Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

3:57 AM, Thursday June 2nd 2022

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Hey!:)

Submitting for lesson 4, it was a lot of fun except when I had to look at tarantula for 30 minutes. Looking forward to lesson 5, I can't wait to start drawing some animals!

Saulius

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10:17 PM, Friday June 3rd 2022

Starting with your organic forms with contour curves, you're handling these quite well. You're sticking fairly closely to the characteristics of simple sausages (although there are some slight adjustments that can be made in this regard), and your contour lines are drawn confidently, so as to remain smooth and even. One thing to keep in mind is that the degree of those contour lines should be shifting wider as we slide farther away along the length of the sausage. If you're unsure as to why, I recommend that you review the Lesson 1 ellipses video.

Continuing onto your insect constructions, overall you're doing really quite well, and I can see a fair bit of consideration going both into how you're building each one up from simple to complex, and how the different forms relate to one another in 3D space. I do however have some suggestions that will help you continue to make the most out of these exercises.

The first of these is about understanding the distinction between the kinds of actions we can take when drawing - between those that occur in 2D space, by drawing individual strokes on a flat page, and those that occur in 3D space where we're actually thinking about the things we're introducing to the construction as solid, three dimensional forms, and how they all relate to one another within that 3D space.

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.

Here on this beetle, I've highlighted in red cases where you've cut into the silhouettes of your forms, and in blue where you've attempted to build upon your construction with 2D shapes.

Instead, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by introducing new 3D forms to the structure - forms with their own fully self-enclosed 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 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.

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 I've 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 second point I wanted to stress is the importance of making use of the space that is available to you. It varies from drawing to drawing, as well as with the student's own skill level, but there is generally going to be a threshold at which attempting to squeeze a drawing into a smaller space is going to severely impede your brain's capacity for spatial reasoning, and make it harder for you to engage your whole arm when drawing. In general, 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.

This page stood out as being one where the shrimp and beetle should have drawn bigger - and there definitely was ample space to allow for it, but you may have decided to split the page in two equal halves, preallocating your space ahead of time, and giving each one far less space as a result, and leaving quite a lot blank.

Continuing on, I did notice that in your drawings you put a lot of attention towards the detail phase of your drawings. While your drawings look quite nice, and I don't feel like the detail is overdone in most cases, it is still something we should discuss - specifically, how we should be thinking about the 'detail' phase. Right now, it appears that when you're done your construction, you shift gears towards decorating your drawing. That is, doing whatever you can to make it look nicer, more visually impressive and interesting. The note you included here with the butterfly seems to align with that assumption.

The thing is, decoration is kind of an arbitrary goal. There's no clear point at which we've added enough, so it leaves us piling more and more ink on, looking for any reason or excuse to do so.

What we're doing in this course can be broken into two distinct sections - construction and texture - and they both focus on the same concept. With construction we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand how they might manipulate this object with their hands, were it in front of them. With texture, we're communicating to the viewer what they need to know to understand what it'd feel like to run their fingers over the object's various surfaces. Both of these focus on communicating three dimensional information. Both sections have specific jobs to accomplish, and none of it has to do with making the drawing look nice.

Instead of focusing on decoration, what we draw here comes down to what is actually physically present in our construction, just on a smaller scale. As discussed back in Lesson 2's texture section, we focus on each individual textural form, focusing on them one at a time and using the information present in the reference image to help identify and understand how every such textural form sits in 3D space, and how it relates within that space to its neighbours. Once we understand how the textural form sits in the world, we then design the appropriate shadow shape that it would cast on its surroundings. The shadow shape is important, because it's that specific shape which helps define the relationship between the form casting it, and the surface receiving it.

As a result of this approach, you'll find yourself thinking less about excuses to add more ink, and instead you'll be working in the opposite - trying to get the information across while putting as little ink down as is strictly needed, and using those implicit markmaking techniques from Lesson 2 to help you with that.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is that I noticed that you seem to have employed a lot of different strategies for capturing the legs of your insects. Sometimes you apply parts of it, other times you do something else entirely. 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 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've shared quite a few major points here for you to work on, but as a whole you're still doing very well. You can continue to address each of these issues in the next lesson's work, where they will continue to be equally relevant. Just be sure to take your time in absorbing this feedback, and if you feel it'll help, you can take notes of the major points so you can more easily remind yourself of what you need to be focusing on.

I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete.

Next Steps:

Feel free to move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
7:43 AM, Monday June 6th 2022

Hey! :)

That is a very in depth critique and I appreciate it very much. I will try incorporate the things you talked about in my next exercises.

Thank you!

Saulius

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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.

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