Hello iron_wing, I'll be the teaching assistant handling your lesson 4 critique.

Starting with your organic forms with contour curves there is something to call out, it seems you did one page of contour ellipses, though the assignment was for both pages to be contour curves. Not a huge problem, but it does suggest that you may want to be more attentive when reading through the instructions.

You’re doing a good job of keeping most of your linework smooth and confident, and I’m happy to see that you’re experimenting with varying the degree of your contour curves, as this is something students often overlook.

An important aspect of this exercise is to strive to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here. It is these simple properties of two rounded, equally sized ends connected by a bendy tube of consistent width that makes these forms such useful building blocks for our insect and animal constructions.

Some of your forms are pretty close to what we’re aiming for, but I noticed about a third of your forms are coming out stiff. Sometimes this happens when one of your forms swells throughout its midsection and becomes bloated, and sometimes it comes down to the flow line being completely straight, eliminating the subtle curvature along the form’s length that helps to introduce a sense of gesture to the form.

I didn’t see this as often, but it is worth noting that you’ll want to avoid ends of different sizes when practising this exercise in future.

I notice sometimes you place small contour ellipses on the tips of forms that face away from the viewer. Remember that these ellipses are no different from the contour curves, in that they're all just contour lines running along the surface of the form. It's just that when the tip faces the viewer, we can see all the way around the surface, resulting in a full ellipse rather than just a partial curve. But where the end is pointing away from us, there would be no ellipse at all. Take a look at this breakdown of the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived - note how the contour curves and the ellipses are always consistent, giving the same impression of which ends are facing towards the viewer and which are facing away.

Moving on to your insect constructions, you mentioned feeling shaky with your first constructions. I recommend drawing along with the demos, (if you're not already doing so) and following them as closely as you can, even if you do not submit your demo draw alongs. Drawing with the demos acts a bit like a set of training wheels, helping students gain confidence with the constructional techniques shown in the lesson, so they can then apply these techniques to their own assignment pages.

There’s a fair bit that you’re handling well, such as keeping most of your linework smooth and purposeful, and starting each construction with simple solid forms, building up complexity piece by piece. I can see that you’re starting to think about how the pieces of your constructions exist in 3D space, and I do have some points that should help you get more out of these constructional exercises in the future.

The first of these relates to differentiating between the actions we can take when interacting with a construction, which fall into two groups:

• Actions in 2D space, where we're just putting lines down on a page, without necessarily considering the specific nature of the relationships between the forms they're meant to represent and the forms that already exist in the scene.

• Actions in 3D space, where we're actually thinking about how each form we draw exists in 3D space, and how it relates to the existing 3D structures already present. We draw them in a manner that actually respects the 3D nature of what's already there, and even reinforces it.

Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose, but many of those marks would contradict the illusion you're trying to create and remind the viewer that they're just looking at a series of lines on a flat piece of paper. In order to avoid this and stick only to the marks that reinforce the illusion we're creating, we can force ourselves to adhere to certain rules as we build up our constructions. Rules that respect the solidity of our construction.

For example - once you've put a form down on the page, do not attempt to alter its silhouette. Its silhouette is just a shape on the page which represents the form we're drawing, but its connection to that form is entirely based on its current shape. If you change that shape, you won't alter the form it represents - you'll just break the connection, leaving yourself with a flat shape. We can see this most easily in this example of what happens when we cut back into the silhouette of a form.

For example, I've marked on your rhinoceros beetle in red where it looks like you cut back inside the silhouette of forms you had already drawn. One thing I did notice is that some of the instances of cutting into forms (though not all) came down to the fact that your ellipses would come out a little loose (which is totally normal), and then you'd pick one of the inner edges to serve as the silhouette of the ball form you were constructing. This unfortunately would leave some stray marks outside of its silhouette, which does create some visual issues. Generally it is best to treat the outermost perimeter of the ellipse as the edge of the silhouette, so everything else remains contained within it. This diagram shows which lines to use on a loose ellipse.

On the same image I marked in blue where you'd extended off existing forms using partial, flat shapes, not quite providing enough information for us to understand how they actually connect to the existing structure in 3D space.

Instead, when we want to build on our construction or alter something we add new 3D forms to the existing structure. Forms with their own complete silhouettes - 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.

This is all part of understanding that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for both you and the viewer to believe in that lie.

You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. You can also see some good examples of this in the lobster and shrimp demos on the informal demos page. As Uncomfortable has been pushing this concept more recently, it hasn't been fully integrated into the lesson material yet (it will be when the overhaul reaches Lesson 4). Until then, those submitting for official critiques basically get a preview of what is to come.

The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. It looks like you tried out a few different strategies for constructing legs. It's not uncommon for students to be aware of the sausage method as introduced here, but to decide that the legs they're looking at don't actually seem to look like a chain of sausages, so they use some other strategy.

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 in these examples here, here, and in this ant leg demo and also here on this dog leg demo as this method should be used throughout lesson 5 too.

I think it is likely that you were intending to use the sausage method of leg construction, but didn’t fully understand the specifics of how to apply it. You’ll find some notes on your rhinoceros beetle, explaining how your approach differed from what the sausage method describes. In short, make sure you’re drawing sausage forms (with the same properties as the organic forms exercise) not ellipses, and that you apply one contour curve to each joint, instead of a whole bunch of them on the surface of individual sausage forms.

As a more general note about using contour lines- contour lines themselves fall into two categories. You've got those that sit along the surface of a single form (this is how they were first introduced in the organic forms with contour lines exercise, because it is the easiest way to do so), and you've got those that define the relationship and intersection between multiple forms - like those from the form intersections exercise. By their very nature, the form intersection type only really allows you to draw one such contour line per intersection, but the first type allows you to draw as many as you want. The question comes down to this: "how many do you really need?"

Unfortunately, that first type of contour line suffers from diminishing returns. The first one you add will probably help a great deal in making that given form feel three dimensional. The second however will help much less - but this still may be enough to be useful. The third, the fourth... their effectiveness and contribution will continue to drop off sharply, and you're very quickly going to end up in a situation where adding another will not help. I find it pretty rare that more than two is really necessary. Anything else just becomes excessive.

Be sure to consider this when you go through the planning phase of the contour lines you wish to add. Ask yourself what they're meant to contribute. Furthermore, ask yourself if you can actually use the second (form intersection) type instead - these are by their very nature vastly more effective, because of how they actually define the relationship between forms. This relationship causes each form to reinforce the other, solidifying the illusion that they exist in three dimensions. They'll often make the first type somewhat obsolete in many cases.

There are a couple of spots where there is some use of heavier line weight/cast shadows in ways that suggested you weren't necessarily distinguishing between the two. While they're similar in some ways, line weight and cast shadows have to adhere to different rules. Line weight can cling to the silhouette of a form, but has to remain very subtle and light, rather than getting super heavy and dark. It relies on relative changes in thickness that one's subconscious will notice. It's like whispering, rather than shouting. Cast shadows on the other hand do not cling to the silhouette of a form, and instead are cast onto a different surface. They can be much broader and heavier, but we can't have them floating arbitrarily in space without an actual surface to receive them. We also need to be mindful of where our light source is. For example, if you look at this section, you'll see that you've got the shadow being cast both above and below the leg. This suggests an inconsistent light source. It should be casting below, or above, but not both simultaneously.

So - I've outlined some things to keep in mind, but these are all things that can continue to be addressed into the next lesson. I'll go ahead and mark this one as complete, just be sure to actively tackle these points as you handle your animals. It's not uncommon for students to acknowledge these points here, but forget about them once they move on, resulting in me having to repeat it in the next critique.