Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals

12:43 PM, Thursday November 19th 2020

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Hello Critiquer,

I attempted to follow the guidelines to a T. Please let me know if I did anything wrong. Your expertise would be greatly appreciated!


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10:57 PM, Thursday November 19th 2020

So there are definitely a lot of areas where we can improve things. As a whole, it's more than we can reasonably tackle in one critique, so I'm going to touch on all the major points, then you'll do some revisions, and we'll move forwards from there.

The biggest issue overall that is holding you back is that while you're moving in the right direction, there is a big part of you that still sees drawing as drawing lines and shapes on a flat piece of paper. You know that you're trying to create a lie, something that isn't real, and that the things you draw are just arbitrary shapes on the page. And because you see through that lie, because you don't actually believe it yourself right now, you are prone to making all kinds of mistakes (both big and little) that undermine the illusions we're trying to make.

Let's first take a look at the organic intersections. This exercise is, conceptually simple. We take take a simple sausage form and we place it on the ground. Then we take another sausage form and we drop it on top of the first. Because it is real, a solid three dimensional form, it is subject to gravity, and therefore it is going to fall down and flop over the first in such a way that reflects the forces pushing down on it. We're familiar and comfortable with the idea of gravity in real life - we know what would happen to a sausage if you were to drape it onto another form - but if you're thinking about this as a 2D shape that you're drawing on the page, then your brain is jumping through all of these hoops of trying to figure out how to fake a realistic result.

The first and most important thing to help us believe that what we're working with is a real, three dimensional sausage form in a 3D world, is to keep it as simple as possible. In this regard, you're pretty inconsistent in sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages as discussed back in lesson 2's organic forms with contour lines exercise. As a result, yours tend to have much more complexity (getting wider/narrower, for example). This inherently makes it easier for us to understand them as flat, 2D shapes, rather than 3D forms, and impedes our ability to believe that we're really working in 3D space.

As a result, we end up with situations like this one where you ended up with a weird gap between your forms, despite the fact that gravity should have pushed that sausage down.

There are other issues with your organic intersections, but since I don't want to dwell on this much more, I'll list them quickly below:

  • You tend to fill in void/negative spaces between forms with solid black. Solid black should be reserved ONLY for cast shadows, which means they should be falling on the surfaces of other forms or on the ground rather than just floating in the air.

  • Always build upwards - never try to draw a form underneath a form you've already drawn. This is because the forms you draw need to take the forms beneath them into consideration to determine how their silhouettes need to be shaped. If you've already drawn the upper form, it's not going to move in space to allow the new one space to exist.

  • Your contour lines are all the same degree, instead of shifting naturally over the length of the form, going wider or narrower as needed.

  • You have a couple places where the contour ellipse you've drawn on one end does not match the degree of the other contour curves around it. Here are examples of how those contour ellipses are used.

Moving onto your animal constructions, in order to avoid writing a novel, I'm going to focus on one construction, break down what has gone wrong, and then leave you to try again.

Let's look at this horse. It is actually by far one of your better drawings, specifically in that it is generally more structured and features less random exploration.

What stands out a great deal are the little head explorations on the bottom right. Here you are explicitly working in 2D shapes, which strongly supports the theory I presented earlier - you are thinking of your drawing as lines and shapes on a page, rather than thinking about how every single entity you add to your drawing is a 3D form, existing in 3D space.

That is critically important, and starts from the beginning. When we draw our initial masses, we don't just drop ellipses on the page and move on. We construct solid ball forms, and we have to make sure that we believe that they are three dimensional. If you look at this rat demo from the informal demos page for example, I added little contour ellipses to each of the masses. This wasn't for the viewer's benefit - this was so it would help me reinforce the idea that these forms I've drawn are three dimensional. What matters is that I myself understand that this isn't just a circle on a page - that it's a form whose surface is curving through 3D space, so when I go to draw lines on that sphere, they follow the curvature of that surface.

Similarly, if you look at this simple head construction demonstration, in the first step you'll see little bright red arrows that extend from the corners of the eye sockets. I'm not just thinking about how they run straight across the canvas - I'm thinking about how they start to curve along the surface of the cranial ball.

Next, let's look at how you're employing the additional masses. Here, for each one you've drawn a shape, and then because the shape didn't feel particularly 3D, you drew a contour line over it. Unfortunately, the contour line didn't help with what was really required here.

