Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals

6:15 AM, Friday December 8th 2023

Drawabox Homework 5 Submission - Zaverose - Album on Imgur

Direct Link: https://i.imgur.com/NoX0N1G.jpg

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I've included some extra animal drawings I did using the construction method, as well as the results of me following along some of the demos before completing the homework. Feel free to critique those too, but I understand if y'all are busy and need to skip!

Thank you so much for your hard work!

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10:04 PM, Sunday December 10th 2023

Hello Zaverose, I'll be the teaching assistant handling your lesson 5 critique.

I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that as far as I can tell, your work is very good. The bad news is that the images you've uploaded are too tiny for me to be able to provide meaningful feedback. The images seem to be about 320 pixels on their longest dimension, so when I zoom in the individual lines are fuzzy and pixelated.

Please re-upload your work as larger images (your lesson 4 pages were a good size) and reply to me with a link, and I will get back to you with your feedback as soon as I can.

Side note, I'm very happy to see that you took the time to draw along with some of the demos, but you don't actually need to re-upload these.

Next Steps:

Please upload your work as larger images and reply with a link.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
7:07 PM, Monday December 11th 2023

Hi! I am so sorry I didn't catch that, I mistakenly chose to use Mac's native HEIC -> PNG converter (as Imgur doesn't support HEIC) and it looks like it auto selects "Smallest" resolution as the default. The link below should be updated to be the same resolution as the photo was taken in, but in JPEG format!

Thank you so much your hard work, and so sorry again for the mishap! This lesson was very rewarding and time consuming (I love animals! But who doesn't??), so I'm looking forward to reading some good critique!

https://imgur.com/a/g4DnMea

4:13 PM, Tuesday December 12th 2023

Hello, there's nothing you need apologise for, these technical glitches do happen from time to time. Thank you for re-uploading, these images are good. Let's crack on with your feedback.

Starting with your organic intersections, it looks like you set about this exercise with gusto, there's a lot going on here. You're showing strong spatial reasoning skills, as you're showing that you understand how all these forms relate to one another in 3D space, despite the overall complexity you've achieved with these piles.

You're also doing a good job of capturing how these forms slump and sag over one another with a shared sense of gravity, which is just what we're aiming for, nice one.

A couple of tips to keep in mind:

  • The more complex a form is, the more difficult it is to assert it as solid and three dimensional. I'd suggest avoiding the deflated-looking sausages seen in this section of one of your pages, and focus on having your sausage forms feel heavy and inflated for this exercise, like well-filled water balloons.

  • You can get a bit more out of this exercise if you push yourself to draw through all of your forms. You're drawing though most of them already, but I spotted a couple that got cut off where they passed behind something else. By drawing each form in its entirety we have to figure out how the whole form exists in 3D space, and this can help to further develop our spatial reasoning skills.

You're doing a good job of projecting your shadows boldly, so that they cast onto the forms below.

  • Remember to include the shadows on the ground plane. They're missing on this page, which gives the impression that the pile is floating in space. It is difficult to assert the whole pile as feeling stable and supported if there is nothing underneath the bottom forms to support them.

  • On this page the direction your shadows are being projected is a little bit inconsistent, giving the impression that the light source is moving around. Try to keep a single consistent light source in mind for any given pile.

Continuing on to your animal constructions, before I get into the meat of this critique there are 3 points I'd like to bring to your attention.

  • Something that jumps out with the red wolf is that there appear to be a lot of pencil marks on and around this particular construction. Forgive me if I am mistaken (it can happen) but if it is the case that some of this work was done in pencil I need to remind you that working with the recommended tools (fineliner) is a hard requirement for submitting for official critique, as explained in this section of lesson 0.

  • On the same page there are some little sketches that appear to be unrelated to your construction. To help keep your mind on the task at hand, please only work on your assignments on your homework pages.

  • I understand that your decision to complete and submit extra pages comes from a place of enthusiasm, but it is not really in your best interests to do so. Once you have completed the lesson, the exercises are yours to keep, and you can continue to practice with them as part of your warmup routine, or periodically set a side a session to work on animal constructions, whichever approach works best for you. Furthermore, submitting extra work that was not assigned demands more time from the individual providing feedback, which puts a bit of a strain on our limited resources. The idea of 2 pages = 2 pages, and the topics of grinding and warmups, are discussed more thoroughly in this video which explains how to get the most out of Drawabox.

