections exercise from lesson 2. Sometimes this contour line for the intersection will be very close to the outer contour of one of your sausage forms, but I still want you to add it as it will help you to think in 3d. I know it’s a bit fiddly, you can make it easier by making sure you have a generous overlap with your sausages.

“Should we add contours to bulges on legs if they break the silhouette?” and "when adding forms is the intersecting line (where the forms meet) generally enough?”

Yes, you will to add a contour line when you break the silhouette, that contour line will be the intersection where the new form meets or wraps around the existing one. That will usually be all you need.

Contour lines themselves fall into two categories. You've got those that sit along the surface of a single form (this is how they were first introduced in the organic forms with contour lines exercise, because it is the easiest way to do so), and you've got those that define the relationship and intersection between multiple forms - like those from the form intersections exercise. By their very nature, the form intersection type only really allows you to draw one such contour line per intersection, but the first type allows you to draw as many as you want. The question comes down to this: how many do you really need?

Unfortunately, that first type of contour line suffers from diminishing returns. The first one you add will probably help a great deal in making that given form feel three dimensional. The second however will help much less - but this still may be enough to be useful. The third, the fourth, the fifth... their effectiveness and contribution will continue to drop off sharply, and you're very quickly going to end up in a situation where adding another will not help. I find it pretty rare that more than two is really necessary. Anything else just becomes excessive.

That is why Uncomfortable discourages adding random extra contour lines along the length of leg sausages.

For the bulge on the spider leg where I’d remarked “nearly!” in green and made an edit. This was not intended to be discouraging, how you approached it is entirely within the realms of what is expected for this lesson, given the instructions and information in the lesson material. It was meant to encourage you and to show you how a little edit to your additional forms would allow you to achieve the bulge you wanted without having to go back and add more single one-off lines to smooth things out. It is the same approach as what was used in the ant leg and dog leg demos I linked in my critique, and is probably much clearer in those demos.

"are you specifically saying I should only darken the lines at the point of overlap and not the entire form that overlaps?” Yes. It’s fine for your added line weight to go beyond the overlap a bit, but there’s no need to add it to the entire form. Your question implies that you may not be aware that you sometimes trace back over sections that are nowhere near any overlaps so I’ve highlighted one such line you drew twice here just to be sure that there’s no misunderstanding here.

"I have made corrections to my constructions per your feedback” The next steps I gave you were to move on to lesson 5. I made a judgement call whether additional work was required from you so it’s not appropriate for you to be sending this in for additional feedback. I understand where you're coming from here but unfortunately we do have a lot of critiques to get through and Uncomfortable does require us to focus on what is necessary only, as that is what he pays us for. It might be worth re-watching this video from lesson 0 about how to get the most out of Drawabox. It will discuss what is needed from you as a student, and what you can expect from a critique.

I understand that you’ve done this to check that you’re understanding the information given to you and to learn as much as possible, and while I don’t want to discourage your enthusiasm and good attitude I will ask you not to send in unsolicited revisions in the future.

Given that I’ve just spent an hour answering all your other questions I will be brief when looking through these.

Okay, you’ve done a good job of correcting where you’d cut back into your louse, and adding a contour curve for intersections on leg joints. You’ve mostly edited where you’d added single lines to extend the silhouette of an existing form to be complete, fully enclosed forms but I think you missed a few on your beetle some of which I completed with a single additional mass, and others I’ve shown how you can use multiple masses together, as these were quite big extensions to play with. You will get much more instruction on how to use additional masses as you go through the lesson 5 demos.

3:19 PM, Monday November 7th 2022

Your question implies that you may not be aware that you sometimes trace back over sections that are nowhere near any overlaps so I’ve highlighted one such line you drew twice here just to be sure that there’s no misunderstanding here.

I know that I do trace lines sometimes; I think I usually do it in two contexts: 1) like with drawing elipses and spheres, I thought we were supposed to make two full passes to each new form, sausages included (though, I don't usually do it for the legs), and 2) when putting a new form onto an existing form, I like to trace the whole new form's silhouette to try to merge the two together by darkening the new outer lines like we would darken the lines on our boxes. I guess I'm not supposed to do either of these.

I made a judgement call whether additional work was required from you so it’s not appropriate for you to be sending this in for additional feedback.

Sorry, the homework corrections weren't to get additional feedback; it was just to show tangibly that I understood your feedback.

I will ask you not to send in unsolicited revisions in the future.

Got it.

It might be worth re-watching this video from lesson 0 about how to get the most out of Drawabox.

I will re-watch the video. Thanks.

I think you missed a few on your beetle

Yes, I totally missed those; thanks. That beetle was a mess! I sort of gave up on it as it fell apart . . . so many erroneous forms. It was the only one I attempted to draw from life and it was so difficult working from something so small.

Just to be clear, I don't expect any further feedback or responses ;) Thank you very much for your time, Andpie.

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