Contour lines can definitely make a form feel three dimensional, but they can do this in two possible ways. If the contour line sits on the surface of the object (like the organic forms with contour lines exercise), they make that form feel more solid and three dimensional on its own, in isolation. If however we use them like the form intersections exercise, defining the relationship between two forms that are interpenetrating, they'll make both forms feel three dimensional together. This second option is always more effective and more reliable, but unfortunately it only works if our forms are actually cutting into one another, which is not what we're doing with these additional masses.

Instead, the additional masses are separate forms that are being wrapped around an existing structure. It is the way in which that form wraps around the others (like in the organic intersections exercise) that defines the relationship between the forms, and makes both feel three dimensional. This means, however, that all the work is done by the silhouette of your additional mass, and if the silhouette is not drawn while thinking about how you're defining that relationship, you're not going to be able to define that relationship after the fact with a contour line. So, drawing the silhouette is incredibly important.

As shown in this diagram, the silhouette of our additional masses is all determined by thinking about what structure it is being pushed up against. When the mass is floating up in space, it's like a ball or blob of soft meat. It's malleable, but because there's nothing else pressing against it, it curves outward all over, forming a ball. If however we were to push it down onto another form (like the depicted box), the form is going to start curving around that form, adding more complexity along the sides that actually make contact. This forms corners, and inwards curvature.

What this means at its core is that anywhere you include any complexity along the silhouette of an additional mass, you need to be aware of what specific form or structure is actually causing it. Here I've drawn an analysis of your horse, specifically the mass along the pelvis, and then drew a more correct additional mass near the shoulder. It's definitely a little tough to parse, so take your time doing so. The key thing here is that wherever the mass is pushing against a structure, it should be more complex (forming corners and curving inward) and wherever it is pushing against nothing, it should remain simple (curving outwards).

This means that you need to be consciously aware of a lot of the little masses you're building up on the body of your animal. For example, the shoulder mass is important - it's a big driver, so I blocked it in, and then the mass along its neck interacted with it. Once you've added an additional mass, it becomes a part of the "existing structure" - meaning any other form you add needs to be aware of it too.

Here are some additional notes/resources about how to think about additional masses.

Now, this critique has gotten very long, so I'm going to cut it off here by assigning revisions. You'll find them listed below, but there are three restrictions I want you to follow for each of your animal drawings:

  • Pick animals you feel will be easier - don't aim for anything you know is going to be more challenging. It's fine if you don't know if something's going to be hard or not - I just want to discourage the tendency for some students to purposely aim for things that are harder, because they feel they'll be more valuable as a learning experience. Stick to simple, easy things with clear forms you can perceive easily. Of course, even these will be difficult.

  • I do not want you to use any contour lines that sit on the surface of a single form (like the organic forms with contour lines exercise) in your animal drawings. You're still allowed to use the contour lines that define the connection between different forms (like form intersections), but I think removing this tool will help you learn to solve your problems differently.

  • I do not want you to work on more than a single animal drawing in a given day. You are welcome to spend more than a day on a single drawing, but don't try and do more than one in a sitting. It's common for students to try and rush through drawing their marks and forms without thinking, but I want you to try your best to find places to invest your time. Apply the ghosting method to every single mark you draw, focus on making every single form feel three dimensional, spend LOTS of time constantly looking at your reference to inform every single form you draw and how you draw it (I suspect this is something you're forgetting to do quite a bit based on most of your other drawings, so don't forget about what's written here about observation. And of course, you will probably need to reread this critique a few times, as it is quite long and dense, at about 2000 words.

Next Steps:

Please submit the following:

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
7:28 PM, Sunday November 29th 2020

Thanks for the detailed critique Uncomfortable, it was extremely informative

Imgur link: https://imgur.com/a/i473FOt

I apologize for the out of order images. I have not realized this until looking back at my link again. I included timestamps on each page to show that I never did more than one animal in a single day. With the organic intersections, drawing the center line to establish the third dimension on a sausage helped a lot. With the animal construction, drawing the ground line helped me orient the legs. Although I screwed up the perspective on a lot of these animals. But perspective was not the point here, rather solid construction. I probably screwed up observation and that is why. I was not sure if I should redo this again. I almost always ended up redoing a given construction three to four times due to realizing I made some observation mistake or I did not establish the ground line. I make a large point of doing that first so I don't forget. Lastly, I avoided contour lines along the large masses. I did include these on the legs to show the connections. Was this a mistake? I feel that these contour ellipses should be used to show the direction of the given connecting joint.

