Lesson 2: Contour Lines, Texture and Construction

1:41 PM, Tuesday August 31st 2021

Lesson 2:  Contour Lines, Texture and Construction - Album on Imgur

Imgur: https://imgur.com/gallery/0EM8nbi

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Here is my work for lesson 2. It was not easy, but I learned a lot through this lesson.

Thanks in advance for all the critics and remarks.

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5:08 AM, Saturday September 4th 2021

Sorry for the delay, I'll be the TA handling your Lesson 2 critique.

You're making progress towards understanding the concepts introduced in this lesson and hopefully this critique will help you in your future attempts.

  • Starting off with the arrows section you want to be making sure you're drawing confidently to keep your arrows as smooth as possible, accuracy will come with mileage. There are spots where your arrows bulge/narrow suddenly, this is an issue because it gives the impression that your arrows are stretching which hurts their solidity. Remember that as our arrows move closer to the viewer we want them to widen consistently. This is a good exercise to experiment with line weight but when applying it we want to make sure we do subtly to key areas like overlaps to give clarity to our forms. Here are some things to look out for when applying line weight, and here are some reminders on how to apply it subtly. I'd like you to experiment more with foreshortening in your future attempts, by utilizing it in both the arrows themselves as well as the negative space between their curves we can create a stronger illusion of an object moving through 3D space as demonstrated here.

  • Moving into the organic forms with contours exercise your forms are getting a bit too complex. We want to create our forms with both ends being the same size and to avoid any pinching, bloating, or stretching along the form's length as discussed here. When drawing the small ellipse contour on the end of the form you're placing it on the wrong end of the form, it should be on the end facing the viewer. Speaking of contours I'd like you to try and shift the degree of your contours more. The degree of a contour line basically represents the orientation of that cross-section in space, relative to the viewer, and as we slide along the sausage form, the cross section is either going to open up (allowing us to see more of it) or turn away from the viewer (allowing us to see less), as shown here.

  • In the texture exercises you're focusing largely on outlines and negative space rather than cast shadows created by forms along the texture itself. This makes it difficult to create gradients with implied information which we could then use to create focal points in more complex pieces, by doing so we can prevent our viewers from being visually overwhelmed with too much detail. You also show that you're drawing from memory rather than giving yourself enough time to focus on your reference. Most of our time when doing exercises like this will be spent observing our reference and looking away for a quick second to add something to our page. For more on the importance of focusing on cast shadows read here. I'd also like to quickly direct you to this image which shows that when we're working with thin line like textures if we outline and fill the shadow we will create a much more dynamic texture than simply drawing lines.

  • In the form intersections section you aren't drawing your intersections as instructed and are instead just highlighting the section of one form coming in contact with another. Your forms here appear a bit hastily done (some of your pages look quite bare or you don't draw through all of your forms), it looks like you needed more time planning them before drawing them. Remember that whether our goal is to draw 1 form or 100, we want to be giving each line the same amount of time planning/ghosting before drawing it.

  • While wrapping up your submission with the organic intersections exercise you show that you need a bit more time becoming comfortable with thinking of how these forms interact in 3D space and how they'd wrap around one another. I recommend trying to stack your forms perpendicularly rather than trying to keep them headed in the same direction to help make wrapping them around one another a smoother task. Addressing issues brought up in the previous organic form section will help you here as well. When drawing your shadows you don't push them far enough to cast, instead they mostly hug the form creating them, try pushing them further. It appears like your shadows aren't following a consistent light source, I recommend pushing your light source to the top left or right corner of the page to start with, it's easier than working with a light directly above your form pile.

I won't be moving you on to the next lesson just yet, each lesson builds upon each other and I'd like to make sure you understand a few of these concepts a bit more before potentially creating more problems down the road.

With that being said I'd like you to please re-read and complete:

  • 1 page of the organic forms with contour curves exercise

  • 1 row of the texture analysis exercise

  • 1 page of the dissections exercise

  • 2 pages of the form intersections exercise

  • 1 page of the organic intersections exercise

It appears you tackled this lesson a bit too hastily and may have missed some instructions because of it.

I recommend taking a look at ScyllaStew's videos she recorded herself completing some of the course and it may help give you some perspective on what to look for and just how long some of the exercises can take.

Take your time and put in your best effort, I know you're capable of better than this.

Once you've completed the pages mentioned above reply to this critique with a link to them, I'll go over them and address anything that needs to be worked on and once you've shown you're ready for the next lesson I'll move you on.

I look forward to seeing your work.

