Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

3:46 PM, Tuesday July 20th 2021

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Heya, thank you for deciding to review my work!

After finishing this lesson (for now) I can say that I definitely struggled a lot with the arrows and the leaves. I think I improved on those but feel like they are still wonky :/ Nevertheless I still had a lot of fun, I never thought drawing plants would be my thing but it was amazing, even though there were a lot types of plants I was afraid to do haha. I hope one day I'll gather the courage to try those out too.

Most of the plants I did I found on one of the boards posted in the Lesson 3 Discord Channel in the pinned messages. I wrote down the names I could find out as well, in case it helps with looking over it.

Thank you again for reviewing!


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3:53 AM, Thursday July 22nd 2021

Hi, congrats on finishing lesson 3! Let me try to give you some critique.


Starting with your arrows, I get a good sense of them flowing through space, with nice and fluid line work. Watch out for sudden bulging in the middle of a few arrows, and a few others where the width suddenly increases, both of these give the impression that it's the arrow's size that's changing, and not because of perspective, which goes against the illusion we want to create here. The last thing I want to mention is that the negative space between the lengths of the arrows should decrease as the arrow goes into the background, I do notice attempts at this, but I think it can be pushed more. Keep in mind that the arrow gets narrower as it goes into the background, you want to really exaggerate decreasing the space in order to get the negative space to decrease as well.


I'm getting some sense of that fluidity from your arrows in your leaves, but overall your leaves seem to sit more flatly on the page in comparison to your arrows. This can sometimes happen when drawing leaves directly from reference: often photos involving leaves do not have them in particularly fluid situations. For this, I recommend drawing the shape of the leaf without reference, and only using the reference for edge detail and texture.

There are a few other things I wanted to point out regarding your leaves:

  • For edge detail, you should only be drawing what changed from the simple edge, not redrawing the entire simple edge. I also want to point out the middle-left leaf in particular, if there's a sort of fold like that in the middle of the leaf, this should be captured by your simple edge instead of being captured at the edge detail. The simple edge step constructs the bounds of the leaf while thinking about flow, you don't want to still be thinking about how the leaf flows while doing edge detail.

  • In the middle right leaf, you seem to have added significant thickness to the leaf. The techniques used here to construct leaves only work on paper thin leaves, the use of subtractive construction and flow require flat objects to manipulate. I would avoid drawing any particularly thick leaves for this exercise.

  • When it comes to texture, I see some shadow shapes, but I also see you explicitly drawing out veins on some of these leaves. For texture in this exercise, lesson, and course, always draw cast shadow shapes only.

  • I don't see any complex leaf structures here. While it wasn't mandatory, practicing a few may have helped.


Your branch exercises are done very well in general, built up using the correct steps and correctly extending line segments past the second ellipse and half way to the third. Some of your ellipses seem to be significantly slanted compared to the center line, really work on trying to get their minor axis to align to the center line. The last thing I want to mention is that even if the runway is off on the line segments, try following it anyways, this will help improve your runway accuracy in the future.


I'm going to refer to a specific construction by page number and drawing number: 1 is the one on top, 2 the one on the bottom.

So overall, I think the biggest issue I'm seeing is that you are not respecting the previous steps of construction in these drawings. Each step of construction is not a guideline or a suggestion for where to build the next one, but a hard rule, a foundation on which the next step must be strictly adhered to. If you put an ellipse representing the boundaries of the petals of a flower, all the petals must end at that ellipse. If you put down a central flow line for a petal or leaf, the sides of the leaf must start where the flow line starts, and ends where the flow line ends. If you define a form representing the center of a flower, the petals must not cut into that center.

Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:

  • Page 1, Plant 1. You frequently cut into the spheres representing the centers of the flowers when constructing the petals. It's not a really big deal here, lessons 4 and 5 are where cutting into non-flat forms like this really flatten the result, but you may not be properly respecting the previous step of construction here.