Moving on, your constructions are lively and appealing, though there are a few places where you've undermined the 3D illusion we seek to create with these constructions, perhaps by taking some actions that prioritise the end result over the specific steps you take to get there. Remember that these constructions are exercises designed to help you improve markmaking, spatial reasoning, and observation. As we shift focus to ensuring that the end result is visually pleasing, we also dilute the effectiveness of the exercise. Of course that doesn't mean the end result shouldn't look pleasing - just that this should be a byproduct of doing the exercise, not the result of the exercise being altered for that purpose. And of course, we need to ensure that we're taking all the time we need to ensure the choices we make throughout the process are entirely our decisions, and not the result of automatic/instinctual action.

During your lesson 4 feedback we introduced the following rule to help you to only take actions on your constructions that help to reinforce the 3D illusion. "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." A significant portion of the critique revolved around explaining how this was happening in your work, and how to take actions on your constructions "in 3D" by adding complete new forms instead, along with some diagrams and demos to help you to understand and apply this.

Right now, you're altering the silhouette of forms you have already drawn in a few different ways.

  • On this hybrid it looks like you drew the beak, and then changed your mind about where you wanted it to be and drew it again, leaving the section I've highlighted in red outside your construction to remind the viewer that they are looking at a series of lines on a flat piece of paper. It is important that we don't attempt to redraw things to correct mistakes when engaging with these exercises. Invest as much time as is required into planning and ghosting each mark, and if despite your best efforts a form doesn't come out as you'd planned, continue to build onto the form that is on the page. We inevitably draw things differently from how we intend, due to us not being robots who can make every mark perfectly each time. So, you will inevitably deviate from your reference image. Always treat the reference image as a source of information - something you observe carefully and frequently to apply that information as well as you can, but not as the end-all be-all of what you're trying to draw. So, if you deviate from it despite your best efforts, that's not actually a problem as far as the course is concerned. What matters most of all is that you hold to the 3D structure you're building up, and that you do not undermine its solidity under any circumstances. If that means the end result not matching up perfectly in some ways with your reference, that's fine.

  • On this page of giraffes I've marked on the left construction some places where you've made various smaller alterations to your forms' silhouettes by refining them with a pass of additional line weight. Additional line weight should be reserved for clarifying overlaps as discussed here. When adding line weight it should not "jump" from one form to another. It should be added to one form at a time, and if you need to bridge a gap or adjust the silhouette of your forms you will need to add another mass there. When line weight is allowed to jump between forms it tends to result in something Uncomfortable describes as "shoving a bunch of sausages in a stocking". The stocking smooths out the transitions between the forms, reducing their distinctiveness and making them more like random organic mush.

  • On the head construction on the right of the giraffe page it looks like you'd used the inner line of your ellipses as the foundation for the forms you were constructing, leaving stray lines in the areas I'd highlighted in red to undermine the 3D illusion. Something that may help you a bit here is to stick to 2-3 passes around your ellipses (with 2 being ideal) as going around more times gives more lines to pick from, making this task more difficult.

  • Sometimes you'll make larger extensions off existing forms using a single line. I've highlighted a couple of examples of this in blue here. As explained in this section of lesson 3, this approach only really works for forms that are already flat, such as leaves or some types of insect wings.

  • Sometimes you make it unclear where the edge of a form is supposed to be by redrawing your lines. I've circled a couple of examples here. In ending up with all of these different lines representing the edges of the same form, the viewer is given a number of different possible interpretations. Regardless of which interpretation they choose to follow, there will always be another present there to contradict it, which ultimately undermines their suspension of disbelief and reminds them that they're looking at a flat, two dimensional drawing. Furthermore, the ghosting method stresses the importance of making one mark only, and making sure that each mark is the result of a conscious decision, rather than an automatic instinct.

So, instead of altering the silhouettes of forms we have already drawn, we have to add new forms wherever we want to build onto our constructions or change something. This was introduced in the last lesson, and here with animal constructions we get a bit more specific about how to design these additions so that they reinforce the illusion that our constructions are 3D.

One thing that helps with the shape here is to think about how the mass would behave when existing first in the void of empty space, on its own. It all comes down to the silhouette of the mass - here, with nothing else to touch it, our mass would exist like a soft ball of meat or clay, made up only of outward curves. A simple circle for a silhouette.