Next Steps:

Please re-read and complete:

  • 1 page of the organic forms with contour curves exercise

  • 1 row of the texture analysis exercise

  • 1 page of the dissections exercise

  • 2 pages of the form intersections exercise

  • 1 page of the organic intersections exercise

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
1:20 PM, Saturday September 4th 2021

Thanks for all the remarks and critics. I still struggle a lot with cast shadows and choosing when forms intersect. Would you mind of I send one exercice at a time?

I got many thing to remake and it would really help me not to have to redraw everything which is correct on top of the exercice I'm currently focusing on. Indeed if my remake (let's say of the texture analysis) is still not good, I don't mind doing it several times.

Anyway thanks again. I'll take the exercice in order and focus on the contour with curves.

4:03 PM, Saturday September 4th 2021

Unfortunately students are not allowed to send one exercise at a time, as thus would drastically increase the amount of time spent on the TA's end, doing a bunch of smaller critiques of individual exercises rather than one larger response to a bunch.

I understand that this instead may result in you having to invest more time, but that is essentially how the feedback is able to be offered as cheaply as it is - by having the student invest the time rather than the one critiquing wherever possible.

3:39 AM, Sunday September 5th 2021
edited at 3:57 AM, Sep 5th 2021


I understand. Hopefully there's a chance that when exercices are re-done correctly, the TA may modify the list and only ask for doing a third time only the exercices in which there are still problems.

Thanks for the information.

Hve a nice day!

edited at 3:57 AM, Sep 5th 2021
9:51 AM, Friday October 1st 2021


I've finally finished re-drawing all the pages. I did my best to take all your remarks into account but the texture analysis exercice is still difficult for me. I'll definitely will need to take the 25 texture challenge later on if I want to nail it....


Anyways thanks in advance for all your remarks and critics.

6:30 PM, Friday October 1st 2021

Alrighty, so Tofu's passed this one onto me. While there is definitely considerable improvement between now and your first submission for Lesson 1, there are still a number of issues present in the work you've submitted that show that you're not fully grasping the instructions, or how the marks you're putting down on the flat page relate to what you're actually creating in three dimensions. While Tofu is quite adept at handling the majority of these Lesson 2 submissions, there are inevitably some circumstances where I need to have a more direct hand in talking a student through their work. We'll go through each of these exercises one by one.

Organic Forms with Contour Curves

With this one, there are three main issues I'm noticing:

  • You're straying quite far from the characteristics of simple sausages. Along the right side of this page you're doing a decent job, although some of the ends get a little more stretched out rather than remaining entirely circular. The left side however has one end of each of these three sausages dramatically larger than the other. What we're looking for are sausage forms that feature two circular ends of equal size, connected by a tube that maintains a consistent width. This is not inherently easy to achieve, so we're not expecting you to nail that perfectly just yet, but there's a noticeable difference between when a student aims to draw sausages with those characteristics, and when they're not really intending to adhere to them at all. I'd say that on this page, the left side shows a lack of intent/awareness of this goal, while the right side shows a more conscious effort to adhere to those characteristics. While we are not in complete control of how successfully we draw what we intend to, we can control what it is we're striving to achieve in the first place. That is entirely a matter of being conscious of what we're doing, and making clear choices.

  • The only difference between a contour curve and a contour ellipse in this context is whether or not we can see through the form in question, to where the contour curve continues along the opposite side. So, for this reason, you are definitely correct that even when doing contour curves, we will end up with full ellipses when the end of a given sausage points towards the viewer. Unfortunately the issue here is that you have pretty consistently placed your contour ellipses on the ends that face away from the viewer (based on what the other contour curves are conveying to the viewer). Whether an end is going to have a full ellipse or not is entirely based on how it's oriented in space. Here you can see three different possible configurations - one where both ends turn to face the viewer (so we see an ellipse on either tip of the same sausage), one where neither end faces the viewer (so there are no full contour ellipses on either end), and lastly a sausage where one end faces the viewer and the other does not (so there's an ellipse on only one end). As you look through these, pay attention to the contour curves themselves, and how they also show the viewer how the form is oriented in space. The issue present in your work here is that the contour curves and contour ellipses contradict each other, rather than reinforcing one another.

  • Lastly, as you draw your contour curves, you are maintaining roughly the same degree for each curve along the full length of a given sausage. As explained here in the Lesson 1 ellipses video, those cross-sections are going to get wider as we slide away from the viewer along a cylindrical structure. That video demonstrates how this occurs using some props, so be sure to give it a watch - it was updated in the spring, so it's likely you didn't catch the newer version of the video that goes over this concept more clearly.


