Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
2:59 AM, Thursday June 24th 2021
Let me know what's best.
Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, there are a few things that I want to call out.
To start, you are definitely making an effort to stick to the characteristics of simple sausages when drawing your forms - that is, keeping your ends equal in size, circular in shape, and maintaining a consistent width through the midsection (avoiding even slight widening or pinching). While you are trying to keep them simple, there are definitely ways in which you can get closer to those characteristics. Most notably, pay attention to what happens through the length/midsection of your sausages. It tends not to be completely consistent, and the slight widening tends to make the sausages feel more stiff.
Remember that as you slide along the length of a form, your contour lines' degree should change, getting wider as you move away from the viewer, or narrower as you move towards the viewer. If you're unsure as to why that is, there's an explanation in the lesson 1 ellipses video.
Moving onto your insect constructions, to start I am happy to see that you're drawing these quite big, taking full advantage of the space available to you on the page. There are however some issues I want to call out, that should help you improve more notably based on a change to how you approach certain problems.
The first thing that stood out to me was that you have a tendency to jump back and forth between drawing complete, enclosed, 3D forms (like the early masses we start out with), and working more in open-ended, flatter shapes or individual lines. 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.
While I'm not seeing a lot of cases of you directly cutting into the silhouette of a form you'd constructed, the same kind of thing happens when we take such a form's silhouette and start attaching more lines or flat shapes to it to extend it out. For example, with all of the individual bumps you added to this insect's abdomen. There are also some that have been added to its legs and thorax.
Now I can understand where that confusion would come from - after all, this is how we approach adding complex edge detail to our leaves. Unfortunately, we're able to use those tactics to on leaves and petals because they're already flat. As soon as we start altering the silhouette of a structure that has its own volume, we immediately flatten it out, as shown here.
Instead, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by introducing new 3D forms to the structure, 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.
You can see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. 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 also see further examples in the top two demonstrations on the informal demos page. There the shrimp and lobster demos show just how we can work through a construction, step by step, taking as much time as we need to execute each individual mark to the best of our ability, defining new, complete 3D forms as we go. You'll notice that when doing things like adding segmentation to the bodies, I draw an entire form that wraps all the way around the given abdomen - whereas with this lobster and this louse you really just add the little extension outside of the abdomen as a separate shape, not actually defining a whole form that wraps over the whole existing structure.
Another point I noticed was that while you're definitely trying to use the sausage method, there are ways in which this can be improved. Firstly, make sure you're sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages. There are a lot of areas where your sausages turn more into long ellipses, getting wider through their midsection. Secondly, make sure that they're given a healthy overlap, and that the overlap is reinforced with a contour line to define that joint, and to define how those sausages relate to one another in 3D space. This is very important - there's really no need to place contour lines anywhere else along those sausages' lengths, as long as their relationships with the forms they intersect with are defined.
Finally, 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. You'll notice that as mentioned before, we build upon those sausage structures by introducing new, complete forms - not just adding partial shapes or lines.
Now, I've shared a number of things for you to keep in mind and work on, so I'm going to assign some revisions where these concepts can be applied. You'll find the revisions assigned below. As a friendly reminder, remember that there's no set amount of time that any given drawing should take you. A drawing may take one sitting, may take multiple sittings, may take several days. All that matters is that you're taking the time to execute each individual component of each drawing - every shape, every mark - to the absolute best of your ability, using the ghosting method and investing in the planning and preparation phases appropriately. A lot of students get this misconception that a drawing should take no longer than one sitting, and therefore how they draw depends on how much time they have - this is entirely incorrect.
One thing that can help you expand how you pace yourself is to purposely only allow yourself to do one drawing per day. When we try to tackle multiple drawings in a sitting or in a day, we can cause ourselves to rush needlessly.
1 page of organic forms with contour curves
3 pages of insect constructions
Your new insect constructions are definitely moving in the right direction. One thing to keep an eye on however is how you actually shape any of the forms you add to your existing construction. With a lot of these, you're adding them as random blobs, so they end up feeling more like flat shapes that have been stock onto a flat drawing.
As you can see here, if you actually consider which side of your added form is pressing up against the existing structure, and how its silhouette (which can be drawn in multiple, separate strokes), actually shows the way in which that mass is wrapping around the structure it's attaching to.
I talk about that in this diagram I shared with you last time. It all comes down to thinking about where your mass is pressing up against something, and where it isn't. When it isn't, we keep it nice and simple, sticking only to outward curves. When it presses up against something, the silhouette gets more complex, forming inward curves and corners that respond to whatever structure it's pressing up against.
Looking at your organic forms with contour curves, you're still running into some trouble here, specifically with the degree of your contour lines. I can see that in the middle of each of your organic forms, you let one of the contour lines get very narrow, but then all of the others remain the same. Take a look at this - there I show three different configurations. Along the top, both ends are facing the viewer, so the contour lines have to reverse as the sausage bends back over itself. That's similar to what you're trying to do, but the difference is that once the middle contour line gets narrow, the next ones actually reverse their direction. This is similar to the bottom left one where both ends are facing away.
The third, in the bottom right, is where only one side faces the viewer - the contour lines never reverse themselves, and they never get thin through the middle. They keep getting wider as we move away from the viewer.
In your drawing, you're definitely just drawing one end facing the viewer, and so your contour lines need to be getting wider as we slide away from that end.
I'm going to need you to try this page of organic forms with contour lines again - I recommend that you don't keep them so straight. Draw a simple, gently curving sausage form, and then make sure that you're using the ghosting method and drawing from your shoulder to execute each contour curve.
For this page, try to include cases of all three configurations - some with both sides facing the viewer, some with just one side facing the viewer, and some with no sides facing the viewer.
Please submit 2 more pages of organic forms with contour curves.