Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals

6:55 AM, Tuesday December 12th 2023

Lesson 5 - EC - Album on Imgur

Direct Link: https://i.imgur.com/9RK0oYG.jpg

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Hello there, thanks for reviewing my homework.

This was a rewarding, but difficult lesson. In particular:

  • My texture work is still lacking, so I uploaded some versions without texture to make it easy to review the construction.

  • I struggled a lot with feet/claws/paws. I find it hard to connect them as 3D masses to the already existing mass.

  • It's far from excellent, but my macaw and lizard were the first things that I felt proud of drawing.

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5:38 PM, Thursday December 14th 2023
edited at 5:52 PM, Dec 14th 2023

Hello Eduardo, I'll be the teaching assistant handling your lesson 5 critique.

Starting with your organic intersections, these are a big improvement from your attempts at this exercise back in lesson 2.

I'm seeing the following improvements:

  • You're keeping most of your forms fairly simple, and your linework is smoother and more confident, which helps your forms to feel solid and three dimensional.

  • You're starting to understand how to wrap these forms around each other in 3D space, and the majority of your forms are slumping and sagging over each other with a shared sense of gravity, which helps your piles to feel stable and supported.

  • You're pushing your shadows boldly enough to cast onto the forms below, and most of them appear to be following a consistent light source.

And I'm seeing the following aspects that have room for growth:

  • You're mostly keeping the degree of all your contour curves the same. This suggests that you may want to review this video where ellipses and the degree shift are introduced. The contour curves on these organic forms represent a line drawn on the surface of the form. As we turn the form in space, the line will appear to change. You can see some good examples of the degree shift in action in this album of photos of a slinky.

  • Sometimes you'll cut off your forms where they pass behind one another. Perhaps you didn't understand what Tofu meant when he advised you to draw through your forms when practising this exercise, so I've provided a visual example on your work here.

Moving on to your animal constructions, you're taking strides towards understanding the material covered in this lesson, and I can offer you some advice and explanations on a number of areas that I hope will help you with your constructions.

General Approach

There are a few indicators that suggest you might (in some areas) be underestimating just how much time these drawings might demand of you.

One of the main issues that stands out most simply comes down to observation. From what I can see, there are cases where you're not spending as much time as is really needed studying your reference. Sometimes students will spend lots of time studying their references up-front, but then will go on to spend long stints simply drawing/constructing. Instead, it's important that you get in the habit of looking at your reference almost constantly. Looking at your reference will inform the specific nature of each individual form you ultimately go on to add to your construction, and it's important that these are derived from your reference image, rather than from what you remember seeing in your reference image. This is explained in more detail in this section of lesson 2. Right now, because there does appear to be a greater reliance on memory rather than direct observation (not everywhere - some parts come out stronger and more directly informed than others), there are definitely elements that come out looking highly simplified.

One example would be this wolf. Here the position of the far-side foreleg is radically different to what is present in the corresponding reference image, and the neck is facing right in your construction, instead of towards the viewer as seen in the reference.

Core Construction

So, for most animal constructions (with the exception of birds) we start out with the 3 major masses of the cranial ball, rib cage, and pelvis mass. We then join these masses together by drawing a "torso sausage" which encloses the rib cage and pelvis, and by constructing a simple solid neck to connect the cranial ball to the torso.

Something that stood out with the frog construction is the absence of a neck or torso sausage. As a result, some of your additional masses are wrapping around thin air, and there is a sizeable gap in the middle of the construction, as shown in these notes. We can avoid these issues by remembering to construct a torso sausage and neck, as shown here.

I'd like you to review the proportions of the major masses as discussed in this section of the lesson intro page. The rib cage should occupy roughly half the length of the torso. You're frequently drawing it significantly shorter than this, making it spherical.

There are a few pages where you've "pinched" the middle of your torso sausage, making it thinner in the middle than at the ends. This complexity gives a weaker foundation upon which to build the rest of the construction. Try to stick to the properties of a simple sausage by keeping the width more consistent, and as explained in this section we incorporate a slight sag through the middle.

Leg construction

I'm happy to see that you've attempted to use the sausage method of leg construction here, and that you've usually remembered to include a contour line for the intersection at each joint.

