Lesson 6: Applying Construction to Everyday Objects

12:15 AM, Monday April 1st 2024

Drawabox Lesson 6 Submission - Album on Imgur

Imgur: https://imgur.com/a/EhhJKnE

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I have a question regarding the use of orthographic studies when doing these exercises, and I don't mean this as an attack on the lesson content - I'm genuinely just wondering why I'm feeling this way. These orthographic projections help with understanding relative proportions before going into a 3D drawing, but when translating directly (as in, knowing that a button on a GameBoy is approximately 1/3 up (y axis), 1/5 depth (z axis), 1/3 across (x axis), so lets project those exact planes cutting 1/3, 1/5, 1/3 into the Gameboy to get it right) it is very tedious and route; it doesn't feel like I'm learning how to draw it intuitively, it feels much more like I'm just "copying". Like I'm manually copying the process a 3D rendering program would do, if that makes sense. I find my brain is able to go on autopilot and just say "well, this goes exactly here via the following subdivisions..." and it feels like I don't end up understanding the object well, even if the final result turns out.

Does this make sense? Is this just part of the rigorousness of the learning process? During Lesson 5, I felt that blocking out the animals as organic forms was really difficult and rigorous, but doing so forced me to make mistakes in blocking out those forms freehand, and I felt I ended up understanding the subject better (i.e. After drawing a few horse's heads, I could then draw the horse's head rotated slightly a bit better.).

Overall though, I'll say this lesson has helped tremendously in understanding how to attack real life studies, and the viewing the world as just a series of bounding boxes. Thank you to the TA's for your hard work critiquing!

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9:07 PM, Monday April 1st 2024

The thing to keep in mind when it comes to how this course operates as a whole is that while there are going to be skills that the lessons and exercises develop more directly, whose impact you can see clearly in your immediate results, the core goal of the course is to develop your subconscious understanding of 3D space. Meaning, it's less about the things you can specifically list and identify as "Drawabox helped me with this specific problem", and more about how your brain and the way in which it tackles problems is subtly being rewired.

You can think of Drawabox as being divided into 3 main sections. Lessons 1-2 arm us with the core principles we need to play with form in 3D space (linework skills, core perspective knowledge, the beginnings of paying attention to how forms relate to one another in 3D space). Lessons 3-5 exposes us to constructional drawing exercises in a less strict, more fluid manner. That is to say, each constructional drawing is itself an exercise where we have to solve a 3D spatial puzzle, but the nature of the spatial puzzles aren't too strict. If we construct a base form incorrectly, we can still build off it. The end result may be proportionally wacky, but at the end of the day it still serves that purpose of being a spatial reasoning exercise, a task that forces our brains to focus on how the way in which we draw things on the flat page impacts the real 3D space they're meant to represent.

Lessons 6-7 take that further by putting us in a situation where we're forced to work from outside-in, meaning that we make all of our decisions upfront (in terms of proportions). That's why it's so much more time consuming - if you need something to fit very specific specifications, then it's going to require a great deal more leg work ahead of time.

Precision is often conflated with accuracy, but they're actually two different things (at least insofar as I use the terms here). Where accuracy speaks to how close you were to executing the mark you intended to, precision actually has nothing to do with putting the mark down on the page. It's about the steps you take beforehand to declare those intentions.

So for example, if we look at the ghosting method, when going through the planning phase of a straight line, we can place a start/end point down. This increases the precision of our drawing, by declaring what we intend to do. From there the mark may miss those points, or it may nail them, it may overshoot, or whatever else - but prior to any of that, we have declared our intent, explaining our thought process, and in so doing, ensuring that we ourselves are acting on that clearly defined intent, rather than just putting marks down and then figuring things out as we go.

In our constructions here, we build up precision primarily through the use of the subdivisions. These allow us to meaningfully study the proportions of our intended object in two dimensions with an orthographic study, then apply those same proportions to the object in three dimensions.

There are two places in which the use of these orthographic plans are discussed in this lesson - they're first presented in this step of the computer mouse demo, but in a much more simplified form, and they are delved into much more deeply with a more thorough demonstration of the approach here in the main lesson page.

