Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

12:48 AM, Friday March 8th 2024

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Lots of the construction concepts starting to land, even if it's challenging to implement. I'm finding the addition of a drop shadow to be quite difficult, need to practive and improve on how to project/ cast a shadow that is remotely plausible.

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2:14 PM, Friday March 8th 2024

Hello Danomech, 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 pretty good job of sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here.

Remember to always hook your contour curves around the forms, so that their curvature accelerates as it approaches the edge of the form. This is something you usually do, but I noticed sometimes when your curves are shallow they don't hook around, which flattens the form.

keep striving to prioritise a smooth confident stroke with your contour curves, there are a few of them that look slightly hesitant.

It is good to see that you're shifting the degree of your contour curves and ellipses. You're doing a great job where you're expressing a form as having both ends facing the viewer. When only one end of the form faces towards the viewer the degree of your contour lines should be shifting wider as we slide along the sausage form, moving farther away from the viewer. This is also influenced by the way in which the sausages themselves turn in space, but farther = wider is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you're unsure as to why that is, review the Lesson 1 ellipses video. You can also see a good example of how to vary your contour curves in this diagram showing the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived.

Moving on to your insect constructions, I wouldn't worry too much about your drop shadows, as they're an optional finishing touch. I can see that you're putting some thought into how you're designing these shadows, rather than adding them haphazardly, I'd agree that they will continue to improve with practice.

In general your constructions are coming along really well, you're making good use of the techniques shown in the demos, starting with simple solid forms, and building up complexity gradually, piece by piece. You're showing a clear understanding of how your forms exist in 3D space, and not just as flat shapes on a piece of paper. You're also doing a pretty good job of fitting your forms together with tight specific relationships, and in some places reinforcing the solidity of your constructions by applying a contour line where forms intersect.

I do have some points that should help you get even 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 tree hopper in red where it looks like you cut back inside the silhouette of forms you had already drawn. I wasn't 100% sure if that was your intent on the tree hopper, so I've also highlighted an example on this weevil where the manner in which you'd drawn the far side leg makes it very clear that you'd cut back inside the shilhouette of the basic ball form you had established for the thorax. One thing I did notice is that a few of 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.

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.

I can see plenty of places where you're already doing a good job of building your constructions up through the addition of complete 3D forms, though another way we can accidentally flatten the construction by taking actions in "2D" is by extending off the silhouette of existing forms with one-off lines or partial shapes, which doesn't quite provide enough information for the viewer (or you) to understand how that addition is supposed to exist in 3D space. I've marked a couple of different examples of this with blue on your tree hopper.

The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. I'm happy to see that you've made a real effort to stick with the sausage method throughout the set. 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 noticed a tendency for you to draw quite a few of your lines twice, presumably to add line weight. Given the bounds and limitations of this course, additional line weight should be reserved for clarifying overlaps between forms, and restricted to localised areas where those overlaps occur. You'll find an explanation and demonstration on how to apply additional line weight in this video, which was added after you completed lesson 1, so you may have missed it.

Lastly, and this is a fairly minor point, there are a few constructions where it looks like you've used some hatching to indicate form shading. In general we find it is most beneficial for students to follow the guidance for texture introduced in lesson 2, using intentionally designed shadows shapes and implicitly describing small textural forms on an object's surface. I can see places where you're leveraging these techniques quite effectively, but if you're feeling unsure how to approach texture, these reminders are a good section to review.

All right, I think that should cover it. You've done very well here and I'm going to be marking this lesson as complete. Please make sure you refer to this critique as you work through the next lesson, addressing the points discussed here as you tackle your animal constructions, where they will continue to be just as relevant.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
8:21 PM, Friday March 8th 2024

Huge thanks Dio for the very detailed feedback. Fully understood about always adding 3D forms onto underlying 3D without simply adding 2D lines, lots of stuff to work on here. I appreciate all the extra informal demo links and drawovers, very helpful.

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