It does appear that you're running into considerable issues with sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages when constructing your legs. It is important to keep these forms simple, as over-complicating them will make it difficult for the viewer to understand how they exist in 3D space, and they'll look flat. I think there's probably a couple of factors contributing to this:

  • There are a few places where your linework is a bit stiff and hesitant. As introduced here with the second principle of markmaking, our lines must flow smoothly. Make sure you are employing the ghosting method, to full effect, for every line you draw. Don't forget to rotate your page to find the easiest angle for you to execute your lines.

  • Sometimes it looks like you didn't actually have the properties of simple sausage forms in mind as a priority. Here is an example on one of your springbok constructions. Remember the sausages alone are not meant to capture the entire leg. They serve as an armature upon which we can build additional forms.

I can see you've explored using additional forms to build upon your leg constructions, although they tend to be quite sparse, and you'll often also focus on adding individual, independent masses to capture specific bumps in the silhouette of the leg. Instead, there's a lot of value in actually thinking through the entire network of forms that can be built up around these structures, as shown here in the ant leg I shared with you before, as well as here in another student's work. Defining not just the masses at the silhouette but those that exist internally within it as well can help us to think about how these forms all fit together. This in turn helps us make the structure feel more solid and grounded as a whole.

I'm happy to see that you've used ellipses to define how the legs connect to the body in 3D. Right now these connections are very small, and very low down on the body. It looks like you're treating these ellipses as holes to plug the leg into. Instead, think of them as large rounded masses that we use as a simplification of some of the bulky muscles in the shoulder and thigh area that allow the animal to walk. So for most quadrupeds they should be larger, and attached to the sides of the body.

While we're on the topic of legs let's take a moment to talk about feet. I think you may find it helpful to take a look at these notes on foot construction where Uncomfortable shows how to introduce structure to the foot by drawing a boxy form- that is, forms whose corners are defined in such a way that they imply the distinction between the different planes within its silhouette, without necessarily having to define those edges themselves - to lay down a structure that reads as being solid and three dimensional. Then we can use similarly boxy forms to attach toes.

Additional Masses

It looks like you've made an effort to take actions "in 3D" as discussed in your lesson 4 feedback. There are a few places here and there where you switch back to drawing individual lines rather than complete 3D forms, and I've marked out a few examples on this springbok using blue where you'd extended the silhouettes of existing forms with one-off lines or partial shapes, and red for a spot where it looks like you may have cut back inside the pelvis mass.

Wherever we want to build on our constructions or alter something, we have to draw a complete new form with its own fully enclosed silhouette, and through the design of that silhouette we are able to define how this addition connects to the existing structures in 3D space. One thing that helps with the shape here is to think about how the mass would behave when existing first in the void of empty space, on its own. It all comes down to the silhouette of the mass - here, with nothing else to touch it, our mass would exist like a soft ball of meat or clay, made up only of outward curves. A simple circle for a silhouette.

Then, as it presses against an existing structure, the silhouette starts to get more complex. It forms inward curves wherever it makes contact, responding directly to the forms that are present. The silhouette is never random, of course - always changing in response to clear, defined structure. You can see this demonstrated in this diagram.

I've made some fairly extensive notes on additional masses on the same springbok construction.

  • The blue ellipses represent the large shoulder and thigh masses discussed earlier. The shoulder and thigh masses provide very helpful structures for anchoring additional masses to the construction. You can see this in action with the two additional masses on top of the back. I've used purple arrows to emphasise how the one further back has been pulled down from the top of the spine, and wrapped around the torso sausage. It has been pressed against the top of the thigh, creating a specific inward curve where it wraps around this existing structure. The more interlocked they are, the more spatial relationships we define between the masses, the more solid and grounded everything appears.

  • On the hind leg I've shown how to use additional masses to build onto the simple sausage I drew earlier, to bring the leg construction to something that more closely represents the leg in question.

  • At the back of the front leg and under the neck I've drawn complete forms to replace some of the extensions I'd marked with blue earlier. The neck could definitely have benefited from observing the reference more frequently/carefully too, as there is an outward curve here, where you'd drawn an inward curve.

  • Under the belly I'd adjusted the additional mass so it attaches to the outside of the torso sausage rather than cutting inside it. In all fairness, I appreciate that you may have seen Uncomfortable do something similar in the intro video for this lesson. Unfortunately that video is a little outdated in that regard, as over critiquing thousands of student submissions Uncomfortable has developed a better understanding of how students learn and process this material and found it is better not to cut back inside the silhouette of forms we have already drawn at all while working on organic construction exercises in this course.

