Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

3:55 PM, Wednesday March 23rd 2022

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For the Fig branch I realized I would spend too much time on texture which I know isn't the main focus. I only did texture for the ones I felt were easy and wouldn't take away from the construction itself. I also refrained from shadows for the same reason.

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5:46 AM, Friday March 25th 2022

Starting with your arrows, these have been drawn with a great deal of confidence, which helps to push the sense of fluidity with which they move through the world. This carries over reasonably well into your leaves - most of them anyway - where you're able to capture not only how they sit statically in 3D space, but also how thhey move through the space they occupy.

That said, I think you may have ended up putting a lot more time into decorating your drawings (something we'll talk about a bit more later), and could have definitely put more time into the execution of each individual mark as you built up the edge detail and structure of these leaves. There are a few issues I want to draw to your attention in regards to this:

  • Firstly, take a look at this crop of the edge detail you added to one of your leaves. As explained here in the notes, the edge detail is meant to either cut into or extend off the existing silhouette you'd established in the previous stage - that is, at that point we have a solid leaf moving through 3D space, and we simply want to modify it to add more complexity. Thus, we draw individual marks that rise off the existing edge and return to it, creating a seamless cut or extension of the existing silhouette. You however did the opposite - your marks started at arbitrary points away from the existing edge, went up to the edge and touched it or passed it slightly, then went back to another arbitrary point to stop. From there, you'd draw another starting at yet another arbitrary point (resulting in gaps between them), and repeat the process. Rather than modifying the existing structure, it seems more as though you're fundamentally and completely redrawing an entirely new leaf within the approximate space defined by the existing silhouette. These results in very weak relationships, if any, between the phases of construction, which breaks away from the real focus of what constructional drawing is meant to be.

  • This tendency towards weak relationships between constructional steps can also be seen in this more complex leaf, where you started with a basic leaf shape, then effectively drew an entirely different, complex leaf on top of it without actually adhering to the existing structure. In the notes, both here and here, I explain and demonstrate how to approach these kinds of constructions, step by step, building upon the existing structure and always keeping those relationships between the phases tight. I also demonstrate there how each step of construction is a concrete decision being made, with every subsequent step adhering to those decisions rather than remaking them and adding contradictions to the construction in the process.

I cannot stress this enough - what we're doing here is not simply drawing plants, and so it is not sufficient to end up with a nice, detailed drawing in the end. And it is fair to say that your drawings are at times quite lovely and well rendered, but they are not what is being asked for here.

Continuing onto your branches, you're doing decently here, although there are some cases where you're a little sloppy in terms of how you're allowing your edge segments to overlap. This is a very important part of the exercise, so be sure to follow the specific steps shown here as closely and carefully as you can, down to where each segment starts and ends, and how they're made to overlap one another to achieve a smoother, more seamless transition between them. You do this well in some cases, although in cases like this one and this one, the overlap is definitely minimized as you stray from the instructions.

Now, as we get into your plant constructions, the first thing I want to touch upon is the distinction between decorating our drawings, and actually pursuing texture in the manner presented back in Lesson 2. Right now it seems that once you consider your construction complete, you shift gears, aiming largely to make your drawing more visually pleasing by whatever means you can. Unfortunately, "decoration" is not an especially useful goal for our purposes here, especially because there's no clear point at which one has added enough. This leaves us simply hunting for reasons to add more ink, more marks.

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.

As a result of this approach, you'll find yourself thinking less about excuses to add more ink, and instead you'll be working in the opposite - trying to get the information across while putting as little ink down as is strictly needed, and using those implicit markmaking techniques from Lesson 2 to help you with that.

Jumping back to your plant constructions, overall your approach is coming along decently (focusing on the simple forms, building up complexity as you go, etc.) but there are a number of things I want to call out:

  • Be sure to draw through all of your ellipses two full times before lifting your pen, as discussed back in Lesson 1.

  • Every mark you make needs to be considered in terms of what its purpose is meant to be. For example, on this cactus you appear to be using a ton of contour lines, but I'm not getting the impression here that you're necessarily thinking through what each one is meant to contribute, and whether they're strictly necessary. This course introduces us to a lot of tools, but none of them should be used without considering whether they're the right tool for the job. Neglecting this step, which we can do in the planning phase of the ghosting method (which of course should be applied to every structural mark we draw) results in us putting down a lot more linework than is needed, and generally spending time and resources that could be better used elsewhere in the process.

  • Be sure to construct your cylindrical flower pots around a central minor axis line to help align the various ellipses required to flesh out the structure.

  • Furthermore, there are a few more ellipses that would be necessary - for example, an ellipse inset within the opening of a flower pot to establish the thickness of the rim.

  • Here on one of your mushrooms you end up zigzagging back and forth across the previous edge, which is as explained here something to be avoided. Instead, draw each individual "bump" as a separate stroke.

  • When we start out a flower with an ellipse - as demonstrated in the hibiscus demo - doing so establishes a decision being made about how far out the petals are going to reach. Once established, subsequent steps must abide by this choice. Meaning, the flow lines for each petal must extend only to the perimeter of that ellipse, and in turn, each petal should then extend to the end of that flow line and no farther. In this drawing it seems like you put down that ellipse, then decided to ignore it. Construction is about making choices - once they're made, stick to them, even if they deviate from your reference image. The reference itself serves as a direction, but the drawings we're doing here are each exercises in spatial reasoning. They're puzzles, in which we push forwards step by step, building up more complexity in each one but remaining consistent with the choices we've made previously. In the end, we strive to create something solid and believable, using the information present in the reference image to help us achieve that goal. And in doing all of this, we force our brain to think about how the things we're drawing exist in and relate to one another in three dimensions, thus fleshing out our internal model of 3D space.

