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5:52 AM, Tuesday December 7th 2021
edited at 5:53 AM, Dec 7th 2021

Starting with your arrows, these have definitely been drawn with a great deal of confidence, which has helped you to capture the way in which they move fluidly through the world. I do have a couple of quick things that caught my eye however:

  • The jump in line weight stands out, simply because it appears as though you're working with two different types of pens - one for the initial, confident linework, and then another for adding line weight (which admittedly is a little more hesitant). This of course would be breaking the rules of the course, which state to only work with a 0.5mm fineliner unless otherwise noted. It's possible you've got a 0.5mm fineliner that is on its last legs, but regardless, using it to make fainter marks would still be contrary to the spirit of that rule, which is fairly clear.

  • As a more minor concern, in regards to your hatching, give these notes from Lesson 2 a read - they explain why hatching across the width of the ribbon is preferable (where the hatching lines are pinned between two clear edges) rather than hatching along the length of the ribbon and having those marks end at an arbitrary point.

Continuing onto your leaves, you're handling those first two steps well - of defining a flow line with similar fluidity to the arrows exercise, and then expanding it into a larger silhouette that echoes the same movement through space, but I'm very quickly seeing a tendency towards jumping considerable leaps of complexity way too quickly, rather than following the constructional approach of building up to them.

I'm going to skip right over the leaf at the top of the list, as it deviates really significantly from the steps of the exercise, and will instead focus on the two with the jagged edges. There are two major issues here:

  • Firstly, there are extremely weak relationships between the phases of construction. Construction is all about building up from one stage to the next, ensuring that the previous stage functions largely as scaffolding for whatever further complexity we wish to add in the next. If that next step is too complex for what we've laid down thus far to support, then we simply have to add intermediate steps in between (as shown here and here on some other students' work). What we do not want to do is to treat the previous phase of construction like a loose suggestion, or to ignore it entirely - it is structural. So, as explained here, we want every bit of edge detail to build right off that existing, simple edge. What we see here - that is, the edge detail cutting straight across the silhouette's edge as though it wasn't even there - should be avoided. If you need to cut that far in, then you either need to bring the silhouette's edge all the way back so you're not cutting at all (and only extending out from the edge), or you bring the silhouette's edge all the way to the furthest extent so it contains the entire end result, and then cut back into it similarly to what's shown here (although that's a demo of a totally different leaf).

  • Secondly - and this is really just an extension of the previous point - you do not want to be redrawing the entirety of the leaf, as though replacing the simpler structure from the previous step. This largely renders those previous steps somewhat moot, and has the same problems of having drawn the complex shape in the first place. Where construction allows us to break a complex problem into a series of smaller, individual problems (establish how the leaf moves through the world, then expand that into a simple structure, then build up edge detail upon that structure without having to worry about how it's moving through the world), this simply continues to try and solve all the problems you've already solved, again - and in so doing, you introduce contradictions between the marks that had already existed on the page, asserting the presence of one structure, and the new structure you've now drawn to occupy its same space.

Moving onto your branches, these are admittedly kind of sloppy in their execution. The inconsistency of your ellipses suggests that you're probably not always executing them using your whole arm, from the shoulder, and that you're also likely not employing the ghosting method here as you should be (and not rotating your page to find a comfortable angle of approach for each one). Rather, it looks more like you drew a bunch of ellipses as quickly as you could. In addition to this, there are some specifics relating to the exercise itself, and how it's meant to be done:

  • A very important part of this exercise is how we layer the edge segments. As explained here, each segment should start at one ellipse, continue past the second, and stop halfway to the third. The next segment then starts at the second ellipse, repeating the pattern. This is meant to allow a healthy overlap between those segments (especially if we use the last chunk of the previous segment as a runway, overlapping it directly before shooting off to the next target), which in turn allows us to achieve a smoother, more seamless transition from one segment to the next. Unfortunately, you are not consistently following these instructions. You do on occasion, and to an extent, but more often you've got the marks starting and ending at a variety of different places.

  • Additionally, the degree of your ellipses matters - it establishes the orientation of that circular cross-section in 3D space, relative to the viewer. As explained back in the Lesson 1 ellipses video, in a straight tube, this'll result in the ellipses farther away from the viewer to be wider, and those closer to the viewer to be narrower. While this does change based on the turning of the tube itself, it's a good rule of thumb to follow.

Finally, moving onto your plant constructions, it's very clear that you have indeed put a lot of time and effort into this work - I by no means wish to suggest otherwise - but in a lot of ways that effort has been committed primarily to the idea of making your drawings look nice, and producing pleasant looking end results. That, unfortunately, is not what this course is about.