Based on how you're approaching things though, it seems like you may not have gone through the more thorough explanation. Currently looking at things like your nintendo switch+dock and your xbox controller, you seem to rely mostly on subdividing your bounding box in consistent amounts (into halves, then quarters), but you seem to skip anything that might require a more awkward subdivision, or the use of other techniques like mirroring across an axis.

Looking at the orthographic for the switch dock, specifically the front view, I noticed that though you'd laid out landmarks for the larger aspects of the dock (like separating the joycons out from the sides), you eyeballed the buttons and thumbsticks resulting in them not having specifically defined locations. As a result, all of the divisions I marked out here in red had to be approximated by eye. That is an important area in which you could have invested more time to improve the overall precision with which the final object was constructed.

I also noticed a tendency where you would freehand a lot of little marks that generally are pretty easy to nail. While for our purposes in this course I would definitely use a ruler for any mark that would benefit from it, in the situation that the instructions permit it (which those for this lesson of course do, to the point of encouraging it), the alternative option is to freehand the mark using the principles espoused throughout the course - meaning, the ghosting method. It seems that here you went straight to drawing the line without much planning/preparation, and so you tended more towards linework that was short of your best, as we can see here.

You are right - this approach is extremely tedious. But it is tedious for a purpose, and you have definitely made some choices here that undermined that purpose. Another example of this is in how you approached structures like the handles on your beer mug and coffee mug, where you opted not to apply the concepts explained here relating to building up curving structures, which also included a demonstration specifically focusing on the construction of a mug's handle.

You've undoubtedly come across numerous elements of the course that seemed weird, or didn't seem to align with your understanding of how learning should work, or how one should approach learning these concepts - the particularly tedious nature of this lesson certainly isn't the first of these situations that comes up in our course. But in this case, I think there are numerous signs that suggest you didn't follow the instructions from the lesson as closely as you could have, and I believe that the second-guessing of the material is a likely culprit.

It's natural to question how exactly a given choice will impact what results from the action taken - to the point that I've actually drawn a whole comic to remind students that you only really come to understand why a course might have you tackle things in a particular fashion well after you've done it. But as stressed thoroughly throughout Lesson 0, you cannot allow that second-guessing to change the way in which you absorb and apply the lessons. Whether you agree with its benefits or not, the instructions are to execute each freehanded stroke using the ghosting method, appyling each phase intentionally and carefully. And the instructions are indeed to apply the orthographic plan approach as far as it will reasonably go, regardless of how tedious that might be - and I'll warn you now, Lesson 6 is nothing compared to the tedium Lesson 7 demands.

To that point, when it comes to deciding what to assign next, you're in an interesting predicament. Your work isn't bad. While I can see plainly that you didn't adhere to those instructions as closely as you could have, normally these are things that I would simply point out. In this case however, I can't actually mark the lesson as complete, because you do not appear to have included the 3 pages of form intersections that were included in the homework assignment (which does suggest, along with the other points you'd missed from the instructions, that you need to take much more care in going through the material and identifying what is being asked of you).

In addition to having you submit those form intersection pages (I assume you did do them, but forgot to include them in the submission), I will also be asking for 2 additional object constructions, taken as far as you reasonably can in terms of all of the tedium. I ask for this here for the simple reason that you've got another round of submissions anyway, and this will allow us to confirm that you do understand how to tackle these constructions more thoroughly, where the constructions are much simpler (as opposed to having this called out in Lesson 7, where each construction takes much longer).

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

  • The 3 missing pages of form intersections

  • 2 additional pages of object constructions, taking care to push the use of orthographic plans, subdivision, etc. as far as it can go. I would definitely review this section of the instructions more thoroughly before tackling these constructions, as it appears you missed them the first time around. These as well.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
6:47 PM, Saturday April 13th 2024

Resubmission (2 additional constructions & missing form intersections) - https://imgur.com/a/6F9s6Qz

Thank you for the feedback. I'll admit this lesson has been by far the most challenging - working outside-in definitely has it's challenges when compared to the more "build up" method of lessons 3 - 5. I reviewed the course material and the demos, and upon another look I think I understand some of the subdividing stuff better. I think I'm just impatient - in that determining a button's center via subdivision, then mirroring both axes, and applying those as planes in three dimensions just seems exhaustingly tedious for something as simple as a button.

