Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

6:34 PM, Sunday August 2nd 2020

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If I have learnt one thing from this ten insects drawings is that I really need to start studying the subjects a little more, before jumping into the construction :l

Did one page of contour ellipses by mistake, and honestly, it looked so bad that I thought I maybe should add it there :')

Shadows, are, hard.

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11:18 PM, Monday August 3rd 2020

Honestly I don't feel like your organic forms with contour ellipses were particularly badly done. The sausage forms adhere to most of the characteristics of simple sausages (aside from a bit of pinching here and there, and the contour ellipses wrap properly around the forms and many of them even show a shifting of your ellipses' degrees. Same goes for your contour curves, although here I think there's a tendency to let them slant a little, instead of being aligned entirely correctly to the central minor axis lines, so watch out for that.

Moving onto your insect constructions, the first thing that jumps out at me is the fact that you're drawing most of these very small, and that's a problem. It's a problem because drawing smaller limits our brain's capacity to think through spatial problems, and also makes it harder to engage our whole arm when drawing, which makes our linework more stiff and hesitant. Always make sure you take full advantage of the space available to you on the page. Don't worry about whether you're going to fit one or two or three drawings in a page - focus just on the one you're on, and if there's more room left over to draw another, then do that. Otherwise, leaving just one drawing on a page is totally fine.

This is definitely the biggest thing that's holding you back. There are a few other issues I'll touch upon, but I think just making a point of drawing bigger will give you so much more room to think, that you'll be surprised by its impact.

Another concern, though not quite as significant, comes down to how you use contour lines. I'm not entirely sure why, but you tend to draw loads of contour lines on your insects' eyes, and I'm not really sure why. What I do know however is that creating a wireframe/grid over your eyes is not a good idea, as it doesn't really serve any actual purpose. This isn't something you see in any of my demonstrations - as you can see in this step of the louse demo, all I do is lay down basic ball forms, just as simple circles. Nothing more than that. I don't even colour them in, instead I treat the entire construction as though it's the same flat grey colour. As a rule, only use filled shapes for cast shadows, never for capturing darker objects in your drawings.

A third issue is one that is actually fairly common, and this is a good opportunity to help address it. If we look at your little abdomen study in the far right of this page (or even at the abdomen of the wasp itself), you've drawn a ball form as a starting point for the abdomen. Then you ultimately decide that this form isn't shaped correctly, so you draw another on top of it. This is a mistake.

Constructional drawing is all about the idea that every single mark you put down on the page is itself a solid, three dimensional form. When you drew the initial mass for the abdomen, you added a real, solid, 3D form to the world. When you decided that it wasn't correct, you then drew on top of it, cutting across it as though it didn't exist there. In doing so, you introduced a contradiction into your drawing - the viewer can see the mark there of the original form, and it can see another there as well, occupying the same space. In drawing on top of it, you treated the original form like a flat shape, cutting across its 2D silhouette, instead of respecting the fact that it is 3D. And in doing so, you undermined the illusion that the object as a while is 3D.

In circumstances like this, unfortunately if we are adhering to the rules of constructional drawing, we are no longer allowed to make such sweeping changes, and to act like certain forms are not there. Instead, we need to either build on top of the form we started with, extending it out and reshaping it that way, through the addition of more forms that wrap around the original one, defining clear relationships between them and it, or we can simply accept that the form we drew is the one we have to work with, and add the segmentation to it. Often this means deviating from your reference image, and that's fine. Our goal is not, first and foremost, to replicate the reference image at all costs. It is to create something solid and believable, something that feels real, even if it's not quite the same.

Now, there is such a thing as subtractive construction, but as explained here it is not the same as cutting across the flat silhouette of a form. Instead, it involves cutting along the surface of the 3D form, and splitting it into two distinct, solid forms. This isn't something we generally employ for organic construction, so in this case your main bet is going to be:

  • Being more mindful of your reference when drawing the form in the first place

  • Building on top of the form, additively, once it is in place.

A similar issue can be seen with this grasshopper's head, where you can see the original ball form sticking right out of it.

Now there are a lot of insect constructions of yours that I feel hold a lot of promise - your praying mantis, and most of the drawings that come after that point are clearly coming along well. I do however want to see you drawing larger, and taking full advantage of the page to show me the best you're currently capable of, without those unnecessary shackles holding you back. As such, I'm going to assign some revisions below.

Next Steps:

Draw three more pages of insect drawings.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
11:02 AM, Friday August 7th 2020

Lost the reference of the scorpion, but can say that the right legs were barely visible so I had to make some weird guesses.

Shadows still hurt :')


1:14 PM, Friday August 7th 2020

These are certainly moving in the right direction, though I think with the last one, while your construction is decent, you strayed pretty far from what the actualy reference image looks like (specifically around the head area, both in the shape of the head and the size of the pedipalps), so be sure to study your references more carefully and look at them frequently in between drawing individual marks and forms.

One other point about how you approached the shadows on your wasp. Remember that as discussed back in lesson 2, we don't attempt to capture any form shading in these drawings. Instead, we reserve the filled black shapes for cast shadows only - that means where one form blocks the light and casts a shadow on another surface. Form shading is different from this, as it is where a surface gets lighter or darker based on whether it is facing towards or away from the light source. It involves only one form, rather than two like the cast shadows.

Right now it appears as though you were confusing the two a little bit (although I could just be interpreting your shadow shapes incorrectly), so I wanted to be sure to clarify that just to be sure. Additionally though, since we're reserving the filled black shapes for cast shadows only, this also means that you shouldn't be trying to capture the patterns on your objects, like the markings on the spider at the end. Treat the whole object like it's covered in the same flat grey surface.

Anyway, I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete. Though you do have room for growth and improvement, you're moving in the right direction, and will be able to continue to work at it in the next lesson.

Next Steps:

Feel free to move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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