Then, as it presses against an existing structure, the silhouette starts to get more complex. It forms inward curves wherever it makes contact, responding directly to the forms that are present. The silhouette is never random, of course - always changing in response to clear, defined structure. You can see this demonstrated in this diagram.

I am seeing quite a degree of aptitude for this across your various constructions, there are plenty of places where you're applying additional masses and designing them in a way that suggests that you have a strong understanding of the 3D forms in your constructions and the specific relationships between them.

There are places where there is scope for improvement, and I've made some corrections to this hybrid.

  • The blue ellipse isn't an "additional mass," I've put this in here to represent some of the bulky mass of the shoulder. This is discussed and demonstrated in this section of the wolf demo. I'm happy to see that you'd attached the legs to the side of the body (rather than underneath) but remembering to include a big, simple shoulder mass will provide a very helpful structure when it comes to attaching additional masses to the construction.

  • So, I've taken advantage of the shoulder mass and used it to help anchor the additional mass above the shoulder area more securely t the construction. I'd pressed the additional mass against the shoulder, creating specific corners and an inward curve in the additional mass where it meets the shoulder. The more interlocked they are, the more spatial relationships we define between the masses, the more solid and grounded everything appears.

  • To keep the mass on top of the shoulder simple where it is exposed to fresh air, I'd separated it into two masses, one for each bump, giving each one its own complete silhouette.

  • The masses on top of the rump and under the belly replace the sections that had been extended using single lines that I marked with blue earlier.

I should touch on leg construction too. Here I am happy to see that you've continued to apply the sausage method, though all the above advice about taking actions in 3D applies for when you want to modify or refine your sausage structures too. There also seem to be a lot of places where you're drawing around your sausage forms twice. We insist on students drawing around their ellipses 2 full times before lifting the pen, as this leans into the arm's natural tendency to make elliptical motions and helps to execute them smoothly. Sausages require a different series of motions to draw, so going around them twice isn't very helpful, it just makes the construction messier.

Moving down to feet, I think you may find it helpful to take a look at these notes on foot construction where Uncomfortable shows how to introduce structure to the foot by drawing a boxy form- that is, forms whose corners are defined in such a way that they imply the distinction between the different planes within its silhouette, without necessarily having to define those edges themselves - to lay down a structure that reads as being solid and three dimensional. Then we can use similarly boxy forms to attach toes.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is head construction. Lesson 5 has a lot of different strategies for constructing heads, between the various demos. Given how the course has developed, and how Uncomfortable is finding new, more effective ways for students to tackle certain problems. So not all the approaches shown are equal, but they do have their uses. As it stands, as explained at the top of the tiger demo page (here), the current approach that is the most generally useful, as well as the most meaningful in terms of these drawings all being exercises in spatial reasoning, is what you'll find here in this informal head demo.

There are a few key points to this approach:

  • The specific shape of the eye sockets - the specific pentagonal shape allows for a nice wedge in which the muzzle can fit in between the sockets, as well as a flat edge across which we can lay the forehead area.

  • This approach focuses heavily on everything fitting together - no arbitrary gaps or floating elements. This allows us to ensure all of the different pieces feel grounded against one another, like a three dimensional puzzle.

  • We have to be mindful of how the marks we make are cuts along the curving surface of the cranial ball - working in individual strokes like this (rather than, say, drawing the eye socket with an ellipse) helps a lot in reinforcing this idea of engaging with a 3D structure.

Try your best to employ this method when doing constructional drawing exercises using animals in the future, as closely as you can. Sometimes it seems like it's not a good fit for certain heads, but as shown in in this banana-headed rhino it can be adapted for a wide array of animals.

I can see you working through similar principles when you approach head construction, and there are some areas where it looks like you're following the process shown in that informal demo at least in part - but bring it all together in the way the demo shows, and you should be able to get even more out of the exercise.

Conclusion

Usually we treat frequently altering the silhouette of forms you have already drawn as something that requires revisions in this lesson, as it is something we go into in depth in lesson 4 feedback and suggests that the previous feedback was not understood. In this case I believe that you do understand how to build your constructions in 3D, and simply need to make sure you review past feedback more frequently so that you can remember to apply the advice you have been given. As such I'll be leaving you to apply the advice provided here independently, in your own time, and go ahead and mark this lesson as complete. Feel free to move on to the 250 cylinder challenge, which is a prerequisite for lesson 6.

