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10:20 PM, Thursday January 25th 2024

As a whole your work on these textures are definitely going in the right direction, but there are a few key points that I believe I can call out to help you continue progressing well in regards to this exercise, and the concept of implicit markmaking as a whole.

The first of these points is more of a reminder that when drawing our textures, we're not observing our reference image and simply transferring that visual information over. Across most of your textures you held to this reasonably well, but when you had to deal with cases with many small textural forms resulting in a ton of little details, you did have a tendency to slip back to simply drawing your textures as you saw them, rather than focusing on identifying the forms that were present, designing cast shadow shapes based on the relationship between those forms and the surfaces around them, and finally filling them in as stressed in these reminders in lesson 2.

So for example, looking at the brick and ice cream textures on this page you were relying on individual erratic lines, just trying to get the impression of the texture as a whole down, rather than actually thinking about the forms that were present and the relationships they'd have with the things surrounding them in space. At the end of the day, this exercise doesn't actually tackle anything all that special (aside from the implicit markmaking itself). At its core, it's about the same spatial reasoning we've worked on throughout this course, just at a much smaller scale.

Another form of this issue can be seen in the corn texture on this page - you attempted to convey the corn kernels by drawing a bit of form shading on their structures - but again, this falls back to you attempting to convey that structure in whatever way you can, rather than focusing on the implicit markmaking this exercise specifically focuses on.

One last example on this front is how in your feathers here you first started by outlining those individual feather structures, which as your first step immediately locked you into an explicit markmaking strategy - the marks weren't based on cast shadows, they were just hard outlines that locked you into a particular approach. That's why the transition to the far right where the texture is meant to seamlessly transition to being completely blank/white is so jarring. To that point, the diagram for this section in the texture analysis notes has a bit about "lost and found edges", showing how we can achieve that kind of transition by focusing not on the outline of the structures but on the areas where our shadows tend to last the longest. This is where different forms meet together to "trap" those shadows in the valleys between them, whereas where those shadows are more out in the open they're going to be blasted away more quickly by the light.

That leads us to the next point - you're frequently neglecting to actually implement the gradual transition from solid black to solid white. As noted in this section, the black (and white) bars on either side aren't just for decoration - they're there to remind us that we are to transition from a fully dense texture to a fully blank texture, where the actual information describing the nature of the surface is concentrated in the middle where we have the most contrast. Towards either side, contrast is reduced to nothing by virtue of being completely black and completely white. The goal is for the point at which those bars end and the texture "begins" to be imperceptible. In most of your textures, those bars were quite visible.

In some cases this is the result of not properly applying implicit markmaking, but there are cases where you're implying those textural forms just fine, but where you simply got caught up in the habit of ignoring the black bar's purpose - for example, the soapy water texture here.

Ultimately the creation of a seamless gradient here speaks to the strength of implicit markmaking as a whole. As shown in this diagram, depending on how far the form is from the light source, the angle of the light rays will hit the object at shallower angles the farther away they are, resulting in the shadow itself being projected farther. It's this that we leverage the most - since implicit markmaking relies entirely on cast shadows, we are able to convey the same texture with certain areas being more prominently detailed, and others being having less contrast (and therefore drawing less attention from the viewer) by being approached as though the light source is very close/hitting it very directly, resulting in small-to-no cast shadows, or as though the light source is very far away, allowing for large expanses of black where many cast shadows combine with one another.

To that point though, looking at the soapy water, you actually cast the shadows in the wrong direction - they're all cast towards the right - this is also something you likely missed from the lesson material, as it is addressed there.

Now the last thing I wanted to leave you with is an overview of how we approach thinking about this exercise - it seems you're grasping it in some cases, but not always consistently, so going back over it may help solidify things for you.

Take a look at this diagram, which tries to illustrate how it is we think when we tackle this exercise:

  • First in the traceover of the reference image, we're identifying the kinds of forms that are present and how they vary/how they're similar.

  • Then in the first rectangle labeled "the forms we're transferring" this is more of an idea of how we would, in our heads, think about arranging those textural forms on our surface based on what we saw in the reference.

  • Next in the rectangle labeled "how we're thinking about the cast shadows" are the actual lines we'd be drawing to design those cast shadow shapes, based on our understanding of the relationship between each textural form and the surfaces around it. The forms from the previous step are faded out here, because again - they weren't drawn. This is definitely the most challenging part, because working implicitly requires us to think about multiple forms simultaneously without drawing them - though not all at once, more a small handful including the one whose shadow you wish to design, and those whose surfaces that shadow might touch.

