Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

10:43 PM, Saturday August 29th 2020

Drawabox lesson 3 - Google Photos

Drawabox lesson 3 - Google Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/14MLJDkTUm552hZy5

A rough start with the first plant. Made a couple of crucial constructional mistakes with plants 2 and 8: upper ellipses where supposed to be way thinner.

Have a couple of questions:

  1. For plants that have many leaves, branches (plants 6, 7, 8), how to avoid the "noise" that comes from drawing each and every one? I've tried brute-forcing but it just becomes such a mess with some many lines that I can barely understand which one is in front/behind.

  2. Had a difficulty with adding "just the right amount" of detail/texture. Is the plant 7 too much and plant 8 not enough?

  3. What do you think about how I used the black spaces to separate the leaves so the general drawing doesn't look too noisy?

Thank you for the feedback! :)

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7:17 PM, Sunday August 30th 2020

Starting with your arrows, these are definitely moving through space with a good deal of energy and confidence to them, which carries over fairly nicely into your leaves exercise. Here, though the movement is somewhat more muted and calm, you've still done a great job of capturing not only how the sit statically within space, but also how they move through the space they occupy. While overall I'm also pleased to see that you're building up your more complex detail directly onto the underlying structure from the previous constructional phase, in the top left corner (leaf #1) you did end up zigzagging your edge detail back and forth more loosely across that previous phase of construction's edge, as explained here. This results in a weaker bond between the phases of construction, and also shows that you're trying to replace the existing mark, rather than trying to build on top of it.

One last thing about your leaves - it's not uncommon for students to confuse what they're trying to achieve when adding marks to the surface of their leaves, as you've done here. It's important that you consider whether you're trying to add artificial contour lines to just help convey how that surface flows through space, or whether you're trying to capture the actual vein texture present along that surface. If you're drawing artificial contour lines, you shouldn't be trying to mimic a branching vein pattern. If you're drawing the veins proper, then you shouldn't be doing so with lines, and should instead be using cast shadows to imply the presence of those textural forms as discussed back in lesson 2.

Moving onto your branches, these are actually very well executed, and you've done a great job of getting your edge segments to flow smoothly and seamlessly into one another, while also maintaining consistent widths throughout the length of your branches. I have no real complaints here, so keep up the good work.

Now, looking at your plant constructions there are definitely a lot of elements that are going well, but there are some key issues I absolutely need to address:

  • Looking at the first page - the two daisy drawings - and several others, you appear to only be drawing the leaves and petals of your plants insofar as they'd actually be visible from the viewer's standpoint, alowing their edges to stop suddenly where they are overlapped by another form. The thing about constructional drawing as an exercise (and all of these drawings are indeed just exercises), is that it's about understanding how the forms we draw exist within 3D space. Drawing each form in its entirety is critically important to understand this, as well as how those forms relate to one another in 3D space. A form does not cease to exist when it is blocked from view, and therefore we want to be drawing them all as fully enclosed forms despite overlaps and intersections.

  • A more minor point about your cactus - don't draw anything as a simple line. Every mark we draw basically should be defining a form, adding it to the existing structure in 3D space. This means that every spine you drew ought to have been defined as a fully enclosed shape, rather than just a line that shoots out in one direction.

  • For the mushroom in drawing 3, another minor point - don't forget the principles regarding capturing texture from lesson 2. We don't capture textural forms using lines - we use cast shadow shapes. One thing that can help remind you of this is to draw textural marks using the two step process described here, as it will ensure that every mark you do draw is an enclosed, filled shape - not just an individual line. The same thing goes for the mushroom in drawing 5, where you outlined all of the growths along the cap of the mushroom, with the pineapple in drawing 8, and several others. Outlining such forms deviates from what you learned in lesson 2 - again, textures should only be implied through the shadows cast by the forms along those surfaces.

  • For drawing 6, one major issue does come up - the way in which you've attempted to use those solid black shapes is incorrect in most cases. Basically you're confusing three things - line weight, cast shadows, and form shading. Line weight is something that clings along the silhouette of a given form, and it will always involve a subtle change in the thickness of the line. Not enough to be immediately obvious to your conscious brain, but something that'll whisper to your subconscious instead. You know something's going wrong if you've got line weight that suddenly gets notably heavier, so always be wary of that. Cast shadows on the other hand are shapes that can get as large and broad as is needed, but they do not cling to the silhouette of another form - they are cast down upon some other surface, and cannot float arbitrarily in space. Lastly, form shading is where a form's own surface will be lighter or darker based on whether it's oriented towards the light source, and as explained here in lesson 2, is something we're leaving out of our drawings entirely throughout this course. This means that when it comes to the big filled black shapes in our drawings, they must only be reserved for capturing cast shadows. In turn this means they must fall upon an existing surface within the construction, cannot float arbtrarily in space, and will not simply cling to the silhouette of the form casting them. In this drawing, you're very much not using them correctly.