Thanks again,


8:43 PM, Monday November 30th 2020

Starting with your organic intersections, there's one thing that stands out to me, but I'm actually not sure if I'm seeing what I think I am. Basically, I'm trying to determine the order in which your forms were drawn.

When working on this exercise, we're basically building up a stack of forms, working from bottom up. We can only ever work bottom-up because we have to draw the silhouette of each form so it settles believably on top of the pile that already exists. If we were to try and sneak a form underneath one that has already been drawn, there is no way for that original form's silhouette to reflect the fact that it's resting on top of this new one. Looking at your work, I'm seeing a few instances like this where a form feels as though it's ignoring something it should reasonably be touching and interacting with.

Here I've colour coded some of your sausage forms. While the blue one should realistically be interacting with the red one (either pressing up against it or drooping down onto it), and the green one should be resting on top of the orange one somehow. But both of these pairs appear to exist entirely oblivious of their neighbour.

Moving onto the demonstrations you followed along with, your observation here is somewhat lacking - there are plenty of things you're missing. For example, looking at the masses built up along the running rat's back, there are two distinct forms, one piled on top of the other, resulting in two distinct bumps with a pinch in between where one sits on the other. In your drawing however, if we follow the top edge of those masses' silhouette, we get a single continuous stroke.

Looking at the donkey, the shape of the eye socket is entirely different (you've drawn a diamond), and the mass along the neck is also entirely different. These are just a few particularly notable cases, but these smaller issues in carefully observing your reference do pile up to yield drastically different results.

Observing these demonstrations is definitely much easier because the information from the reference images is stripped away, leaving only the key forms and shapes you need to focus on. And so, understandably, when you get into your actual animal studies, the observational issues more severely undermine your results.

Observation all comes down to an investment of time - short term, investing more time in a given study, and long term (doing so over the course of many studies, ie: practice).

Now, looking at your application of the principles covered in my critique, it's a bit hit and miss. Looking at the backside of this bunny you're definitely building up those masses by wrapping them around one another (though I would recommend that you try and make those sharp corners a little more rounded). You still however have plenty of areas where you make some pretty big mistakes - like the front neck mass of this lamb being way too complex, with no real clarity as to how it exists as its own, complete additional mass.

Also, when you add additional masses to the legs, you pretty consistently just add shapes with arbitrary curves all around, rather than considering how those forms wrap around the existing structure as shown in this ant leg demo and in this dog leg demo (both of which were shared in my lesson 4 critique).

Now, you work has wholly improved over the last submission, but there is a lot of room for growth and your observational skills, especially when drawing from reference photos are really getting in the way. You draw too much from memory, and it doesn't feel that you look frequently enough at your references.

I don't want to get further into this, because it really is a matter of practice and you investing time in the right areas - including processing the information in the feedback you receive (and I strongly urge you to repeatedly reread the original critique to fully ingest all that was explained there, because I'm not going to be repeating it here).

I'll assign another set of revisions below, so work through them and take your time.

Next Steps:

I'd like you to work through 5 more animal constructions. I considered assigning 10, but I think that might simply push you to focus more on quantity rather than quality - so I want you to understand that you should be pushing yourself to the limit in every aspect of each drawing, from observation to applying the various principles covered in the lesson and the critiques to the absolute best of your ability.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
8:33 PM, Saturday December 5th 2020

I posted my reference animals with my imgur post. I am not expecting a full critique. I completely understand you are aiming for the core concepts.

Here is the imgur link: https://imgur.com/a/iSpZSnR

Organic intersection: I attempted to reinforce what sausages were on top with a thicker outline. I broke the illusion with some forms being shown and others being hidden. Would you like for me to redo a page of organic intersections? It would only be to my benefit.

Animals: I took so much time on the goats legs and body, but choked when I got to the head. I wish life had a "ctrl + z". I did so many freaking width and position comparisons for the legs and body. Did I screw up the leg joint connections? I was unsure how to best handle this. I did not use sausages because I thought it was more gestural (kind of like an ox or a camel legs). If it is any consolation, I redrew the goats head on the side. I should have done this on the side like I usually do, but I was overconfident. But I am proud of the goats legs and body!

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