Head construction

The next thing I wanted to talk about is head construction. Lesson 5 has a lot of different strategies for constructing heads, between the various demos. Given how the course has developed, and how Uncomfortable is finding new, more effective ways for students to tackle certain problems. So not all the approaches shown are equal, but they do have their uses. As it stands, as explained at the top of the tiger demo page (here), the current approach that is the most generally useful, as well as the most meaningful in terms of these drawings all being exercises in spatial reasoning, is what you'll find here in this informal head demo.

There are a few key points to this approach:

  • The specific shape of the eye sockets - the specific pentagonal shape allows for a nice wedge in which the muzzle can fit in between the sockets, as well as a flat edge across which we can lay the forehead area.

  • This approach focuses heavily on everything fitting together - no arbitrary gaps or floating elements. This allows us to ensure all of the different pieces feel grounded against one another, like a three dimensional puzzle.

  • We have to be mindful of how the marks we make are cuts along the curving surface of the cranial ball - working in individual strokes like this (rather than, say, drawing the eye socket with an ellipse) helps a lot in reinforcing this idea of engaging with a 3D structure.

Try your best to employ this method when doing constructional drawing exercises using animals in the future, as closely as you can. Sometimes it seems like it's not a good fit for certain heads, but as shown in in this banana-headed rhino it can be adapted for a wide array of animals.

You tend to draw the eye sockets really small, so try drawing them larger, as well as using the pentagonal shape (with a point facing down) discussed above, and you should have an easier time fitting your head constructions together.

Texture and detail

This is a fairly minor point (as texture is optional in this lesson) but I'll include it as I hope this will help with your future efforts at using texture in this course. I quite like the texture on this lizard and in places you've done a good job of minding the curvature of the surfaces you were drawing scales onto. I encourage you to try working implicitly as discussed in this section as this will allow you to control the detail density, which is discussed in the section below that. Here is an example being applied to viper scales.

Conclusion

This feedback is, by necessity, quite dense, and I'd like you to take as much time as you need to read it thoroughly, as well as reviewing your lesson 4 feedback and the relevant sections of lesson material. Once you've done that I'd like you to complete 5 additional pages of animal constructions. In addition, when tackling these pages I'd like you to adhere to the following restrictions:

  • Don't work on more than one construction in a day. You can and should absolutely spread a single construction across multiple sittings or days if that's what you need to do the work to the best of your current ability (taking as much time as you need to construct each form, draw each shape, and execute each mark), but if you happen to just put the finishing touches on one construction, don't start the next one until the following day. This is to encourage you to push yourself to the limits of how much you're able to put into a single construction, and avoid rushing ahead into the next.

  • Write down beside each construction the dates of the sessions you spent on it, along with a rough estimate of how much time you spent in that session.

Next Steps:

Please complete 5 additional pages of animal constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
edited at 5:52 PM, Dec 14th 2023
3:33 AM, Friday December 29th 2023
edited at 9:22 PM, Dec 30th 2023

Hi, Dio,

Thank you for your feedback. I redrew 3 ones, and drew 2 new ones: https://imgur.com/a/FQu9q0S

There are a few indicators that suggest you might (in some areas) be underestimating just how much time these drawings might demand of you.

This was a key assessment. I reflected a lot on it, and it goes beyond drawing. I always feel constrained on time and rush things. For the next set of 5 drawings requested, I took as much time as I needed. I didn't spread the construction between days, but I spread between the same day.

I took 3x longer to complete each one, compared to before. It's not an indicator, but just to say that I tried to be more careful.

There are a few places where your linework is a bit stiff and hesitant. As introduced here with the second principle of markmaking, our lines must flow smoothly. Make sure you are employing the ghosting method, to full effect, for every line you draw.

You will notice my constructions have a lot of "dots" everywhere. I found it easier to first place those, similar to the techniques in Lesson 1, in order to have a better proportion. Then, I applied the ghosting technique to a few of those. I find it hard to apply the ghosting technique to small details (e.g. the bulky part around the knees).

I won't quote all other things, but I read it through a few times. Thank you once again.

P.S.: Loved your cow abduction drawing!

edited at 9:22 PM, Dec 30th 2023
12:38 PM, Sunday December 31st 2023

Hello Eduardo, thank you for replying with your revisions.

"P.S.: Loved your cow abduction drawing!"

Thank you! It is great to see that you took some time away from your studies to participate in the promptathon.