Next Steps:

250 cylinder challenge

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
7:21 PM, Wednesday December 13th 2023
edited at 8:10 PM, Dec 16th 2023

Lesson 5

Organic Intersections

Gotcha! I think I struggled a bit with drawing through the forms specifically in regards to the sausages “deforming” as they would slump and sag over one another. I get a little confused as to whether I should be conscious of deforming the sausages while drawing as opposed to after (where you mark where the forms intersect). I drew this image to sort of illustrate the differences in approach. I think you mean to think and draw them sagging and slumping, I just struggle a bit with drawing through the form when being conscious of that.

Thank you for the cast shadow feedback. In all honesty I think I may have just forgotten to impress them onto the ground plane, so that helps. Thank you for pointing out the inconsistencies in lighting sources. I was a little confused because in most of the demos, Uncomfy talks about NOT drawing shadows per-say, but rather using darkness to either convey texture OR line weight (to brings forms forward / push forms back). It’s clear now that the shadows are intentional in THIS exercise, but I think that was a little confusing for me. Thank you for clarifying, and I’ll be more conscious of that when I use this exercise in the future!

Animal Constructions

Ah, yes I apologize for the pencil marks, notes, and sketches. Those actually aren’t mine; I went to a furry convention and met a bunch of fellow artists, and they were giving me tips and demos in my sketchbook wherever there was space. Terrible sorry for that! I just didn’t want to erase their feedback and stuff, rest assured I understand to do the homework in 0.5 black fineliner!

Ah, I apologize for the extra work, I did not mean to siphon even more time away from the undoubtedly thankless and busy job that being a TA for this course is. I was just genuinely very excited to apply the drawabox learnings to animals, the subject matter that got me into art in the first place. I’ll be sure to stick to the lesson and only submit what is needed next time!

Sillouette Alteration

Thank you for pointing this out. I do admit, sometimes I’ll really screw up a construction and not see a path forward using what form I just laid down, and guiltily correct it. It’s good to know that I should be more confident, and remembering that these exercises and homeworks are exactly that. Exercises. Not meant to impress anyone, and cheating them is only going to cheat my own learning. I’ll be much more dilligent about only changing the silhouette through solid, drawn through forms, so thank you.

Ah, good to know I should use another form instead of “jumping” between, especially where forms connect in structures like legs, arms, etc. It’s hard for me to judge when something is “meaningful” enough to warrant adding a new form, so this critique gives me a good signal that if I’m debating using a form, then I probably should.

I see what you mean with the “inner line of the ellipse” and not drawing through that in regards to the giraffe neck. I struggle a lot with drawing through specifically when I get a lot of forms overlapping in one place, and it gets hard to keep track of which form is in front/intersecting what. Do you have any advice for dealing with this?

Animal Limb, Foot, Head Const.

THANK YOU for the advice on drawing limbs better in regards to shoulders specifically. I would always study the references and see where the limb was “entering” the body, but always struggled with how on earth the shoulder got so much bulk from that. I now can understand that there’s additional mass on the shoulder that can point TOWARDS me, and that the top mass of the shoulder sags and rests on top of THAT.

Thank you for linking the notes on foot construction. I always thought using the sausage method was a bit awkward and “flabby” for those very grounded forms, so reading this boxy-forms approach helps significantly. I can’t wait to test this out in some paw and hoof constructions!

For the head notes, it helps to have a standard “pentagonal” shape to think of. In regards to the tiger head demo, one thing that confused me a bit was how complex some of the forms seem. For example, the “cheek” and “ear” forms on the tiger seem to have a lot more defined, sculpted edges than either a simple sausage or a simple box. Should I be employing more complex forms from the start? I just thought that I was supposed to stick to simpler forms whenever possible, especially for the purpose of this exercise. If so, I’d love to learn more about specifically drawing the cheekbones of animals, because I feel like that is the most difficult part for me.

Thank you so much for the critique and the hard work you TAs put into giving paragraphs of actually meaningful and actionable feedback, I truly can not put into words how helpful and insightful it is in helping me improve. I am excited to tackle the 250 cylinder challenge next!

  • Zaverose,
edited at 8:10 PM, Dec 16th 2023
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