Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
8:12 PM, Wednesday June 2nd 2021
Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, these are coming along quite well. You're clearly striving to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages here, but there are some occasions where you drift away from them ever so slightly - like where you end up with ends that are a little more stretched out, perhaps slightly different in size, etc. You're very close, so it's just something to keep in mind - always aim for your ends to be circular in shape, and avoid any widening through the midsection.
Moving onto your insect constructions, overall you are certainly moving in the right direction, but there are a handful of things I'd like to point out to keep you on the right track:
This one is a really minor point, but make sure that any filled black shapes you add to your drawings are used to represent cast shadows and nothing else. I noticed a few places where you were filling in the eyes of your insects with black, basically trying to capture the "local colour" information - even though there's no other local colour we can reasonably capture in our drawings (due to the tools we're using). Black objects are not special here - so leave them be, and treat the whole object like it's covered in the same white colour. This also applies to form shading (which back in lesson 2, we mentioned would not be included in our drawings throughout this course). So the form shading on this caterpillar should have been left out, focsing instead on how the various segmentation cast shadows on their neighbouring surfaces.
You're definitely using a lot of contour lines in your drawings. In the next point I'll discuss whether or not that is the best choice, but what I wanted to draw your attention to first is the fact that you appear to be drawing those contour lines with roughly the same degree as you move along the length of a given form. This is actually something you were doing in your organic forms with contour curves as well. Don't forget that as you slide along the length of a form, the contour lines should be getting narrower or wider. The best explanation as to why this is can be found in the lesson 1 ellipses video - though it is a point that is raised in a few points throughout the course so far.
So - you are in a number of cases somewhat overusing contour lines. Normally when I see students to pile contour lines onto their drawings, it suggests to me that the student isn't necessarily considering whether those contour lines are useful - they just pile them on because that's what they think they're "supposed" to do. It is, however, important to ensure that you understand what you stand to gain through the use of any tool. The planning phase of the ghosting method (which you should using for every single mark) is all about this - assessing the mark you mean to add, what it's meant to contribute to a drawing, how to draw it so it can achieve that goal best, and whether it really is the best mark for the job. Contour lines - specifically those that sit on the surface of a single form - suffer from diminishing returns. One can be quite useful, but the second is inevitably going to have less of an impact, and the third even less. Before long, you can be piling on more lines without getting anything out of it. It is also worth considering that in the form intersections exercise from lesson 2, you were introduced to a different kind of contour line - one that defines the relationship between two separate forms. These contour lines are vastly more impactful, because of how they create this looping relationship where one form will make the other feel 3D, and in turn that one will make the first feel 3D, and back and forth. If we look at an example like the top left insect on this page, here you piled contour lines onto the thorax and the abdomen - but you could have gotten away with just defining the intersection between those two forms, and that would have been enough.
When constructing your insects' heads, I've found that it's particularly useful to actually start with something more of a sphere, instead of jumping right into a larger, stretched form. From there, you build more forms onto the sphere as shown in this ant head demo. When building upon the existing structure, be sure to do so through the introduction of new, complete 3D forms. Avoid using partial shapes/lines as you did here when adding to the back of this ant's head. This kind of extension of the silhouette of an existing structure reminds the viewer that they're just looking at a drawing - because you're choosing to interact with it as though it were just a drawing. One of the best ways to ensure that a viewer will interpret the drawing as 3D is to force yourself to engage with the construction in 3 dimensions as well, rather than taking shortcuts that drawings would allow.
Relating to the previous point, when you want to build on top of your sausage structures when constructing legs, the same rules apply. Technically the way in which you wrapped a whole 3D form around the sausage structures in the beetle on the top left of this page isn't wrong - but it also isn't ideal. Because of how those additions make minimal actual contact with the underlying sausage structure, it ends up forging very weak relationships with it, and therefore doesn't benefit that much from the otherwise solid existing structure. Instead, try adding smaller forms to it and wrapping them around the length of the sausage, making a lot more contact with it (and therefore forging a stronger relationship), as shown here. You can see this same principle at work in these notes, as well as in this ant leg demo which shows just how crazy those constructions can get, if you pay close attention to the complexity of the structures in your reference images. This approach will also be very useful throughout lesson 5, as shown in this dog leg demo. The key to remember is that the sausage method just sets out a starting structure or armature - there's always much more to be done in how we build on top of it.
I've shared quite a few points here for you to keep in mind, but all in all I do think your work is coming along nicely. I'll mark this lesson as complete, and leave you to apply what I've stated here in the next one.
Move onto lesson 5.