  • Both plants on Page 2. Those ellipses you draw representing the boundaries of the petals/leaves should be where all the flow lines of the petals end. In cases like the agave where there are two distinct layers, drawing two ellipses is the right approach, but you still do not actually terminate every flow line at one of those ellipses.

  • Page 7, Plant 1. The ellipse should represent the end of the petal, even when the end is not the lowest point. It's a lot easier to build upon the ellipse when the flow line ends there rather than the ellipse representing some arbitrary point on the flow line.

  • This is also present in the way you are constructing leaves by redrawing the simple edge or not following the flow line all that closely, like I've pointed out in the leaves section of this critique.

There are a few other issues I want to quickly point out with these plant constructions:

  • Page 2, Plant 2. When adding to the caps of these mushrooms, since mushrooms are not flat forms, you need to add to them through the use of forms as well, as shown here.

  • Page 4, Plant 2. The flowers in the middle look particularly flat, I think the reason is because you aren't drawing the narrower side of the flowers here. If we're looking directly down on a flower, there should be a smaller circle representing the center of the flower. Drawing this can help prevent the flowers from looking flat (though I think a better solution might be to draw flowers where you aren't looking directly down them).

  • Page 5 Plant 2. The lines are particularly not precise and kind of scratchy here. I don't think it's a big problem since I don't really see this anywhere else, but make sure any lines that need to flow are still ghosted as appropriate.

  • Page 5 Plant 1. When drawing flower pots, make sure to always close them off at the bottom (leaving lines open like this will really flatten a drawing) and align the ellipses of the flower pot to a center minor axis.

So, in conclusion, I feel like you could use a bit more practice to help with understanding how to build upon previous steps of construction. For that reason, I'm going to assign some revisions involving the leaves exercise, and a few more pages of construction. Also, since construction is the focus, the plant constructions should be without any details/texture. A good understanding of how construction works is necessary for the later lessons as well, where more complex subjects are tackled in the same, step by step manner.

Next Steps:

  • 1 page of the leaves exercise.

  • 3 pages of plant constructions, without details or texture (apart from leaf edge detail).

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
8:50 PM, Sunday August 1st 2021

Hi, thank you so much for reviewing my work!

Here are the additional pages I did:


To sum up my own thoughts:


1) I definitely agree that I need to work on those and thought so when submitting my homework for the first time already. After going over it for a second time I think the fluidity improved, though I still think there's more to improve on.

2) I still struggle with the edge detail. I didn't add it onto all the leaves because - I'll be honest - I didn't want to mess it up. I'll definitely spend more time on studying those though.

3) I misunderstood what you meant by 'complex leaf structure' and only realized now, so I'll be adding those in my next training sessions :')

4) I'm scared of leave texture. I've tried it a bit but it seems so heavily detailed, if you have any tips or pointers I'd be glad to hear them.


1) I tried to keep in mind everything you mentioned and I feel like I improved a bit, but there's still stuff I struggle a lot with.

2) Page 10 Plant 2 had many folds and the like and I'm not satisfied with the result at all. What can I do to improve on this particular flower?

3) Ellipses confuse me and so do cast shadows. I understand the principle of cast shadows but when I try to draw them I always get confused and think too much about whether this particular shadow is a form or cast shadow and how to draw them best.

Again, thank you very much for your detailed answer and I hope there's been improvement in my work!

12:58 AM, Tuesday August 3rd 2021
edited at 2:24 AM, Aug 3rd 2021

So overall, very well done. I'm seeing a great deal of improvement in solving the issues I pointed out previously, especially about not adhering to previous steps of the construction. Just a few comments, then I will get on to answering your questions.


I'm seeing a lot of fluidity in your leaves now, which is awesome. The only thing I would ask you to experiment on (aside from complex leaf structures), is wider leaves. You'll find them more difficult to get flowing, but more difficult also means more reason to practice them.