  • On a similar note, worth mentioning is that in drawing 7, you filled the negative space itself between the base of your individual plant bits with solid black. Again, any solid black shapes should be the result of a form casting a shadow upon another surface, and therefore the shadow shape itself should generally relate directly to the form casting it. That means you aren't going to get specific faces of a given form that are filled in like this.

  • Also, looking again at drawing 7, you've got the leaf towards the top of the page where you've drawn the pattern along the surface of the leaf. Remember that every mark we put down serves a particular purpose rather than just being decoration - when we're establishing the construction of an object, it's all about conveying to the viewer the information they'd need to understand what it'd be like to manipulate that object in their hands. When drawing texture, we're communicating the information they'd need to understand what it'd be like to run their fingers over the object's various surfaces. Everything relates to some sort of 3D information or property. The actual patterns along the objects, however, are not a part of this. They're just made up of local coloration, and therefore should be ignored.

  • One last thing about drawing 7 - whenever you're drawing any kind of cylindrical form for a vase or flower pot, be sure to construct it around a central minor axis to help align the ellipses. Additionally, make sure you're drawing through each ellipse two full times before lifting your pen.

I've laid out a number of things here for you to keep in mind. I'm going to assign some additional pages for you to do in order to implement these points, and you'll find them below.

Next Steps:

I'd like you to do 3 additional plant drawings. When capturing any kind of detail or texture, make sure you're doing so with cast shadow shapes only, and that you're pulling that information directly from your reference rather than just trying to capture a vague impression of the texture by putting down arbitrary marks. This is going to involve frequent observation of your reference to ensure you're working from what's there, rather than from oversimplified recollection.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
3:21 PM, Thursday September 3rd 2020

The additional drawings: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zBDVduG6e4TGxrXK9

  1. For the first plant, do you think I properly used the negative space to clarify the shapes? Also, for the leaves that have other leaves in the background, should I just texture the front ones to avoid the mess?

  2. For the second plant, how should I have better depicted the texture of the coffee cherries? They seem to have a quite smooth surface, so I left them untextured.

Overall, would it be correct to say that the area I should improve is texturing? I feel pretty confident about the 3D construction compared to the texturing. Maybe my next step after this should be the 25 texture challenge?

Thank your response!

3:47 PM, Thursday September 3rd 2020

I agree that overall your construction is looking pretty good at this point, and that your weakest area has to do with texture. There are a few problems I want to point out in this regard:

  • In the first page, filling in the negative space between the plants was incorrect. Filled areas of solid black should always be reserved only for cast shadows - meaning that they need to fall on an actual surface, not be floating arbitrarily in space. I can see that you did do this correctly in some portions (where you cast shadows upon the plant stems), but you got carried away and just started filling in whole chunks of space in other areas.

  • It's important that you understand precisely what the texture aspect of a drawing is for. I actually mentioned this in my original critique - that texture isn't arbitrary "decoration". It serves a purpose, to give the impression of what it's like to run your fingers over a surface. In the case of the coffee cherries, since they're smooth, there's nothing else to communicate. We default to assuming blank areas are smooth (so you made the right call there). There are a lot of areas on the leaves however where you seem to have just added big areas of black just for the hell of it, as though you're trying to add shading to it. When it comes to texture, less is more - don't overdo it just because you feel you have to. You need to know precisely what you're trying to communicate about the given surface before you start making marks.

  • The texture on the sunflower's center is visibly haphazard - you're clearly just trying to replicate a pattern there, rather than directly carrying over specific cast shadows you see in your reference. Don't try and go on auto-pilot and brute force your way through a drawing. Sometimes a complicated texture is just going to take a very long time to draw. Of course you're not going to have to draw the whole texture necessarily - relying on the idea that we're drawing cast shadow shapes allows us to add texture more densely in some areas and more sparsely in others. Of course, you neglected to employ the two-step process for textural mark making that I introduced in my last critique, so you were still only drawing lines, not cast shadows.

All in all, the fact that your construction is solid is what matters most - but you appear to have been ignoring some of the things I mentioned in my last critique and that is what you'll need to work on most.

I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete, but make a point of reading the lesson and my critiques more carefully in the future. As to whether you should move onto the 25 texture challenge, that is certainly an option. Keep in mind that it should be done in parallel with other lessons, stretched over a longer period of time, rather than all at once.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 4.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
5:52 PM, Thursday September 3rd 2020

For the first plant, how then should I have made the drawing clearer without using the negative space? I agree that it was incorrect to use it, but it helped to mask the leaves that have been overlapped by the ones in front. Should I have just not drawn them? Because you mentioned that I should still draw objects that exist in the 3D space, even if they are not visible. I assume I overdone it?

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A lot of my students use these. The last time I used them was when I was in high school, and at the time I felt that they dried out pretty quickly, though I may have simply been mishandling them. As with all pens, make sure you're capping them when they're not in use, and try not to apply too much pressure. You really only need to be touching the page, not mashing your pen into it.

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