Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

1:40 AM, Wednesday February 2nd 2022

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Here is my work for Lesson 3. I tried to get better with line weight on the organic arrows. Some of them look better but others not so much. I was unsure of some of the construction only plants, I don't know if I did enough. On the flip side, I think I do too much texture verging on shading on the more detail ones. The last 6 pictures were for fun. I tried to use the contruction techniques here but in pencil and then finished with pen and ink. I was really happy with the results. I can honestly say I could not have had such results (not to say they are good, just good by my standards) then anything I could have done to date.

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11:40 PM, Wednesday February 2nd 2022

While my critique won't touch upon your additional fun drawings (not to suggest that you intended it to), I did want to say that it's great to see that you're pushing and exploring drawing on your own, and that you're seeing an impact on them already.

Jumping right in with your organic arrows, there is a touch of hesitation to your linework at times, which makes it a little bit wobbly, but overall you are imbuing those marks with enough confidence to push the sense of fluidity as they move through the world. This carries over fairly nicely into your leaves, where you're not only capturing how they sit statically in 3D space, but also how they move through the space they occupy.

When it comes to the addition of edge detail however, there are some things I want to draw your attention to:

  • Firstly, you are very prone to zigzagging back and forth across the existing silhouette's edge. This is an issue highlighted in the notes specifically, but from the looks of it you may not have read through it. Ultimately it's very important to maintain a very tight, specific relationship between the phases of construction, where each one helps support the information being added to the next one.

  • Secondly - and this is an extension of the previous point - make sure that you're never adding more detail than can be supported by what's already present, and ensure that each mark you add is simple in its nature. When you get into especially complex detail (for example here where each new addition is actually full of all kinds of little turns and curves, lots of complexity rather than just a simple rise off the existing edge and a seamless return to it), it becomes necessary to break things into yet more steps. You can see this demonstrated here and here in some diagrams I put together for other students.

I think this will continue to be relevant as we get into your plant constructions, but it is important to remember that in this course, our focus is not on creating pretty drawings - it's to learn about what exactly we're doing in three dimensions, how each step builds directly on the one before it, and taking what our brain tries to do all at once and actually analyze that process so we can improve the approaches our subconscious tries to use in the future.

Moving onto your branches, I suspect you may not have followed the instructions for this one as closely as you should have, as it appears that you have each edge segment being drawn from ellipse to ellipse. That is not what the instructions call for - rather, each one should be drawn from one ellipse, past the second, and stop halfway to the third, with the next segment starting at the second ellipse and repeating the pattern. This allows for a healthy overlap between the segments, allowing us to achieve a smoother, more seamless transition from one to the next. The approach you've used here results in more breaks in the flow of the overall compound edge.

Getting to your plant constructions, while there were some notable issues in the earlier exercises, I think these are largely coming along okay - although I do have a few suggestions to keep you on the right track here as well. Overall, I'm seeing you applying the core principles of construction (working from simple to complex, step by step) fairly well. No doubt the issues I called out above do occur, but I won't call them out again, as doing so would be redundant.

The first thing I want to call out comes down to how you're approaching and interpreting what it means to add detail to our drawings, in the context of this course specifically. Here it appears that you're largely leaning quite heavily into the idea of decorating your drawings - that is, attempting to make them individually look as visually impressive as you can. This often results in us finding reasons and excuses to add more ink onto the page, but the overall goal of decoration is one that isn't really all that clear. After all, there's no specific point at which we've added "enough" decoration.

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.

Instead of focusing on decoration, what we draw here comes down to what is actually physically present in our construction, just on a smaller scale. As discussed back in Lesson 2's texture section, we focus on each individual textural form, focusing on them one at a time and using the information present in the reference image to help identify and understand how every such textural form sits in 3D space, and how it relates within that space to its neighbours. Once we understand how the textural form sits in the world, we then design the appropriate shadow shape that it would cast on its surroundings. The shadow shape is important, because it's that specific shape which helps define the relationship between the form casting it, and the surface receiving it.

There are a couple other things to keep in mind in this regard:

  • Form shading, as discussed in Lesson 2, is not something we employ in our drawings for this course.