  • In general I do get the impression that some of your markmaking is perhaps a little lacking in pre-planning and preparation. Be sure to go back over the specific procedure of the ghosting method, so you're sure you're applying it correctly. Right now I get the impression that you're putting a ton of time and effort into detail, but not as much as you could into the core construction of your objects. That's where your time is best spent.

As a whole, I do feel like there's a lot you've overlooked. I'm not going to ask for a redo however. You'll find revisions assigned below, but I'd like you to take your time and go through the lesson material again more closely before working on them to ensure that you're not missing things that have been provided to you.

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

  • 2 pages of leaves

  • 4 pages of plant constructions

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
6:11 PM, Saturday May 14th 2022

I kept re-reading this critique and the lesson. I'm not sure If I'm applying the exact methods correctly. I understand their concepts, but I feel like I run into problems of certain textures and constructions where I just don't know how to apply certain instructions. Let me know, I don't care if I have to redo this 10 times.


6:54 PM, Monday May 16th 2022

So there are definitely things you're doing here that are coming along well, as well as areas where you're getting distracted by detail. I can definitely see that detail is something that you're trying to figure out, in a sense, in that you're tackling it through a couple of different approaches.

Here especially the leaves on the top of the page, you're jumping head-first into the "decoration" I talked about in my previous feedback. That is to say, you don't have a clear goal to work towards here in the addition of each mark, you're just kind of floundering, trying to reproduce what you see in your reference image, but with severely limited tools (working strictly with black and white).

My feedback on this front previously hinged on the fact that in this course, we deal with two things: construction and texture, and texture specifically pertains to the points raised in Lesson 2, which is all about understanding the specific nature of each individual textural form you're adding to your construction's surfaces. That's not what you're doing here - you're not thinking about the forms that are present, you're thinking in terms of each individual stroke, and thinking in terms of reproducing what you see in your reference image. That is taking 2D information (your reference image) and applying it to a 2D drawing, but without the necessary intermediary step of understanding the forms that are present, and how they relate to the surfaces around them in 3D space.

I elaborate on this further in these notes, so I suggest you give them a read.

Skipping further down to this drawing, you do think more specifically about each individual textural form that is present, although you're drawing each and every one with an outline, using explicit markmaking techniques, rather than the implicit ones discussed back in Lesson 2. Implicit markmaking is not about drawing the forms themselves, but rather the specific shadow shapes they cast - shapes which themselves are designed based on the relationship between the form casting the shadow, and the surface receiving it.

One thing that helps with this is to purposely approach it in two stages - first outlining your intended shadow shape (the process of which helps us think about how we're designing the shape, and about the forms/surfaces in question), then filling it in. You can see an example of this in this video (which is timestamped to the brush pen section, in which this approach is demonstrated).

This is of course not easy to do, but you're sidestepping it entirely by instead relying on explicit markmaking - outlining each textural form, rather than attempting to deal with shadows at all.

I should mention that what you're doing on the leaf veins here is actually very much headed in the right direction - you just need to stop working with individual lines, and start working with actual shadow shapes.

Now, when you stop worrying about texture/detail (which is optional for the purposes of this course, so you don't have to worry about it), you definitely do better. Specifically this drawing. Here there are two main issues, but overall it's still fairly successful:

  • A minor point, but it would have been good to draw through the planter box - that is, draw the edges on the opposite side as though we have x-ray vision. This will help us to understand how it's meant to exist in relation to the other forms at play, not in the 2D space of the drawing, but in the three dimensions of the construction.

  • As shown here you are prone to skipping constructional steps, and diving into a more complex initial silhouette than you should be. Remember - construction is all about maintaining tight, specific relationships between the stages of construction, and when there's no preceding structure to support what you're trying to draw, you must keep things as simple as possible.

As to that second point, you're much more prone to leaving looser relationships between your constructional steps in this drawing, at least in some places. As shown here, you should not have a bit of edge detail that attempts to capture more than one thing at a time. Always have it rise off the previous stage of construction's edge, then return to it. Don't go in for seconds and thirds.

Oh, one last thing - in general, you are not putting enough time into your linework, and it results in a lot of sloppiness. For example, if we look at this individual leaf, it shows clear signs that you're trying to get through it quickly, rather than giving yourself a decent measure of time to think through each individual problem. Don't stress about speed - your only responsibility here is to give each and every form, every shape, and every mark the time it requires for you to execute it to the best of your current ability, with appropriate consideration for what each mark's job is meant to be, and how it can accomplish that task most effectively. These are at the heart of the ghosting method, specifically in its planning phase - so do not skip or rush through it.

I'm going to assign one last set of revisions just to see what you make of this feedback.

Next Steps:

Please submit:

  • 1 page of leaves

  • 2 pages of plant constructions

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
5:50 PM, Saturday June 4th 2022


I think I started understanding better this time around. Hopefully it shows here, if not then I'm okay with trying again

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