Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals

1:24 PM, Tuesday August 3rd 2021

Eric Livernoche - Lesson 5 - Album on Imgur

Imgur: https://imgur.com/a/fSOEUyU

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Thank you in advance for your critique. I really appreciate it!

Here are the references : https://imgur.com/a/GEa9GB2


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4:38 PM, Wednesday August 4th 2021

Starting with your organic intersections, you're doing quite well. You're demonstrating a good grasp of how these forms slump and sag over one another under the weight of gravity, which helps to make the illusion that we're looking at a pile of solid, three dimensional forms more believable. Your cast shadows are also coming along quite well, although you do struggle a little when the given sausage goes behind the form beneath it. Looking at that first page, if we look at the shadows from top to bottom, the 1st and 3rd don't cut off soon enough, but the 2nd is done correctly - so aim to do it that way more consistently in the future.

Continuing onto your animal constructions, while I can see that you have to varying degrees attempted to follow the principles covered in the lesson, but that your approaches do vary from construction to construction somewhat, and so your results are a bit mixed at times.

As a whole you are moving in the right direction, but I think by pointing out a number of issues in some of these constructions, we'll be able to help strengthen your overall understanding.

One point I did notice overall is that you do have a tendency to draw your earlier masses a little more faintly and a little more loosely, as though you're not confident in considering them as part of the "real" construction. This falls in line with a general approach that involves sketching more loosely first, then gradually as you get more confident in where things go, drawing with darker strokes to commit to your linework.

Unfortunately, this approach is not what you're asked to do within this course, and it actually undermines certain core concepts. Approaching those initial masses more timidly interferes with our own understanding and belief of those forms as being solid, three dimensional entities, and encourages us to view them instead as flat shapes and lines on the page. Starting with a foundation that exists in 2D severely limits our capacity to then take it and turn it into something three dimensional. It also causes us to cut back across the silhouettes of those forms - something I raised in my critique of your Lesson 4 work.

If you look at the baby elephant on this page, you'll see that its pelvic mass was drawn as a ball that is actually floating partially outside of its body. Similarly - though a little harder to see - if you look at this oryx's torso, specifically at the torso sausage and the ribcage mass, you'll see that the torso sausage actually cuts across the ribcage. Or at least, that's what appears to be happening - it's unclear, because you then seem to have redrawn that edge along its spine a little higher to correct that mistake, but in doing so you modified the silhouette of the existing form, again, an issue that I raised in my critique of your lesson 4 work.

To reiterate the main point of what I explained there - you must not modify your drawing using individual lines and shapes, because this only reinforces the understanding that we're working on a flat drawing, and not something real and three dimensional. Every alteration must be achieved through the addition of a new, complete, solid, fully closed three dimensional form. You take a lot of liberty throughout your drawings int his regard.

There are definitely places where you do try to work with the introduction of complete additional masses, but even there your approach has a few issues. If we look at this oryx, there are a couple key issues:

  • As shown here, the mass you added to the belly gets cut off, so it is understood more as a flat shape than a complete 3D form.

  • The long mass you've added along the animal's back ends up trying to accomplish way too much, which in turn makes its silhouette very complicated - something else that can easily undermine its solidity. As shown here, it's better to try and keep each form to a more limited task, so breaking it apart into separate forms and building them on top of one another (considering how they overlap and wrap around each other) is more effective.

In terms of shaping those additional forms, it is important to consider how the design of a given mass's silhouette to limit its complexity to only establishing its relationship with the existing structure, and to avoid complexity that doesn't contribute to that. 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.

The design of that form's silhouette really is the only thing you should be focusing on. I noticed that you make a lot of use of extraneous contour lines, often adding them to your overly complicated additional masses to try and make them feel more solid. Unfortunately, they only make forms feel 3D in isolation, but can do nothing to establish how that mass wraps around another existing structure.

You also tend to overuse them on your animals' legs. In the sausage method diagram, I mention that you should not place contour lines along the length of the sausages, instead focusing them on the joints where the sausages intersect. The reason for this is, at least in part, because intersectional contour lines are vastly more effective at establishing the relationships between 3D forms, and reinforcing that illusion, whereas it's very easy to slap a ton of contour lines in the middle of a form to no greater impact, due to their diminishing returns.

It's also worth mentioning that these contour lines you add tend to be pretty half-hearted in many cases. It's important for you to really focus on the first step of the ghosting method - planning - to first think about what it is you wish to achieve with a given mark, what its job is going to be, and how it needs to be drawn to best accomplish that task. Without adequate investment of time in that planning phase, we can just slap marks onto the drawing without really having them contribute much.

Moving onto head construction, I feel you may not have made full use of all the resources that were made available on this front - although in your defense, it is one area where this lesson is a little scattered. Due to the nature of the course, where it is continually being updated and improved as I learn how to explain these conceps and approach them more effectively by doing critiques like this one, the course is evolving, and certain parts are able to move forward more quickly than others. Videos, for instance, are very time consuming to update, and while I did embark on an effort to overhaul all the videos back in the spring (which had to be paused due to my apartment flooding and my equipment being put into storage - it'll start up again in september), it'll take a long time to get through to this lesson. The text and diagrams on the other hand is easier to update, and so I often add demonstrations I've done for students to the "informal demos" section.