  • And finally, we'd fill in those shadow shapes.

Note that we are never drawing the outlines of our textural forms - only thinking about where they sit in space, so we can use that understanding to decide how to design the shadow shapes they cast.

Now, I am of course going to mark this challenge as complete, but keep working at it and strive to apply what I've called out here.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
2:56 AM, Friday January 26th 2024


Sorry for the long rant, I don't even really expect you to read it all. This is more for me to get my frustration out.

Thanks for the feedback, as always, it does seem like you genuinely want to explain all the main laps in my understanding, as per what my work shows. However, this time, I will confess that I understand way less about textures than you might expect. This topic has been with me since June, I've spent more time on this than I did on any other lesson - more than most of them combined probably. I read and reread and watched and rewatched all the materials like 15 times, went through 10ths of feedbacks given to other students and analyzed their works in extreme detail. I even got a huge extra explanation after lesson 2, which I read enough to quote in my sleep by now. I discussed it with some members of the community on discord after many attempts to understand it myself and changed my approach to thinking about this exercise several times. But each time, I actually 'get it' less and less. The results of what I produce might not show it, but as far as what is going on in my head while doing these textures, it all made less sense by the end of the challenge, than it did at the beginning.

I initially thought it was quite simple. This is how I thought about and visualized these textures: Textures are just a bunch of simple, tiny forms, laid flat in a pattern (not always a regular one, but each with some internal logic to the way it spreads these shapes around). These shapes exist in a 3D space and have height, width and depth. They cast shadows, which correspond to their shape and the surface they are cast onto. All I have to do is draw just the drop shadows they cast and ignore their outlines, local value and shading.

However, the first step in each texture is doing a detailed study of the reference image. That is (to my understanding at the time), look at all the drop shadows and transfer them to the page. This, of course, creates a bunch of random marks in a square that look nothing like the reference. I always thought that the result doesn't matter (draw-a-box exercises after all are not about making pretty images) and that this part is there just to make me look at the texture in extreme detail, to help identify the 'simple forms' and their patterns. So that is what I would do, while making notes about the things I observe. Then I would move to the third rectangle and draw these shadows, getting longer on the left and smaller/shorter on the right, with some smaller forms not casting any shadows at all, the closer to the light source they got. This, of course, created a bunch of random marks on the page that looked nothing like the reference, or what this texture, in these lighting conditions, would look like in real life. This again, didn't worry me too much, since I followed the instructions and making pretty images is not the point here. I hated doing this, but I felt like at least it made some sense.

Then I looked at what other students you gave positive feedback to were doing and I noticed that there was clearly something massively wrong about my approach. Their textures actually looked more like simplified versions of the real images. They often broke all the rules I followed and extended or out right added extra shadow shapes where they had no right being. They also removed others that should be there, but would probably make the picture messy. The way they did studies in the first square, looked more like distillations of all the details in the texture and simplification to a nice and readable design, that was maybe vaguely based on the drop shadow shapes, but did not follow it literally. Now, the word 'design' is used all over the texture materials and even this feedback, but it is never actually explained what it means. I still don't really know how to understand it, let alone apply it’s principles, since I don't know what they might be. But I’ll get to that later.

Comparing my work to others, made me think that this exercise is more about conveying the impression of the texture as a whole and that focusing on drop shadows is the most important part of the process, but that I'm suppose to 'design' (again, I don't' know what that means still) the image as a whole, so that the forms can be clearly defined and texture readable. In order to do that, I deliberately tried to exaggerate certain parts of the texture and ignore others. This produced - as you very aptly noticed - such textures as the brick or ice cream, though fur was the first one of those, if I remember correctly. The reason I added some form shading to the corn, was that I thought it would help define the round shape of it, which drop shadows would make much less readable. It didn't sit right with me at first, but looking at the result, it was pretty obvious that it's meant to be corn, so I thought I'm doing something right.

Couresly, the feather texture was still done with the mind set that it's all about drop shadows. The reason they all have an outline, is that in the reference I used, tips were slightly curved up along the entire border, so these lines that look like outlines, are actually shadow shapes. I knew what it looked like and I expected to get the feedback I got for it. It was actually the main reason I switched my approach - because in some textures, shadows outlined shapes in a way that looked like explicit marks. Every texture with deep crevices had that problem, like the tires, which had such small and deep indents, that they looked the same no matter their distance to the light source. There were many textures I avoided because of that, which also didn't sit right with me.