But I see the value in it. What I struggle with most honestly is just managing the absolute jumble of lines that infest the page - it's very hard to keep track when one plane's subdivision lines overlap 7 other ones. I know in digital this would be less of an issue, as you could just split them up onto separate layers and hide/make transparent when applicable. I asked in the server and was told that splitting subdivision lines into different colors can help, and it did a bit, but it still was very difficult, especially when drawing through forms. Do you have any advice for this?

Otherwise, thank you for the critique. I'll admit I think I was letting my impatience get the best of me, and was frustrated. The comic you made helped but into perspective of trusting the learning, and giving it time to absorb, however slow that may be.

8:18 PM, Monday April 15th 2024

Starting with your form intersections, for the most part you're progressing well. At this stage, we basically expect that students are fairly comfortable with intersections involving flat-surfaced objects, but still run into some issues when dealing with those forms with curved surfaces. That's more or less what we see here. As I've called out here on your first page, there were some spots where you got confused with the intersections involving your spheres.

As shown here, a lot of it comes down to understanding how each individual form's surfaces sit in and are oriented in space, and then identifying the pairs of surfaces that are intersecting at any given point along our intersection line. Of the arrows I drew, the curving ones define the relevant curve of the sphere, whereas the straight lines define the orientation of the corresponding surface of the box. Where we transition from one set of surfaces to another (which here was occurring at the edges of the box - that's essentially what the edge is, a transition from one surface to another), we hit a sharp corner from which we change the trajectory of our intersection. You were doing this correctly in other cases, but it definitely did get less certain when dealing with those curving surfaces. Again - this is pretty normal, and this exercise will come up once more in Lesson 7.

There are three other things I'd recommend:

  • Fewer forms, but draw them bigger - this will help reduce the visual complexity of the problem (which you mentioned was especially challenging in the context of the object constructions, so I imagine it's impacting you here as well). Giving each form more space on the page also helps engage your brain's spatial reasoning skills more fully.

  • Only draw the side of the intersection that is visible. I know we draw through our forms as it helps us better grasp the way in which these forms relate to one another in 3D space (so that's a case where it's more difficult, but that yields a beneficial result that is worth the additional cognitive resources that are required), but when it comes to the intersections themselves, the trade-off is not as favourable. Focusing only on what's visible will help keep your mind on the task at hand. The one exception to this are cases where the intersection as a whole is an ellipse - there, drawing the full ellipse will help you maintain the correct curvature.

  • I noticed that when you were drawing your elliptical intersections, you did not draw through them two full times, as is required for all the ellipses we freehand throughout this course.

Continuing onto your object constructions, these are extremely well done. I get that dealing with all of those subdivisions is extremely taxing, and it takes vastly more time to keep track of all of the different lines (that's all it is - time, and it's a difficulty we've steadily ramped up throughout the course ever since the plotted perspective exercise, which similarly receives complaints of it being hard to keep track of what's what), but you are entirely capable of it, and what you've learned thus far has armed you with the ability to tackle that difficulty. Not happily, not easily, but this course has never been about doing things that are easy. It's been about doing difficult things because of the benefits they impart, and how they reinforce the lessons being taught.

That said, I unfortunately do have to contradict the advice you received, for the simple reason that drawing your subdivisions with different colours would break the point mentioned here about not going back over your linework with a different pen for a "clean-up pass". I want students to constantly be focusing on how the marks they're drawing represent things in 3D space, and when we rely on clean-up passes, it shifts the focus to simply tracing the lines in three dimensions, which can cause its own issues in how you're processing what you're learning.

When it comes time to make your object stand out from the construction, leveraging line weight as explained here aligns better with what we're doing in the course. That is, using it in localized areas to clarify how different forms overlap one another.

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

Next Steps:

Move onto the 25 wheel challenge, which is a prerequisite for Lesson 7.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
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