While there are a few things here that I will address and attempt to clarify for you, I'm not worried about your work throughout the texture section, so you will not be assigned any additional revisions for these two exercises. Texture is a very tricky concept to grasp, and this section is just meant to be an introduction, planting a seed that will continue to be developed as we move forwards, so it is very normal for students to struggle with this area.

The thing about texture is that it is composed of a bunch of smaller forms that sit along the surface of a larger object. In this sense, it's actually not that different from what we're doing through the other exercises - we're conveying 3D information, and the relationships between forms. It just so happens that these forms are very small and often densely packed, and attempting to capture them as we would something larger and more sparse (where we'd use explicit markmaking like outlining the forms) would just result in something way too cluttered and visually noisy.

So instead, we employ implicit markmaking techniques, focusing on capturing the shadows those textural forms cast on their surroundings - never actually drawing the forms themselves, but rather drawing the effect they have on the things around them. Based on your work, this is something you're starting to grasp, to a point - but there's one key thing I feel I can clarify to help you continue to improve in this regard.

What we're doing here is not as simple as drawing the cast shadows we see in our references. We are not looking for shadows in the reference image, so we can copy them over. Instead, we're looking to understand the nature of the 3D forms that are present there, to understand how different forms relate to one another in space - like how one fish scale has a bit of thickness to it, and how it rests upon others. By looking at our reference, we can use the visual information there - which includes but is not limited to cast shadows - and we can work to understand how the different forms work together to create this impression of bumpiness, of roughness, or of whatever other textural quality is present there.

Using that information of the spatial relationships between these small textural forms, we can create our own cast shadow shapes. In many cases they may well match up with the cast shadows that are present in our references, but we're creating them based on what we've understood - not just what we see.

One thing that I find helps a great deal is to purposely make any textural marks using a two step process - first outlining and designing your intended shadow shape with your pen, then filling it in. This can force us to think more about how the cast shadow relates to the form casting it, rather than simply trying to copy the shadows we see without thinking about what is producing them.

Additionally, one thing I want you to go back and review is this diagram from the texture analysis page, specifically the section at the very bottom. As we move into the right side of the gradient, where the linework gets more sparse and the cast shadows get blasted away, note how the shadows that remain are those that actually occur within the cracks between forms. In your fish scale texture, you're currently focusing on the more exposed areas, where the shadows would actually disappear sooner. Remember that implicit markmaking isn't about drawing the form itself - it's about capturing the relationships between forms, and so you kind of have to think a little backwards about what it is you're actually representing with your marks.

Now, I will admit that the texture section of this lesson is due for an update, and it will receive one as I work through overhauling the lesson material. I started overhauling the lesson 1 stuff back in the spring, but unfortunately my apartment flooded and I was forced to put my equipment in storage until it was resolved, effectively pausing the efforts to update the lesson material. Drawabox itself is continually being improved and clarified, but this unfortunately results in some discrepancies between sections that have been updated more recently, and those that haven't - for example, the texture analysis material was updated far more recently than the dissections. That's why there is something of a contradiction between the demos for those two exercises.

Fortunately now that all my personal tragedies are sorted, I'm able to get back onto overhauling the video demos and lesson material - but for now, when it comes to texture, the concepts and explanations I've shared in the texture analysis material should be applied to the dissections as well. And similarly, anything I explain in a critique trumps what may have been shown in older lesson material (and eventually the material from the critique will make its way into the lesson). Obviously it's not ideal, but it's more or less how Drawabox has developed over the years, allowing me to continually improve and refine how I explain concepts, while still having something of value to offer to students to help them move forwards.

Form Intersections

Moving onto the form intersections, there are a few important issues I'm noticing here:

  • Firstly, you don't appear to be drawing through any of your ellipses. Remember that as discussed back in Lesson 1, every ellipse you freehand throughout this course must be drawn through two full times around the elliptical shape before lifting your pen. This will help you execute them more confidently, while maintaining an even shape to them and avoiding rigidity/stiffness. Also, be sure to employ the ghosting method for each of these, and execute them from the shoulder using your whole arm (in case you aren't doing so as consistently for the ellipses as you are for your other marks).

  • Secondly, remember that as explained here you need to be sticking to forms that are roughly the same size in all three dimensions. Looks like you've got a number of longer cylinders.