General Approach

I do see the improvement in your observations here, particularly in your wolf construction. It is something you'll have to keep reminding yourself about, until it becomes a habit to observe the reference before each line you draw.

Using a dot to plan where you want a line or form to go (as introduced in the ghosted lines exercise) can be quite helpful, as having something on the page to aim for can make the ghosting process easier. However, you must still prioritise making a smooth, confident stroke first and foremost, which brings me to the next section.

Core Construction

Some of the larger ellipses for the rib cage and pelvis masses are quite deformed and I think this may be due to prioritising hitting the dots you've placed over executing a smooth ellipse. Deforming your ellipses undermines their solidity, so it is important to prioritise smoothness even if it means the ellipse doesn't quite come out as intended. Remember to engage your whole arm, and that you should rotate your page as needed.

In general, I feel you could stand to review my previous feedback more carefully, as I'm seeing the following:

  • You're drawing the rib cage as a sphere, so it tends to be a little too short. We're aiming to have it occupy roughly half the torso length.

  • The elephant has no neck construction, which was something I specifically corrected for you previously on this frog.

  • You've pinched the middle of the torso sausage on the horse. The elephant and springbok are missing the slight sag in the torso sausage discussed in my previous feedback and in this section of the lesson intro page, which makes these constructions stiff.

Leg Construction

Most of your constructions are missing the shoulder and thigh masses.

Previously I gave you points for remembering them, and advised you to make them larger.

I'm happy to see that you've used ellipses to define how the legs connect to the body in 3D. Right now these connections are very small, and very low down on the body. It looks like you're treating these ellipses as holes to plug the leg into. Instead, think of them as large rounded masses that we use as a simplification of some of the bulky muscles in the shoulder and thigh area that allow the animal to walk. So for most quadrupeds they should be larger, and attached to the sides of the body.

I also demonstrated this on your springbok here.

The blue ellipses represent the large shoulder and thigh masses discussed earlier. The shoulder and thigh masses provide very helpful structures for anchoring additional masses to the construction. You can see this in action with the two additional masses on top of the back.

I would like you to construct shoulder and thigh masses, using ellipses as shown in my draw-over. You can find an additional explanation of this in the wolf demo in case you missed it. If something about this is confusing to you, let me know and I will find another way to explain it.

Your leg forms are getting closer to simple sausages, good work. There are cases where they are a little stiff, particularly where you allow them to continually swell through their midsection like an ellipse. Focus on keeping their width consistent along their length, and study your reference for opportunities to include a subtle curvature to your limb segments, even if it is not obvious.

The majority of your feet seem to be drawn using partial shapes. Remember we want to draw complete new forms with their own fully enclosed silhouettes wherever we build on our constructions.

Here are visual examples of the above points applied to your horse.

Additional Masses

I can see you've taken strides towards building your constructions in 3D by drawing complete forms to build on your constructions rather than working with individual lines (aside from the previously mentioned feet, and the neck of the elephant and wolf) so things are definitely heading in the right direction here.

When it comes to how we design these additional masses, I have a couple of points to bring up that should help you to reinforce the 3D illusion more effectively.

  • There's a general tendency for some of your additional masses to have a very minimal overlap with the underlying structures, with the silhouette of the additional mass running almost parallel to that of the form it is attached to. This can make the form feel flimsily attached, like it might wobble off if the animal were to move. This is particularly prominent where you have a single mass running over a long distances, try keeping your masses more limited in scope, so each one can achieve a specific purpose. Think about how you might wrap the additional mass around the underlying structures to give it a firmer grip.

  • Think back to this diagram I shared with you previously, how when masses first as they exist on their own, in the void, as a ball of soft meat. Here they have no complexity, being made up only of outward curves with no corners or inward curves to their silhouettes. This means that where your masses are exposed to fresh air they should remain simple. There are some places where you're pushing inward curves into your additional masses where they are exposed to fresh air and there is nothing present in the construction to cause such complexity. This unexplained complexity will make the masses appear flatter. I've pointed to one such example under the neck of the horse and made a diagram to show how if we need to build an inward curve with an additional mass, we can do it by layering multiple masses, allowing each one to stay simpler where it is exposed to fresh air.

  • I'd also redrawn the long mass on top of the back, pulling it down from on top of the spine, around the sides of the body, and pressing it against the top of the thigh.

Head Construction

I'd like you to review the informal head demo and my previous explanation on the key points of this method.

