Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants

4:27 AM, Saturday May 22nd 2021

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5:34 PM, Saturday May 22nd 2021

Starting with your arrows, there's some definite variety here. I think that your underlying linework is generally pretty confident and captures a decent sense of fluidity, but the turns your arrows make tend to be pretty tight and sharp. Try to smooth them out a bit more, focusing on your shoulder's desire to make wider, broader turns. Also, remember that adding line weight should employ the ghosting method - that means executing a single additional stroke, with a confident execution, after you've invested time in planning and preparing for it. Don't press too hard either, because you want the ends of that stroke to taper so they'll blend more seamlessly into your existing linework. Right now your addition of line weight seems a bit clumsy and hamfisted - it looks like you're adding a number of additional strokes that aren't planned out as much as they could be, and as a whole it stiffens the arrows as they move through the world.

Moving onto your leaves, there's a decent start here, but room for improvement. You're doing a decent job when it comes to establishing the initial flow line and the simple leaf silhouette that surrounds it, but to continue pushing the sense that you're establishing how this leaf really pushes through 3D space, one thing that I find to be helpful is adding a little arrow-head at the end of your flow line. This will remind you that you're establishing a path of motion through space, capturing not just a static leaf, but how the wind and air currents push your leaf around.

When you add more complex edge detail, I am pleased to see that you're building that edge detail up through a series of separate additions that rise off the existing edge and return to it. It does not appear that you are zigzagging a single stroke back and forth, or attempting to replace the existing linework. The main area in which there is plenty of room for improvement however is just being sure to work more directly from reference here. From what I can see, you're adding that edge detail based on repeating patterns, rather than capturing what you specifically see in a reference image. Repeating patterns tend to stand out a lot to the viewer, and it helps us identify things that are more "manufactured", distinguishing them from things that look more natural and believable. Always spend most of your time studying your reference.

Lastly, I'm glad that you're trying to employ filled areas of solid black to capture textural detail, but again - I don't really get the impression that you're drawing these cast shadow shapes (especially in the top-right corner leaf) based on the presence of specific textural forms you see in your reference. If you're not studying your reference closely enough to understand the textural forms that are present, then you won't be able to believably capture them in your drawing. Don't think of it as though you see the shadow shapes, and then you draw them. Instead, find the shadow shapes in your reference, and follow them to find the forms that cast them. From there, understanding the nature of those forms, figure out what kinds of shadows they'd cast in your drawing.

Continuing onto your branches, these are somewhat sloppy. There's a lot of erratic linework that doesn't seem to necessarily accomplish a specific task - a lot of repeated strokes that show an absence of the use of the ghosting method. Remember that the ghosting method - which is the backbone of how we execute our marks throughout this entire course - is all about thinking about what you're going to draw, before you actually draw it. Assessing what your mark is meant to achieve, and how you can do that best, rather than relying on instinctual behaviours to just "wing it" and hope it falls in place.

I'm also seeing a degree of inconsistency in terms of how you're applying the instructions. As explained here, each segment should be drawn from one ellipse, past the second, and halfway to the third, with the next segment starting at the previous ellipse, overlapping the last chunk of the previous segment, and then continuing to follow the same pattern. You do that sometimes here, but there are plenty of situations where you only allow for a very minimal overlap. That overlap is important - it allows for the segments to flow more smoothly and seamlessly from one to the next, especially when we overlap the previous segment directly (instead of drawing the next segment where the previous one ought to have been).

From what I can see here, you just let the instructions get away from you, and relied too much on what you felt you remembered, and your instincts. Drawabox itself trains your instincts - but it does so by forcing you to think consciously about everything you do here and now. The habits you develop in doing so are what will become your instincts later on.

Continuing onto your plant constructions, a lot of the same patterns tend to hold true. You're doing a pretty good job of capturing the sense of fluidity of many of your leaves and flower petals, but there are also plenty of cases where you're just not taking the time to think through each individual stroke, resulting in a significant amount of sloppiness and extraneous marks that serve no real purpose.

There are also cases like this hibiscus drawing where you basically zigzagged your edge detail back and forth over the simpler edge, a mistake you didn't make when going through the leaves exercise. You can read more about why this is a mistake here, but the jist of it is that constructional drawing is not about replacing one phase of construction with another. It is about building on top of it, using what already exists as a scaffolding and support for what comes next. If part of an earlier phase of construction continues to hold up its structure just fine, as it is meant to exist when the construction is complete, then it doesn't need to be redrawn or replaced at any point.

Stepping back into the sloppiness in your linework, you've got a lot of really random contour lines added to the fruits/vegetables in this drawing. They're not actually contributing to the construction, they're just very random marks that have been drawn quickly and sloppily. This is the kind of approach you need to avoid. We are not sketching things loosely. We are constructing them, one solid piece at a time.

I'm going to assign some revisions below for you to apply what I've explained above. I don't think you're that far off from completing this lesson quite well - you just need to be willing to hold yourself back, and think through each and every mark you draw, even though it may not feel natural to do so.

As a side note - if a particular plant features a lot of repeating elements or structures (like this one did), you don't have to draw everything featured in your reference image. It is often better to just focus in on two or three of those flowers, and to draw them bigger on the page, giving your brain more room to think through spatial problems, and giving you more room to engage your whole arm while drawing.

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

  • 1 page, half of leaves, half of branches

  • 3 pages of plant constructions

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
4:39 AM, Sunday May 30th 2021

Hello, here are my revisions. https://imgur.com/a/ibUEEgh

4:07 PM, Sunday May 30th 2021

This is definitely an improvement. There are just a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to invest more time into just studying your references - it can be tempting to want to complete your drawings quickly, but it is really important that you invest as much time as is required to execute each individual part of your drawing to the best of your current ability. That includes both the execution of each individual mark (which you appear to be doing well), but also in studying your references to identify the specific nature of the marks you need to be making, and the forms you need to be capturing. Looking at how you've added some of the jagged edge detail to these leaves, it's definitely oversimplfiied in a way that suggests you didn't take quite as much time as you could have to study your reference, and more importantly to look at your reference frequently. It's easy to slip back into working from memory, which results in results that are oversimplified.

  • In these petals, you left some arbitrary gaps between the ends of your flow lines and the ends of the petals themselves. Keep the relationship between each phase of construction tight and specific - the flow line determines how the leaf/petal moves through space and how long it's going to be - you don't decide that when moving onto the next stage, you merely build upon the answers that have already been given.

I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete, so be sure to push yourself farther in terms of how much time you're willing to invest in a given drawing in the next one. Remember that you are not required to complete a drawing in one sitting, or even in one day. If necessary, you can spread it across as many sessions as you need.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 4.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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Sakura Pigma Microns

Sakura Pigma Microns

A lot of my students use these. The last time I used them was when I was in high school, and at the time I felt that they dried out pretty quickly, though I may have simply been mishandling them. As with all pens, make sure you're capping them when they're not in use, and try not to apply too much pressure. You really only need to be touching the page, not mashing your pen into it.

In terms of line weight, the sizes are pretty weird. 08 corresponds to 0.5mm, which is what I recommend for the drawabox lessons, whereas 05 corresponds to 0.45mm, which is pretty close and can also be used.

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