  • Due to the more limited tools we have at our disposal (working strictly in black and white with no midtones whatsoever), there's some information that we simply cannot capture without making our drawings especially cluttered and confusing. For example, the local/surface colour of an object (like where some leaves may be darker, and thus you may feel tempted to fill them with solid black). We do not have the means to capture other colours however, and using this tool of filled black shapes for something like this tends to make the resulting drawing more visually confusing and more difficult for the viewer to interpret. Rather, it is generally better to treat the object like it's covered in flat white, and focus the use of those filled black shapes for cast shadows only. Cast shadow shapes have the added benefit of establishing relationships between forms (that is, between the form casting it and the surface receiving it), which circles back into the focus of this course being on spatial reasoning and spatial relationships.

One last point on this matter - the approach I've outlined here, of focusing on conveying specific information to the viewer rather than aimless decoration, prioritizes getting that information across with as little markmaking as possible, whereas the decoration approach maximizes as many marks.

The other point I wanted to share is that when it comes to the use of line weight, similarly to what we've discussed about detail/texture, there are more effective uses of the tool given the specific restrictions we encounter in this course's tool selection. In some of these drawings it does appear that you've been pretty generous with the use of line weight, often tracing back over your existing marks to reinforce entire silhouettes. The issue with this is that it lends itself to more wobbly markmaking, because you're going back over it more slowly and hesitantly.

Instead, try to limit your use of line weight, reserving it only towards one task - to clarify how different forms overlap one another in space, limiting that line weight to the localized areas where those overlaps occur. Here's an example of two overlapping leaves - note how the line weight is fairly subtle and not too heavy, and how it blends back into the existing strokes. This allows us to also keep using the ghosting method, with its confident execution (as we should for all the marks we make), without worrying too much about slipping up.

Now, while I don't think any revisions are required for your plant constructions, I do want to make sure you understand how to approach the leaves' edge detail and the branches, so I will be assigning revisions for those.

Next Steps:

Please submit:

  • 1 page of leaves

  • 1 page of branches

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
6:20 PM, Saturday February 5th 2022

Here [https://imgur.com/a/XJguisS] are my redone pages for leaves and branches. I was a little surprised because I thought the plant structure was going to be the problem.

With the branches I thought I was doing it correctly and drawing just past the elipse. But after looking at the instructions again I see that I was supposed to draw half way to the next elipse. I think I corrected that.

It sounds like I did the leaf structure correctly but had trouble with the details and texture. It may not look like it, but I didn't actually zigzag by keeping the pen on the page. I drew each line separate but it came out the way it did. I think I know why I did what I did. I was thinking of the initial lay out as construction lines but the edge detail laying on top of it as a separate layer that took cues from the initial line but didn't need to follow it. In other words, exactly like I was working on with pencil first and then laying down pen second. What I tried to do was redraw my first page of leaves but fix the texture and edge details.

Line weight got out of hand here and there. Basically I was going for subtle, and then I would muck it up. So I would try to fix it and I ended up with what I got. Some good, some notably bad. To be honest though, the example you gave seemed too subtle to my eyes and it doesn't read clearly to me.

I am still having trouble with the desription of texture and using cast shadows. I struggle with shapes that are very slight or smooth. When I look at the example of the leaf with the vein details, it feels like that is more like partial construction lines rather than shadow. I'll just keep at it. I keep looking at other people's work samples for lesson 2 to try and get some clarity.

I have discovered that I suffer from a problem that apparently lots of beginners have, which is that I want to draw everything. Learning what NOT to draw is really hard.

6:58 PM, Monday February 7th 2022

Your revisions are looking much better. The branches are much more in line with the instructions, and your approach for the leaves' details are generally looking pretty good. There are just a couple of instances where you tend to build up more complexity than you should in one step, as shown here. When we have more complex edge detail, we simply break it down into smaller steps, until each individual step is the addition of something as simple as reasonably possible.

Here are a couple other diagrams I've done for other students demonstrating the same:

Anyway, everything else is coming along well. I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 4.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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