The funniest one might be the soapy water, which I will maintain is actually correct. In the reference, the bubbles protruded out of the surface, yes. But they were transparent and would not create any shadows. The shadows I drew were actually the result of the holes, said bubbles created in the dense soap. That is why the biggest shapes are round circles, as opposed to the elongated dome like shapes the protruding bubbles would create. I point this out not to defend my work (believe me, I think you were kinder than I deserve), but to showcase how drawing only drop shadows often makes textures impossible to read. This is one example where I know you misunderstood my intentions, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were other similar cases which you simply did not point out, but incorrectly noted as mistakes. Not that I blame you, as I wrote earlier, homeworks you complemented the most, tend to look like pretty, stylised simplifications of the reference, meaning they are not accurate to the drop shadows 100%, which this texture pretty much is. It's just that these don't look readable, so I would get fooled too if I didn't know what the reference looked like.

Anyway, to cut this whole manifesto short, here is what I struggle to understand the most. I filled in the cast shadow shapes in this image and below I circled all the differences between the actual shapes and the final 'design'. All the differences are very small, but they add up. I believe that this step of making pretty much every single shape just a little more readable and adjusting them slightly, as well as adding some more, is what this whole 'design' idea is about and I simply do not get it. I don't even know what I don't know about it. I'm not even sure if it is the missing element that makes these random marks on the page, read as a cohesive texture. Especially since you write that the design step takes place earlier. Hence my confusion increasing, compared to June, which is when I started this nightmare.

After this feedback, my confusion did not decrease. Now I know that feathers and soapy water read as wrong, despite having only cast shadows. At the same time, form shading on the corn was a mistake, despite making the texture more readable. Also, now I know that this exercise is not about getting the impression of the texture as a whole down, if what it takes is making erratic lines. So I can't just put down shadows as they are, I can't add indication with lines, but also not with form shading, I have to 'design' shadows shapes, but I still don't know how... What was all this for?

I'm sorry if my tone sounds bitter, I'm actually laughing while writing this. I went through 5 stages of grief with textures and at this point, I accept the fact that I will just never understand them xD. Unless you read all this and think you can somehow help, but please, do not feel any pressure to. I doubt I’ll touch textures again anytime soon anyway and right now, I’ve got 100 treasure chests waiting for me.

6:45 PM, Friday January 26th 2024

I skimmed through this last night, but I won't be reading it again - this is honestly not an effective way to get questions answered, because those questions easily get lost amidst all of the rest. I understand the need to vent, but that's not the purpose this resource is meant to serve, and as we are already pinched between extremely limited resources (all of the official critiques are subsidized, with us paying up to twice as much to the TAs who provide the feedback, relying on those credits that are allowed to expire to balance things out as explained here) and a mountain of work, it's simply unreasonable to dump all that out here. Of course you did mention multiple times that I didn't have to feel pressured to answer - but you're basically putting me between the rock and a hard place of leaving a student openly struggling with something, or reading through a novel.

Now the one question I did pick up on was your confusion as to what "design" means. To design is to actively choose how something should be (in this case, the actual shape itself). That is to say, we're not pulling the information directly from the reference and striving to match it perfectly - the reference image is a source of information from which we are pulling information on what textural forms are present and how they're arranged, so we can then use that information to craft our gradient.

The first box on the left where we do a study, there students can do whatever they like to help themselves analyze the texture. Where the implicit markmaking comes in, is when we're actually crafting the gradient based on that information.

Lastly, in regards to the bubbles texture, you do get to choose which textures you tackle for the exercise. There's no specific benefit to picking ones that are especially challenging, because the base problem (whether your reference is simple or complex) is still the same as it is for the entire course. It's about understanding the relationships between the forms and the surfaces around them in 3D space. The reason we employ implicit markmaking here is that it is not always possible to draw everything explicitly as this can create a ton of contrast in sections of the image, turning them into focal points that draw the viewer's eye - whether you want it to or not.

Learning the mechanics of working implicitly gives us the freedom to control how much contrast a particular part of the drawing carries, so that the nature of what we're drawing does not have to dictate the way in which the viewer engages with our drawing of it.

I hope that helps - if it doesn't, then hopefully the newer material pertaining to texture that we'll be releasing in the coming months (once the overhaul reaches into Lesson 2) will help more.

2:45 PM, Saturday January 27th 2024

Yeah, sorry about the structure of what I wrote, I wanted to get it all out of me and this was not the place, my bad. Glad to hear that textures overhaul is coming up, I'll definitely try this again when it does. Thanks again for the extra help.

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