Regarding the edge detail, what you have done is pretty well done. One improvement I can suggest: where the edge detail runs along the previous simple edge, don't draw it again, instead, just leave the previous simple edge there.


Very solid plant constructions. The only things I want to talk about are the last plant (Page 11 plant 2) and the plant you were having trouble with (Page 10 plant 2).

  • For the last plant, you seem to have omitted the central flow lines for the leaves. Looking at references I understand that these leaves are somewhat stiff in nature (though not entirely), but you should still draw the central flow line. I would also draw a larger, more traditionally shaped leaf for the simple edges, and then cut off the top part of the leaves (the part where the leaf starts to get narrower) to produce the triangular shape, but I'm not entirely sure if that's the right approach.

  • For Page 10 Plant 2, I've put together a small demo to show how I would approach it. I've drawn it in pencil because right now I'm still far more comfortable with that than anything else (though it should still work pretty well in fineliner), and I'm still very much learning myself, but hopefully this helps: https://imgur.com/a/3x3J6QI.

I think the major way to improve would have been to approach constructing the petal through the complex leaf construction method, while I see multiple flow lines, you didn't actually draw the simple curves around those flow lines, meaning that you lost the actual flow of those lines in the next construction step.

As for capturing the folds themselves, note that folds really aren't that different from any other edge detail. If you wanted, you could capture the actual folding on the surface through a few texture cast shadows, but for now just showing how the folds change the edge should be good enough.


Regarding texture, it's important to understand the goal of adding texture. The goal is not to decorate the drawing, or to make it look good. Instead, it is to capture the small forms running along the surface of the object, to give the viewer a sense of how it feels. To do this, you can only draw the cast shadows of the forms. However, there is no requirement to capture all of the forms you see, as you can guess, some textures can get incredibly complex, leading to a lot of cast shadows. The goal is to use the idea of texture gradients, like from lesson 2, to capture only enough texture to give the viewer the impression of how the surface feels (and since gradients require capturing cast shadows, this is why only drawing the cast shadows is important). Ultimately, it's up to you how much texture you want to capture, just remember that a lot of complexity tends to be a focal point, so avoid capture lots of texture in places that you don't want the viewer's eye to be attracted to.

I'm not entirely clear on what you mean when you say ellipses confuse you, but I will try to give a general explanation of how it works. So a lot of flowers have petals that, if you look at them from above, would form a circular shape. This is just a consequence of every petal being roughly the same shape and size, and coming from the same place, so naturally they all end at the same distance from the center. To capture this idea, you can draw a circle, this saves you from having to try to have all the flow lines ending the same distance from the center. Of course, in order for this to work, you need to later draw the flow lines to this circle, otherwise, your petals aren't going to end at the same distance anyways.

An ellipse is just a circle in 3d space, so with an ellipse, we can draw such a flower looking at it from any angle, not just directly from above.

Regarding cast shadows vs form shadows, the key difference is that cast shadows are always cast by another object onto the surface. Whenever you want to draw a shadow, think about what object is causing that shadow, if it's the same object, then it's a form shadow. If it's different, then it's a cast shadow. I understand the distinction can get difficult in certain situations, but that's just a matter of practice. As to how to capture cast shadows precisely, I believe that's just a matter of understanding form better. Understanding form is a goal of this entirely course, so naturally this will be improved as you work through the other lessons.

Anyways, there's plenty of good work here, so I believe you are more than ready to move on to the next lesson. Good luck!

Next Steps:

Move on to lesson 4.

This community member feels the lesson should be marked as complete, and 2 others agree. The student has earned their completion badge for this lesson and should feel confident in moving onto the next lesson.
edited at 2:24 AM, Aug 3rd 2021
2:55 PM, Tuesday August 3rd 2021

Thank you so much for your answers and the small demo, they helped a lot!

I will definitely remember what you told me here and come back now and then so I won't forget. Thank you for giving me the go for the next lesson!

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