One example of this is where at the beginning of the tiger head demo I explain what I more or less laid out above, and point students to a better, more technically effective approach to understanding how heads can be constructed. It links off to this informal demo, which shows how we can achieve a more solid, three dimensional result by focusing on how the different components of the head - the eye sockets, the muzzle, the brow ridge, the cheek - all wedge together to create the impression of a three dimensional puzzle.

Based on how you're approaching your head constructions here, most of them tend to have the eyes floating more arbitrarily, so I feel you may have missed this one. Be sure to give it a read, and try to apply its principles to your constructions.

I've definitely shared quite a few things for you to work on in this critique, so I think the best course of action is to assign some revisions below, so you can put them into action. I strongly recommend taking your time with this - in the interest of doing so, avoid working on more than one animal construction in a given day. Sometimes students can get the impression that they should finish a certain amount of work in whatever time they have available that day, but this is an arbitrary and somewhat harmful standard to set for yourself. Instead, feel free - or even, feel compelled - to spend as much time as you need to execute each mark, each component of a construction, and the whole drawing to the absolute best of your ability, whether that takes one sitting, a whole day, or multiple days. At minimum, forcing yourself to do just one drawing maximum in a given day can help you to slow down a little and invest more time into each form you construct.

Next Steps:

Please submit an additional 4 pages of animal constructions:

  • Be sure to apply the various points I've mentioned here

  • I wouldn't include any detail/texture for these, instead focus entirely on construction and on pushing it as far as you can

  • In terms of process, to help you better understand how to approach each form to ensure they all feel solid and three dimensional, take a look at the shrimp and lobster demos from Lesson 4's informal demo section.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
5:52 PM, Wednesday August 11th 2021

Hello Uncomfortable. Here are my 4 new pages in which I try to apply, with more or less success, the points you mentioned in your previous critique. I included the references in the same album.


I'm not sure if I cut through the wolf torso when I was drawing his under belly. Also, I ran out of space with the duck's tail, so I did it again on another page. You'll see that I find it very difficult to draw nice even sausages for the animal arms and legs! :\

Finally, note that if I failed to follow through on a point you raised in your critique, it's not that I haven't taken notice of it, but really that I didn't succeed at applying it. I'm really working hard every day since last February to become somewhat competent at drawing. On a side note, you were right to say I had taken a lot of liberties with my first submission of lesson 5. I think it's because I was happy that my linework had gotten a bit better and I was experimenting with it.

Anyway, please feel free to ask for more pages of animal drawings, or even that I start this lesson all over again if you judge I must and that it would be beneficial. I really don't mind either if I must spend more credits for the next critique. I'm not 100% sure that I'm headed in the right direction. I'll look at some educational videos on drawing 3D forms in the next few days; maybe that will help.

Again, thank you!


9:29 PM, Thursday August 12th 2021

While I do think this is a step in the right direction, I am concerned that a number of issues I called out in the previous critique are not being addressed in as direct a manner as I would like. I think that while you're certainly making an effort to address the concerns I called out before, you're not following the points as strictly as you should be, and still end up taking a fair number of liberties with them.

The first of these is head construction. In my previous critique I referred you to the process and explanation demonstrated here.

In your full animal constructions, you don't really seem to apply the methodology shared there at all, often ending up with eye sockets that float more loosely in relation to the other facial components, or muzzles that do not have a clearly defined relationship/connection to the cranial ball in the manner demonstrated in that informal demo.

In some of the more specific head studies I feel like I can see an initial attempt, in some cases, to lay down a more intentional eye socket shape with straighter lines, but it often gets replaced with more organic shapes instead. For example, the eye on the left side of the dog's face appears to have lighter linework to start which seems to be straighter lines, but then you've gone back over it for some reason with what appears to be a darker, more elliptical shape.

I get the feeling that in your attempt to work hard at this, you're overshooting the very simple matter of just following the steps and processes that have been shared with you. The approach shown in the informal demo is pretty straightforward - every individual element that is added has its relationship with the existing structure defined (like the edge of the muzzle that curves along the surface of the cranial ball), and every element has its own particular shape configuration. While it is inevitably going to be adjusted a little here and there to fit the needs of a particular reference, you're going way beyond that and you need to rein yourself back.

Moving onto your use of additional masses, you've still got a lot of complexity in the design of each of those forms' silhouettes that does not conform to the points I shared in my critique. Remember that as shown in this diagram, you need to be intentional with where you place complexity (the inward curves and corners), and anywhere there is no contact being made with another form, you have to stick to the more simple outward curves.

While there are some cases where you're somewhat shaping these forms' silhouettes (though not intentionally enough), there are others like the form on the rear portion of the cat's back where you just drew an arbitrary blob. There - and in some other cases - you've still attempted to use half-hearted contour lines to make these forms feel more three dimensional, despite the points I raised about this before.

As a whole, I do not feel you're applying the points I raised directly enough, and so the manner in which you go through my feedback may not be allowing you to keep it in mind actively enough to apply it to your work. The feedback I give here is dense, and often require students to go through it multiple times to be properly and fully absorbed. As we are all prone to forgetting things, going through it before each drawing, and reviewing the diagrams frequently will help you better apply the feedback to your work in a more direct fashion, instead of in a more vague manner.

Once you've had a chance to go through my original critique again in its entirety, I'd like you to try completing the assigned revisions again.

Next Steps:

Please complete the revisions I assigned previously again.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
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