Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

2:21 AM, Friday March 11th 2022

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This lesson was surprisingly hard to complete. I did all of the tutorials and samples and then started on my own reference photos. I found myself struggling to produce something that I thought was acceptable. This could be because I don't know if I met the criteria of the assignment. But it could also be because I was drawing something familiar and I was trying to draw "pretty" pictures. As it happens, I decided to only do construction for all of the pictures. I was not feeling confident enough to add detail.

I will say that the topic of insects doesn't bother me ...mostly. I think my new thought is "six legs okay, eight legs stay away." and don't get me started on that last one (shudder).

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

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12:43 AM, Saturday March 12th 2022

Before we get started, I do want to remind you that it is not the student's job to determine what is and isn't acceptable. The student's job is to simply put their best effort into reading, understanding, and following the instructions, and to give themselves as much time as they can to execute those instructions to the best of their current ability, with all the time that may demand. If you do that - something that is ultimately more a choice than something subject to skill (although patience is one of those things that develops over time, and can be a factor) - you may submit something awful and incorrect, but you will still have done your job. The rest is up to me.

So! Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, I can see that you are demonstrating a fair bit of focus on sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages, for the most part. There are some areas where you deviate, with some forms having one end larger than the other, some strange tapering through the midsection of this one and this one - the second page with the contour ellipses seems to deviate more than the other, which is fitting because I had actually asked for two pages of contour curves, not one of each. Anyway, be sure to keep those characteristics in mind, but you're making good headway there.

I'm also catching a tendency to keep the degree of your contour lines fairly consistent - sometimes they'll shift wider or narrower, but it doesn't seem to be in an intentional manner across the board. Instead, the degree should get wider as we slide along the sausage form away from the viewer, as explained here in Lesson 1's ellipses video.

Continuing onto your insect constructions, interestingly enough you've actually done a pretty great job. It's not that things can't be improved - they certainly can - but at its core, what I'm seeing here is a specific, dedicated attention to adhering to the principles of construction, and frankly you're doing so beyond what I expect from most students at this stage.

So the first thing that is notable is that you're doing a great job of always working from simple to complex. Simple structures are the best for establishing something that feels solid, and they give us a foundation upon which we can build further to achieve more complexity. You've done this well, although you do frequently forget to draw through your ellipses 2 full times before lifting your pen, which is required for every ellipse we freehand throughout this course (as discussed back in Lesson 1).

The second point however is one most students don't pick up on, and I don't really expect them to because it's not strictly mentioned in the instructions... yet. Right now we're going through overhauling the course from start to finish, a long process that will take many months, and there are a ton of things that I've been letting students know in their critiques, and that I've included in some ways in the informal demos section, but that haven't yet been integrated into the main lesson material.

One such case is the distinction between actions that we take in 3D space, which focus on defining complete, self-enclosed forms and the relationships between them and the existing structure in 3D space, and the actions we take in 2D space - which really just means modifying the drawing itself by adding lines and shapes on the page. It's best that students avoid modifying the silhouettes of the forms they've already drawn altogether, because as shown here it can break the connection between the shape on the page and the form it's meant to represent in the larger 3D world.

You, however, don't appear to have done this at all, and more than that, every time you built upon an existing form, you were mindful of wrapping those forms around the existing structure. For example, we can see this in this hercules beetle's top horn where you wrapped its back section around the abdomen. While this wasn't the best way to tackle this structure (you drew the whole horn section in one go, rather than building up to it more slowly, resulting in a more complex shape which you then tried to reinforce with contour lines), there is definitely merit to it.

Instead, I'd tackle it like this. Note that the only contour line I've used is the one defining the joint between the forms (think more like Lesson 2's form intersections exercise, rather than the organic forms with contour lines, which are great for introducing the concept of contour lines but not actually super useful in practice).

This also demonstrates the two ways in which a newly added mass can be added to an existing structure - it either wraps around it, like the mass I added around the ball form, defining its connection with that existing structure through its silhouette design (as further demonstrated here), or it interpenetrates the existing structure, in which case that spatial relationship would be defined through a contour line right at the joint.

Anyway - all in all, you're on the right track here.

Now admittedly there is one area where you do end up adding flat shapes to existing, 3D structures, and it's specifically when you try to build upon your insects' legs. There you appear to be making decent use of the sausage method, although we can certainly build upon those simple structures while adhering to the techniques I explained above. Once the sausage structures are 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).

Now, there are a few other quick points I want to call out before I finish:

  • You have a tendency to draw small on some of these (like this ant as an extreme case), and this is making things harder on you than is strictly necessary. 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. 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. To be fair, you're not drawing small on all of them, and there are definitely some where you appear to be drawing quite big - just make sure you make good use of the space on the page each time.

  • I mentioned this before, but again - draw through your ellipses. I noticed some cases where you appeared to be drawing through your sausage forms. To be clear, that is incorrect as well. Drawing around a shape multiple times leans into our arm's natural desire to draw in an elliptical fashion, so if you do that with a sausage, you're going to get something more similar to an ellipse. Only do it for your ellipses, but be more consistent in using it for all of them.

  • You have some spots where your lines randomly get really thick, which suggests to me that you're trying to use the tool that is line weight in ways that aren't necessarily as effective as they could be. As you work through your construction, stick to relatively consistent line thickness, and then add line weight at the end as a separate pass. When doing so, it's best to focus its use towards a specific purpose - I find that using line weight to clarify how different forms overlap one another by limiting its use to the specific localized areas where those overlaps occur, is most effective. You can see this in action with these two overlapping leaves.

  • Your linework does have a certain stiffness to it often. This may be related to drawing smaller, but it could simply be that you're hesitant. Remember - each structural mark should be drawn with the ghosting method, which focuses on splitting the markmaking process into successive stages, finishing with a confident execution. It doesn't matter how worried you are about making a mistake - no matter what, you make the choice of executing confidently, and allowing the chips to fall where they may. That is something we control, although it's easy to forget that fact.

And that about covers it! There is definitely room for improvement, but you can continue to address these points into the next lesson. I'll go ahead and mark this one as complete.

Next Steps:

Move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
4:23 AM, Saturday March 12th 2022

Thanks again for such a thorough critique. It truly is helpful and insightful.

I think the stiffness, the size of the drawings and not drawing through the ellipses are related for me. I think there is still part of me trying to make something "pretty" or at the very least respectable looking. I am self conscious of the construction lines and the "correctness" of the drawing with respect to the reference photo. As I start to draw things that are more familiar, where proportions matter for it to look "correct", it gets harder to be OK with it being off. That leads to self consciousness and stiffness when I draw. Lack of confidence means smaller drawings and not drawing through the ellipses is probably trying to make it look cleaner. I plan on continuing to draw insects as part of my warm up. This time however, I am going to try drawing quicker and more loosely. Hopefully this will show up in Lesson 5.

3:07 PM, Saturday March 12th 2022

The thing to keep in mind is that it's all about where your time is allocated. It's not about drawing too carefully vs too loosely- but rather that the care you take and the time you invest needs to be spent on the planning and preparation phases of the ghosting method.

So, when you say "quicker and more loosely" be sure not to forget the principles from Lesson 1.

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