  • Thirdly, when it comes to the intersections themselves, it seems that what you're doing here is entirely different from what is assigned or shown in the demonstration. From what I can see, you're filling in the overlap between the forms in 2D space with hatching (which is admittedly rather sloppy and rushed - every single mark you draw within this course should be done with care). Additionally, you appear to be going back over the area of each form's linework in the area of that overlap with additional line weight. While this isn't all that common, it is something I've seen from students here and there and it usually occurs when a student is confused by what they're supposed to be doing, so instead of making an attempt at that, they opt to do something entirely different. Now, keep in mind that I don't need you to actually do this part of the exercise correctly - just to make the attempt. It may help to think of the intersection line as being just another contour line - that is, a line that runs along the surface of a form. The only difference is that this contour line is special, in that it runs along the surface of two forms simultaneously, and actually defines the way in which those two forms relate to one another in 3D space. Another way to think about it is as though the two forms are made of metal, and that they've been merged together - the intersection contour line is the "weld" line that would fuse the two forms together. It does not follow any of the existing lines along either of your forms' silhouettes - it's its own separate line that is drawn within that overlap.

Organic Intersections

A lot of the issues that come up here have been addressed already - ensuring that your contour curves and contour ellipses avoid contradicting one another, drawing through your ellipses, having contour lines' degrees shift along the length of a given sausage, and sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages.

Aside from that, all I want to push you towards is trying not to make this exercise too complicated, and thinking through it one step at a time. Right now what I'm seeing is that you're getting kind of overwhelmed, and it's causing you to panic and draw without thinking everything through. Instead, you can think of this exercise as just being a matter of building up a nice little pile of sausages, or filled water balloons.

To start, you've got an empty surface - the ground. You can even draw an actual flat plane on the page if you want, but it's not necessary. Just remember that these aren't floating in a void, but rather resting upon an actual surface.

Next, you drop your first sausage on that surface. Keep it simple - no needless pinching or widening, and keep those ends equal in size and as circular as you can manage. Once that sausage form is complete, you drop another onto the pile - imagine that you are actually physically dropping it and watching it settle onto the top of the pile. Do not try to add sausages underneath the pile - this would alter the way in which all the others are sitting, because they'd have to respond to this sudden new structure beneath them, but given that they're drawn in ink, no such adjustments can be reasonably made. Always add to the top.

As you draw the silhouette of this next sausage, think about how it's actually resting on the pile - how is it going to slump and sag according to gravity? No need to overcomplicate it with wavy lines, and remember that we're dealing with something like a solid sausage or a filled water balloon, where it can bend but it won't behave like putty. Always think about how gravity is pressing down on the form.

Then add another, and another, and another. For each one, draw it in its entirety - don't cut them off where they get overlapped by another form. Furthermore, don't add line weight or cast shadows until the very end, and remember that once you start adding cast shadows, all your shadows need to be consistent with one another, suggesting that they're being cast from the same light source. And of course, once you have one form casting a shadow, all forms must cast shadows, based on their relationship with that singular light source.

There's a lot to take in here, and it's not surprising that one can get overwhelmed - so I'll try to summarize it in point form here:

  • Start with a flat, empty ground plane.

  • Place sausages one by one - drawing each one in its entirety - and only ever working from the bottom up, not sneaking one underneath later on. Treat it like a physical, three dimensional pile.

  • Think about how gravity will cause the form as a whole to bend - but don't treat the sausages like putty. They will retain their shape.

  • Once you get to adding cast shadows (when all the forms are down), be consistent. Maintain a singular light source, and make sure you're thinking about how each form will cast a shadow from that light source.

For what it's worth, I can see that you're drawing a little sun in the upper right corner of your page, which suggests that you want your light to be coming from there. You do however have plenty of forms that appear to be casting shadows towards the right, which would be inconsistent with that light source.

Unfortunately, I will need to assign some further revisions. Please submit:

  • 1 page of organic forms with contour curves

  • 1 page of form intersections

  • 1 page of organic intersections

The feedback I've given you here is extremely dense - so expect to have to go through it several times, and make sure that you go over the feedback for a given exercise again immediately before attempting it (along with reviewing the original instructions/demos as well). You are definitely capable of completing these well, but I think the bigger issue is that you have a tendency to forget certain concepts and principles. That simply means you'll need to work harder to keep those instructions fresh in your mind as you work, avoiding having longer spans of time between reading feedback/instructions and applying them.

12:04 PM, Saturday October 2nd 2021

Thanks for the very detailed critics.

I will start by redoing the organic forms and contour forms with curves. I get the fact that I should try to pack them from the bottom (like in Tetris) but I still have problems with the shadows. You said that some shadows under my sausage form were cast as if the light were coming from the left whereas I put a little sun on the right to not forget the lightsource. Could you please have a look at my organics sheets and put them in red? I think I found them, but a would like someone to confirm it.

I put the light source on the right side, so my shadows should be on the left side is that right? In the example homework sheet, does the light come from the left side?

Anyways, thanks again for all the remarks and all the dedication on creating and updating the website along with the lessons.

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