Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
9:21 PM, Thursday April 15th 2021
Need to learn cast shadows on the side.
Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, these are largely looking pretty good, but I do have a few things for you to keep an eye on:
You're mostly doing a good job of sticking to the characteristics of simple sausage forms, but there are some cases where one end gets a little pointier, instead of remaining properly circular. It's a common issue, and should go away as long as you continue to keep that in mind, and continue to practice.
Sometimes you're drawing your contour lines with a degree shift (getting wider as we slide away from the viewer), but sometimes they remain more consistent. Keep an eye on that as well - properly capturing the shift in degree will help the forms feel more natural, and avoid a sense of stiffness. If you forget what the shift in degree is about, you'll find an explanation in this newer ellipses video from lesson 1.
Moving onto your insect constructions, for the most part you're doing a pretty good job, though I do have a few points for you to keep in mind that should help you continue to move in the right direction.
The first thing is that I noticed you were treating these drawings with a greater focus on studying the insects themselves. While that is certainly admirable, and it can definitely be a great exercise of its own, keep in mind that this course is not about learning anything about the specific subject matter we're drawing. It's inevitably going to happen by virtue of us drawing them, but at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter that you're drawing insects, or plants, or animals, or vehicles - the goal of each lesson is for you to develop spatial reasoning skills, to understand how the structures you're drawing exist in 3D space and how the forms relate to one another within it. Each drawing is ultimately just an exercise geared towards that specific purpose.
Naturally when you try to kill two birds with one stone - going through the spatial reasoning exercise and learning about entomology - you will inevitably put some cognitive capacity towards each, rather than dedicating it all towards a single pursuit. So for the purposes of this course, you really don't need to get caught up in labeling all the anatomy, identifying sexual dimorphism, or anything like that. You are absolutely welcome to do that for your own drawings if that is something that interests you, but don't mix it with this course. Here we're only interested in drawing the forms we perceive, and capturing how those forms relate to one another.
Secondly, you didn't do this very much, but it came up a couple times and I figured it wouldn't hurt to point it out. When constructing organic subject matter, try to avoid putting yourself in a position where you put a form down on the page (say, a box), only to construct something inside of it. For the most part, you're doing a good job of working strictly additively, but as explained here, as soon as you start getting into working subtractively, it becomes muuuch easier to do it wrong.
By doing it wrong, I mean basically manipulating the silhouette of the form (the 2D shape that represents it on the page) instead of actually cutting along the surface of the form in 3D space. Conversely, working additively has the bonus effect of actively improving one's grasp of 3D space. It's one of those situations where working additively wherever possible will help us better understand how to approach subtraction when it is unavoidable.
Working additively is basically about introducing new 3D forms to the structure, and by establishing how those forms either connect or relate to what's already present in our 3D scene. We can do this either by defining the intersection between them with contour lines (like in lesson 2's form intersections exercise), or by wrapping the silhouette of the new form around the existing structure as shown here.
Again, you are largely doing a pretty good job of this in most cases.
The third point I wanted to call it is simply that you tend to use a lot of extraneous contour lines - like on your praying mantis' legs. It suggests that you're not necessarily thinking about what they contribute to the construction, instead just piling them on. The thing about contour lines is that they suffer from diminishing returns - one may have a notable impact, but the second will have much less, and the third even less. Instead, it's critical to focus contour lines where they're the most effective.
For example, with the sausage method (which you appear to apply in largely inconsistent degrees, straying from it often instead of following it more strictly as you should), we focus the contour lines right on the joint between segments, and don't place any along their lengths. Using a contour line to define that relationship between forms is infinitely more impactful than adding them along the length of a form, and will often make the latter unnecessary.
When it comes to the sausage method, the key to keep in mind here is that the sausage method is not about capturing the legs precisely as they are - it is about laying in a base structure or armature that captures both the solidity and the gestural flow of a limb in equal measure, where the majority of other techniques lean too far to one side, either looking solid and stiff or gestural but flat. Once in place, we can then build on top of this base structure with more additional forms as shown here, here, in this ant leg, and even here in the context of a dog's leg (because this technique is still to be used throughout the next lesson as well). Just make sure you start out with the sausages, precisely as the steps are laid out in that diagram - don't throw the technique out just because it doesn't immediately look like what you're trying to construct.
That about covers it! I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete. There are a few things for you to keep in mind here, but you can certainly continue working to apply them as you get into the next lesson.
Feel free to move onto lesson 5.
Thank you! Looks like I need to step back and just focus on the basic construction, sausage forms, and working additively.
Do you have any recommended resources for learning cast shadows as you showed in your insect demos?
Cast shadows are the result of the relationship between a light source and a form or object in 3D space. What we're working on throughout this course developed that sort of spatial understanding - so I wouldn't worry about focusing on figuring out your major cast shadows right now. As you progress through the lessons, your understanding of how a light source might relate to the object, and what kind of shadow shape that might project onto the ground will improve. It's not really something I find students need to target specifically.
Of course, there are more specific mechanics and mathematics to it that you can always look at Scott Robertson's "How to Draw" if you really want to learn them, but in my opinion that's somewhat overkill for most purposes.