The drawings we do in this course are, just like everything else we've done up to this point: exercises. The reference image we work from gives us a goal - or the direction of a goal - for us to build towards. From there, we take our simple forms and combine them to work towards that goal, continually considering the way in which those forms sit in 3D space, and how they relate to one another within that space. It's processing that over and over which helps our brains develop stronger spatial reasoning skills, and a clearer mental model of 3D space.

Obviously, drawing things with the intent of making them look impressive is a lot more fun, but it also tends to be quite distracting. In your case, I'm noticing a lot of the sort of rough sketch/clean-up pass approach I noted in your arrows (and which as explained here should not be used in this course) where you draw your underlying construction quite faintly, then go back in with a much heavier pen to redraw everything you wish to "commit". This in turn gives the impression that those initial marks somehow weren't establishing solid, 3D structures, because of how they're contradicted by the darker lines. All that's left is a lot of contradictions, which can serve to undermine the viewer's suspension of disbelief.

Now, I've spent over a thousand words talking about that in general terms - let's look at a few specific issues where your construction can be strengthened:

  • In this page, you've got each cluster of plants first blocked in with an ellipse. This is potentially a solid approach - but what's important is that you treat those ellipses as though they make a clear assertion about your construction. And, as with any assertion, you will need to adhere to it closely. For example, in the case of the hibiscus demo, we use an ellipse to establish the perimeter to which the petals will extend, and so each flow line then stops right at that edge. In this case you're building more of a sphere rather than a disc, but ultimately if that's the path you choose to follow, you need to somehow establish a tight, specific relationship between that sphere, and the positioning/arrangement of the flowers you place within it. Alternatively, if you can't find a way to create that kind of relationship, it might be better to leave the ellipses out.

  • This isn't calling out a mistake, but rather a suggestion - remember that your reference image is not something you need to copy perfectly, and that goes for what you set out to draw in the first place. You are absolutely welcome to take a cluster of plants, or a specific section from the reference image and focus on that specifically as the entirety of your drawing. I nhtis case you've opted to draw a ton of these, and so each individual plant doesn't get much space on the page. Focusing on a subsection instead would allow you to blow them up, and really get into the nitty-gritty of how these forms sit in space.

  • I'm noticing some use of form shading mixed in with your cast shadows, and I'm assuming that this is a result of you trying to focus on decorating your drawings (that is, a general attempt to make your drawings more visually pleasing) rather than the more purposeful approach to texture explained in Lesson 2, where our focus is on implying the presence of specific textural forms, by drawing each of the shadows they individually cast. 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. Circling back to my initial point, however, as explained here in Lesson 2, form shading is not something we're incorporating into our drawings in this course. Remember that cast shadows define the specific relationship between the form casting it, and the surface receiving it - so if you ever find yourself filling in an existing space (like colouring in the flip side of a leaf) or otherwise adding solid black without being consciously aware of how it relates to a specific form, then you're likely drifting into the territory of form shading.

  • When constructing your cylindrical flower pots, be sure to construct them around a central minor axis line so as to help you align your ellipses. One thing I am pleased to see is that you are including another ellipse inset within the opening, establishing the thickness of the flower pot's rim - that's something many students forget to do.

Now, I'll admit - the general sloppiness to your markmaking is not great. Not because it suggests anything about your actual skill level, but rather that it speaks to a lack of patience and care, and makes it impossible for me to actually gauge where your skills really are. Normally I'd assign a full redo, but while there are a lot of ways in which you've undermined the solidity of your constructions in many of these plants, there's enough here that I think we can salvage without taking such a significant step back.

So, I'm going to assign some revisions below. If you take your time, and follow the principles of the previous lessons (using the ghosting method, drawing from your shoulder, etc.) I expect your next round to be far better.

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

  • 1 page of leaves

  • 1 page of branches

  • 4 pages of plant constructions

Do not delve into any textural details for these revisions - focus only on pushing construction as far as it will go, and ensure that you're maintaining tight, specific relationships between every step.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
edited at 5:53 AM, Dec 7th 2021
6:20 PM, Thursday December 30th 2021
edited at 6:23 PM, Dec 30th 2021

Thank you for the in depth critique. I really apprecfiate the actionable steps included. I feel like I made a lot of progress on these redraws alone. New attempt.

edited at 6:23 PM, Dec 30th 2021
10:41 PM, Friday December 31st 2021

Looking good! I have just one issue to call out - when you've got a lot of petals or leaves layering over one another, you should still be drawing each and every one in its entirety, as this helps us both understand how they sit in 3D space as three dimensional forms, and how they relate to one another within that space, instead of focusing on how they sit on the flat page. After all, even when an object is blocked from view, it doesn't cease to exist.

Anywho, I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete.

Next Steps:

Feel free to move onto lesson 4.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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