On your elephant you've got the correct pentagonal shape for the eye socket, and on your wolf you've made an effort to wedge the base of the muzzle snugly against the eye sockets, but none of your constructions have both of these elements working together.

I've put together a rebuild of your horse head here.

1- Eye sockets are larger than what you'd used here. Pay attention to the pentagonal shape.

2- Drawing the footprint for the muzzle, the lines curve across the rounded surface of the cranial ball. Notice how it is wedged snugly against a full edge of the eye socket.

3- Next we extrude the muzzle, and start wedging other pieces against the eye sockets, such as the brow ridge/forehead area.

4- We keep building more complete forms to arrive at a construction that represents the animal we're drawing. Here I've added forms for the cheek, chin, eyeball, ears.

You can see the informal head demo being applied to an elephant construction here.

I discourage redoing your constructions several times, as indicated by your comment under the horse construction. Drawing more itself isn't a bad thing on its face, but it's about how it impacts the manner in which we engage with the work. You will always have more opportunities to practice these exercises in your warmups - the quantity we assign is not with the expectation of seeing growth and improvement over the set, but just to judge whether your understanding of what you're meant to be doing with the exercise is correct, or whether it requires clarification. Can't really judge that too well if you're spreading the time, energy, and effort you could have dedicated to a single construction over several attempts. To that end, I suggest you review this video which explains how to get the most out of Drawabox.

Conclusion I'm happy to see that some aspects of your constructions are being more carefully observed, and you're taking more of your actions "in 3D." There are however some fairly substantial points from my previous feedback which have not been applied here- such as shoulder/thigh masses and using the informal head demo method of head construction as requested. If there is something in the feedback provided that is unclear or confusing, you are allowed to ask for clarification. Otherwise, you may want to consider taking further measures to ensure that the feedback is applied. This may mean referring to the feedback more frequently, taking notes in your own words, a combination of the two, or something else entirely.

I will be assigning some further revisions below. I'd like you to continue to stick to only working on one construction on a given day, and making a note of the date(s) and time spent on each one.

Please complete the following:

  • Draw along with the informal head demo following each step exactly as shown, as closely as you can.

  • One stand-alone head construction of your choice, using the method shown in the informal head demo. You can use the rhino, elephant, and horse examples I have shared with you to help.

  • Three additional pages of animal constructions.

Next Steps:

  • Draw along with the informal head demo following each step exactly as shown, as closely as you can.

  • One stand-alone head construction of your choice, using the method shown in the informal head demo. You can use the rhino, elephant, and horse examples I have shared with you to help.

  • Three additional pages of animal constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
9:13 PM, Thursday January 4th 2024

Hi, Dio,

Thank you for pushing me on this one.

Here you can find the revisions: https://imgur.com/a/ygVYaSw. I annotated the images with time spent in imgur.

I would like you to construct shoulder and thigh masses, using ellipses as shown in my draw-over. You can find an additional explanation of this in the wolf demo in case you missed it. If something about this is confusing to you, let me know and I will find another way to explain it.

I tried this approach now. In my second set, I tried to put them as "muscles". In this third set, I think I've improved it and used ellipses to represent the thigh masses. Are they supposed just to be "placeholders"?

The majority of your feet seem to be drawn using partial shapes.

I tried this, but you will notice I still struggle.

Think back to this diagram I shared with you previously, how when masses first as they exist on their own, in the void, as a ball of soft meat.

I tried to make the masses exist on their own and be less flimsily. But, I struggle a lot in this area. Conceptualizing the form wrapping in my head is hard, putting it to ink is harder.

If there is something in the feedback provided that is unclear or confusing, you are allowed to ask for clarification

Your comments are crystal clear. The problem is me. I read the lessons, read your comments, and the amount of information is overwhelming.

I end up focusing in some parts of the technique, rather than the whole thing. Does that make sense? For example, in my first set I tried to focus on the sausages, but almost ignored the head construction and other parts.

Any tips on horn and tail constructions? I feel like they are not good in my constructions. What if I use a similar technique to plants? Create a line for flow, then add small ellipsis and connect everything together.

Draw along with the informal head demo following each step exactly as shown, as closely as you can.

I did this, but I threw it away. I can do it again if it needed uploading.

I'll refrain from self-critique, because I can already see some problems in my constructions (which is good, I'm learning). I'm happier with these constructions, but, please, if you think I need to do more constructions, push me.

Thank you.

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