Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

5:43 AM, Saturday May 21st 2022

Draw a box lesson 4 - Album on Imgur

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This was pretty difficult since I really don't care for bugs. I felt like at the beginning my drawings were really flat so I tried to do multiple angles on the same bug to try to make it feel less flat. I also struggled A LOT with the shadow forms underneath. Any additional tips to help with the shadow forms in the future is much appreciated!

Thanks for the critique!

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12:37 AM, Tuesday May 24th 2022

This is honestly a very, very interesting submission. Your organic forms with contour curves are okay, though could definitely be better (and you accidentally did one page of contour ellipses, though two pages of contour curves was what was assigned), but you really shine quite a bit in your insect constructions, despite the difficulty they gave you. More importantly, I see a great deal of improvement and a ton of self-reflection that shows a great deal of consideration and heavy lifting. I wanted to start out with these first impressions simply because of how I pleased I am with what I'm seeing. I do of course have some suggestions for you to keep in mind as you move forwards.

So! Jumping in with the organic forms with contour curves:

  • Pay more attention to what's actually being assigned! Lots of people make this mistake, so don't feel too silly, but you should probably feel a little silly.

  • You're doing a pretty good job of sticking to the characteristics of simple sausages although keep working at it to work out the last minor kinks - ends getting smushed or stretched out (instead of remaining entirely circular in shape), slight tapering through the midsections, etc.

  • Keep in mind that the degree of your contour lines is supposed to shift wider as we slide farther away from the viewer along the length of a given cylindrical structure. You can review the Lesson 1 ellipses video which explains this, with props for extra clarity, in case you've forgotten the reasoning behind this.

Moving onto your insect constructions, what makes me really happy here is that you are working VERY hard to focus on how the things you draw define not just flat shapes on the page, but actual solid forms. But this is also the thing we'll dig into further to identify how you could be doing this in ways that will ultimately yield even more solid results.

Another point that you're holding to well is the principle of working from simple to complex. While there are definitely cases where you jump ahead in complexity (for example, the way you've tackled the big "thighs" on this monkey hopper), you're attentive to the fact that this isn't necessarily the right call, as we can see from the fact that you buried them in contour lines.

This leads us to our first point - contour lines are a useful tool, but as with all tools, we can't just use them without thinking about what it is we're trying to achieve, and what the best path to get there might be. Contour lines - specifically the kind you're using here, the ones we introduce in the Lesson 2 organic forms with contour lines exercise - suffer from diminishing returns. The more we put down, the less of an impact they all have. Rarely - if ever - is the solution going to be to pile on a ton of them, and if it comes to that, you might need to ask yourself questions about why you had such a complex individual form that it needed so much extra help to feel solid.

There are other kinds of contour lines, however - like those we introduced in the form intersections exercise - which can be far more impactful. These define the relationship between separate forms, establishing how they interconnect, and in defining that relationship between them, we actually create an endless loop of one form making the other feel 3D - and in turn, the second form making the first feel 3D, and around and around. If we leverage this, we can ostensibly construct that 'thigh' as shown here. Each piece remains simple on its own (with those additional masses only adding complexity where it's necessary to define how they wrap around the existing structure, and keeping everything else as simple as it can), and the result ultimately feels more solid than your complex shape with contour lines.

Moving on, the big point that I want talk about is the distinction between the kinds of actions we can take when approaching these drawing exercises. We can either choose to take actions that occur in two dimensions - drawing individual lines and shapes on the flat page - or we can choose to focus on how the things we draw exist in 3D space, building on top of them with actions that reinforce their 3D nature, rather than undermining it.

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.

We can see examples of this here where you'd initially started with larger initial masses which you'd drawn with very faint, barely visible lines, and then cut into them where I'd marked in red. This tendency towards starting fainter and increasing thickness as we progress is generally something you should avoid throughout this course, because it leaves you no option but to take action in 2D space, either to redraw the given forms' silhouettes, or to trace back over them to "commit" (and in so doing, accidentally alter them in small ways).

Instead, be sure to put every mark down with the same confidence, thinking of them as though they establish solid, 3D structures. Then, whenever we want to build upon our construction or change something, we can do so by introducing new 3D forms to the structure - forms with their own fully self-enclosed silhouettes - 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.

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 see this in practice in this beetle horn demo, as well as in this ant head demo. You can also see some good examples of this in the lobster and shrimp demos on the informal demos page (although I can see that you had already studied those quite extensively). As I've been pushing this concept more recently, it hasn't been fully integrated into the lesson material yet (it will be when the overhaul reaches Lesson 4). Until then, those submitting for official critiques basically get a preview of what is to come.

The last point I wanted to talk about circles back to what I was showing with that monkey hopper's leg. Overall you are clearly making an effort to stick to the sausage method, although you're kind of inconsistent in how closely you follow it. There are definitely cases where you'll work with an ellipse instead of a sausage, or otherwise not quite stick as closely to the characteristics of simple sausages as you should (although I think this generally comes from the fact that those characteristics are not easy to match when they get especially thin). More importantly however, there are also cases where you neglect to define the joint between the sausages with a contour line, which as shown in the middle of the sausage method diagram is quite important. You actually left it out of demos like the informal shrimp demo as well, which suggests that it's something you need to make a conscious effort to address specifically. Always be sure that when you're following along with a demo, you're striving to apply every step exactly as it's noted there.

Circling back to the sausage method as a whole, 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.

And that about covers it! It's clear that there are still plenty of cases where you take action in 2D space - don't take that to say that it was a mistake, because it's really not something that I've yet determined how I want to introduce it to the source material, so in that sense it was not done in error. But, I hope you'll keep these points in mind as you move forwards, and go on to apply them as you tackle the next lesson. With having them pointed out as I've done here, and looking at the way in which you've approached your work otherwise, I think you'll do great.

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

Next Steps:

Feel free to move onto lesson 5.

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
2:16 AM, Tuesday May 24th 2022

Hi Uncomfortable,

Thank you so much for the detailed evaluation! That was really helpful and I did forget some of the things from earlier which you picked up on so it was a good refresher. I'm excited ot move on to lesson 5.

Sincerely,

mbl5042

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