Lesson 2: Contour Lines, Texture and Construction

12:30 AM, Tuesday November 15th 2022

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I think I ran into quite the struggle in the dissecition exercise, especially with parts where the shadow or the dark parts of the pattern aren't quite as dark as pitch black if that makes sense. It's hard to achieve grey or somewhere in between white and black with the pen, so I was wondering whether this is standard practice, what's the "right" way to do shadows or colors with different shades, or whether this is just for practice?

In addition, I did find the form intersection exercise quite difficult for tricky intersections, like the side of a cone on a cube's corner, but I guess part of the exercise is to get myself acquainted to the difficulty.

Thank you so much for your help!

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7:22 PM, Wednesday November 16th 2022

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 in the arrows section your lines are mostly looking smoothly and confidently drawn. You're doing a good job maintaining a consistent width as your arrows widen while moving closer to the viewer and with more mileage you'll become more consistent. It's good to see that you're trying to implement line weight, just remember that you want to keep your applications subtle and you'll become consistent with mileage. here are some things to look out for when applying it. 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 you're doing a good job keeping your forms simple, plenty of people tend to over-complicate them. At least in this section you're redrawing your organic forms rather than just creating a single smooth mark, this causes them to be messier than they need to be so I'd ask that you not do this in the future. There are moments where your lines could be more confident as well, there's some wobbling in your contour curves. Remember that accuracy will improve with mileage so be sure to try and draw as smoothly and confidently as you can. Remember to draw through all of your ellipses including the small contour ones on the end of your organic forms as well. 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, colour shifts and negative space rather than cast shadows created by forms along the texture itself (colour shifts are tied to patterns not texture, texture requires a change in the form's surface). 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. 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.

  • It's quite common for people to feel like they don't fully grasp the form intersections exercise, if you feel like you may fall into this category try not to stress too much. This exercise is just meant to get students to start thinking about how their forms relate to one another in 3D space, and how to define those relationships on the page. We'll be going over them more in the upcoming lessons. When you're not redrawing your forms are looking pretty solid here, though you are skipping a step in your cylinders and cones, as mentioned here you should be drawing the minor axis.

  • 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. You're keeping your forms simple and easy to work with which is a good strategy to help produce good results. Your shadows are hugging the form creating them rather than being cast on to another surface believably. 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 intersections exercise

If you need more of an explanation in regards to your texture question let me know when you hand in your revisions and I'll give you a more in-depth explanation. Ut's quite large so I don't want to bloat this critique more than necessary with something only directed towards a single section. Texture is also an introduction to the concept and not as important as organic intersections at the moment so I don't want to distract you from that.

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:

  • 1 page of the organic intersections exercise
When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
6:27 AM, Thursday November 17th 2022


Thank you so much for the in-depth critique! Below is my additional submission of one page of the organic intersection exercise.


Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

And regarding the texture question, I was asking more in terms of shadow coloring. In reference pictures, forms cast shadows, but depending on the light source's positioning, some shadows are darker than others. I find it quite difficult to capture grey, or lighter shadows, with the given tool.

Naturally I feel like cross-hatching would be the solution, but obviously since we don't want to use cross-hatching here, I was wondering whether I was missing anything.

2:27 PM, Thursday November 17th 2022

These are definitely headed in the right direction, good work.

I recommend getting a brush pen if you're able to, they make filling large areas (like shadows) a lot easier and can be quite fun once you get the hang of them. It'll probably save you money on fine liners in the long run as well.

I'll include my texture write up at the end of this anyways cause it may help things click regardless but largely the answer to your question is just that in this exercise shades don't matter at all. You're looking for shadows and simplifying them to imply information to the best of your abilities, if a shadow becomes really light it means there's light getting to it, you're dealing with black and white so does including that bit of shadow help your light source become clearer (in which case you should include it) or does it muddy the overall image (in which case it's not important and can be ignored). If you're working with pencil or trying to capture super fine details then sure you can stress about being as accurate as possible but in this case you're just implying forms exist via shadows.

I'll be marking your submission complete and move you on to lesson 3, best of luck and give the explanation below a read.

