Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

12:58 PM, Saturday December 11th 2021

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The way I draw the shadows I couldn't feel right until the end.

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9:42 PM, Monday December 13th 2021

Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, I can see that you do appear to be making some effort to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages (as explained here in the instructions, although there is still room for growth in this area. Keep an eye on the ends of your sausages, and watch out for cases where you stretch them out instead of maintaining a nice, circular shape. Additionally, there are two other things to watch out for as well:

  • Make sure that you draw through all of your ellipses 2 full times before lifting your pen, as is required for all the ellipses we freehand in this course. You're doing a good job of that in your contour ellipses, but for the contour curves page, you're only drawing through the ellipses at the tips of the sausages once. You need to go around 2 full times.

  • Right now you're drawing all of your contour lines with the same degree/width, but as discussed back in Lesson 1's ellipses video, they should be getting wider as we slide along the length of the sausages, moving away from the viewer.

Continuing onto your insect constructions, there are a number of areas in which you're moving in the right direction, but there are also a number of issues I want to call out to help you modify the way in which you approach these exercises.

Firstly, I'm noticing a fair bit of looseness in certain areas of your linework. You don't appear to be holding to the use of the ghosting method for every mark you draw, but rather drawing multiple marks where only one should exist. Here's an example - notice how you're drawing multiple strokes, where there really should just be a single mark? This shows that you're not taking the time to plan and prepare before every stroke, but rather that you're putting marks down, not feeling satisfied with them, and then piling more marks down once again. This is not the approach to markmaking that was taught in Lesson 1, and does not adhere to the specific markmaking principles laid out there.

Secondly, because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose - it just so happens that the majority of those marks will 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.

As shown here, I've marked out in red where you've cut back into the 2D silhouettes of your forms, and in blue where you've extended those silhouettes, or attempted to add to your construction with purely flat shapes. These extensions in blue are similar to just jumping into way too complex of a shape too soon - an issue we also see in how you've drawn your stag beetle's horns (as you tried to capture the main horn structure as well as the complex shapes at their tips.

Instead, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by 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.

You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. This is all part of accepting that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for the viewer to believe in that lie.

In some ways, the first issue I called out (sloppy linework) and this second issue do go hand in hand somewhat. For example, part of the second issue is the fact that you're not treating your earlier masses - the head, the thorax, the abdomen - as though they're really solid. You draw them more faintly, and then try to trace back over them to "commit" to those marks later on, and when you do so, you put down a ton of marks. This approach of drawing faintly, then committing to your marks later is not one you should be employing in this course, as discussed here in Lesson 2. Instead, every mark you draw defines something real and three dimensional in the scene - you're not just putting lines and shapes down on a flat page.

Take a look at the shrimp and the lobster demonstrations from the informal demos page - these, being some of the most recent demos I've produced, do a good job of establishing every new form as something solid and three dimensional. We aren't sketching - we're building things up bit by bit, and every step occurs in 3D space.

Continuing on, the third thing I wanted to call out has to do with how you lay out your pages. There are two things that we must give each of our drawings throughout this course in order to get the most out of them. Those two things are space and time. Right now it appears that you are thinking ahead to how many drawings you'd like to fit on a given page. It certainly is admirable, as you clearly want to get more practice in, but in artificially limiting how much space you give a given drawing, you're limiting your brain's capacity for spatial reasoning, while also making it harder to engage your whole arm while drawing. The best approach to use here is to ensure that the first drawing on a given page is given as much room as it requires. Only when that drawing is done should we assess whether there is enough room for another. If there is, we should certainly add it, and reassess once again. If there isn't, it's perfectly okay to have just one drawing on a given page as long as it is making full use of the space available to it.

The last thing I wanted to discuss for now is that you seem to have employed a lot of different strategies for capturing the legs of your insects. 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. In your case, I suspect you're probably, at least partially trying to apply the sausage method, but you're not really adhering to the specific requirements shown in the sausage method diagram I just linked. You frequently use stretched ellipses instead of sausage shapes, and you don't often define the joint between the segments with a contour line. All of these steps are important.

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.

Now, I do have some revisions I'd like you to complete, in order to push your work further along. You'll find them assigned below.

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

  • A drawing done along with the shrimp( demonstration, following it as closely as you can, step by step.

  • A drawing done along with the lobster( demonstration, following it as closely as you can, step by step.

  • 3 additional pages of insect constructions, applying the approach shown in the lobster/shrimp demos to your own constructions to the best of your ability.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
4:13 PM, Thursday December 16th 2021
edited at 4:20 PM, Dec 16th 2021

It was still difficult, but I think I understood the concept better than the first time.

Please checke it.


edited at 4:20 PM, Dec 16th 2021
7:58 PM, Friday December 17th 2021

This is definitely moving in the right direction, and I can certainly see signs that you're applying, or trying to apply the concepts I've addressed. You will continue moving in that direction with practice, but as it stands, I'm pleased with what I'm seeing.

Just be sure to keep an eye out for cases like what I've highlighted here in red, where you cut back across the silhouettes of your forms. It's still happening, although only in a few small places. One thing that can contribute to this is the tendency to draw those earlier masses more faintly, or in any way differently than the later marks, which you tend to draw darker. Always draw all of your marks with the same confidence, and do not try to change their thickness, instead using a separate pass towards the end to add line weight in key areas to help clarify how different forms overlap one another.

Anyway, keep at it. I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete. You'll have ample opportunity to keep developing on the same fronts into the next lesson.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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