Wall of text explaining Texture

Rather than being able to give you just one or two pointers about things to work on, texture is often a case of people trying to simplify the steps too much and it's easier for me to just explain the entire process.

First things first, open up this leaf texture picture, I find leaves are a good example and a texture that people are often drawn to and do incorrectly.

The first thing you may notice is that this image isn't in colour and instead in black and white, this is helpful because people often get distracted by shifts in colour and will try to darken an area in their drawing if the colour happens to be darker. We shouldn't rely on converting images to black and white but it is helpful and something you may want to consider when practicing.

Now if I handed a student this image and told them to use it for their texture exercises there are two typical outcomes I would expect.

The first is that they would draw all of the veins (or many of them if they aren't extremely patient), and this would be an example of focusing on outlines.

The second result that I would expect is that instead of drawing the veins themselves they would either fill the veins in completely with black or they would fill in everything but the veins completely with ink, and this would be them focusing on negative space.

This is where students get a bit confused at the start, they feel like they're looking at the image and drawing what they see but it comes out wrong. I should clarify that it's not necessarily incorrect, there is a time and place when obsessing over small details can be helpful but this is largely an exercise about learning how to imply information and thinking in 3D space. Remember that what we're learning here isn't observational drawing, it's constructional and while observation is definitely a part of the construction method there's an extra step that people tend to neglect in the beginning.

With that in mind let's go over the correct way to tackle these problems, bring up the leaf image (it's here if you closed it) and let's break down what we're working with. What people tend to neglect is that we're trying to think about the 3D space of the image we're observing and drawing. If we look at this leaf the veins are really just long organic forms, or cylinders if they're particularly rigid. The fleshy bit of the leaf could be thought of as either a plane or a thin box, and due to gravity's effect it will likely curve a bit (we don't need to think too much about it curving in this case because we're working so close up, but it's good to think of how the environment can have an effect).

To put it simply, a leaf is just organic forms that are intersecting with each other and a plane/box, just like the forms we practiced with in the form intersections exercise. With all of these forms in mind we can place a light source and depending on it's position and intensity we can create cast shadows much like we did in the organic intersections exercise.

An example of this can actually be seen in the picture itself. Let's just focus on the large main vein as well as the branching vein on the left. You'll notice that if you look along the bottom edge of the main vein there's a cast shadow, and on the right of the branching vein there's a shadow. From this information we can assume that the light affecting the leaf the most is somewhere to the upper left of the image and it's creating the cast shadows we want to draw.

This is an example of what drawing cast shadows might look like, it comes up early on in lesson 3 when Uncomfortable shows the process of drawing a leaf. You can see that he's not actually drawing the veins themselves, and instead just implying that they exist by creating cast shadows. Keep in mind that this leaf is fairly evenly lit and the point of the texture exercise is to work with light gradients but regardless it's a good example of what we're trying to achieve. There are times where capturing shadows doesn't immediately give the impression of what you're attempting to draw but it's just a single tool that you can use. You may not think that drawn leaf looks like a leaf, but if it was green, had a stem, and was attached to something that resembled a plant your brain would begin fill in the gaps until it goes "oh that's a leaf".

Implying information helps both the creator as well as the viewer, it saves the creator time from having to obsessively capture every tiny detail and it prevents the image from becoming too visually noisy and overwhelming for the viewer.

Craig Mullins is a painter whose work I appreciate a lot and I feel does an amazing job of implying information through shadow, colour and brush strokes. I highly recommend looking up some of his work if you'd like some examples of just how powerful implied information can be.

Hope this helped.

Next Steps:

Move on to lesson 3.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
3:04 PM, Thursday November 17th 2022

Thank you so much for the detailed wall of text! From what I understand, texture is just a construction of various organic forms, and the idea of drawing cast shadow is to imply the existence of these forms.

After which comes the decision on which shadows should you include, or which shadows will be enough for the implication, and which shadows will make the image muddier more than it helps with the implication.

I'll definitely come back to this message in the future whenever I want to understand texture more thoroughly. Again, thank you so much for your time!

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