Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

5:49 AM, Friday March 10th 2023

drawabox lesson 4 - Album on Imgur

Direct Link: https://i.imgur.com/JkMFk3n.jpg

Discover the magic of the internet at Imgur, a community powered enterta...

These aren't completely arranged chronologically. I did the Scorpion and the Black Widow following the guide before some other pieces, and since those have details, I decided to group them to the back, after 4 other non-detailed pieces.

0 users agree
9:44 AM, Saturday March 11th 2023
edited at 9:46 AM, Mar 11th 2023

Hello, I'll be the teaching assistant handling your lesson 4 critique.

Starting with your organic forms you're doing a good job of aiming for the characteristics of simple sausages that are introduced here. Sometimes a form will be a little "bloated" continually swelling through its midsection, like the form in the middle of the first page, and sometimes a form will have one end larger than the other, like the form on the top left of the second page, but most of them are well done.

When we place an ellipse on the end of a sausage form, it's actually no different from the usual contour curves, aside from the fact that we're conveying the fact that this particular end is facing the viewer, allowing us to see the whole way around the contour line, rather than just a partial curve. I noticed on one of your forms you'd placed them on ends which the preceding contour lines suggest are pointing away from the viewer. I've marked on your work where you'd drawn an ellipse on an end facing away from the viewer. Take a look at this breakdown of the different ways in which our contour lines can change the way in which the sausage is perceived - note how the contour curves and the ellipses are always consistent, giving the same impression of which ends are facing towards the viewer and which are facing away.

I'm happy to see that you're working on varying the degree of your contour curves. Keep in mind that the degree of your contour lines should be shifting wider as we slide along the sausage form, moving farther away from the viewer. This is also influenced by the way in which the sausages themselves turn in space, but farther = wider is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you're unsure as to why that is, review the Lesson 1 ellipses video.

Your contour curves look more confident than they did on your lesson 2 page, though there are still a few that get a little wobbly. Something that might help with these contour curves is to try ghosting the motion of the entire ellipse, and only place the pen down for the section you need to draw the contour curve, that might help you draw them more smoothly.

Moving on to your insect constructions I can see that you're thinking about how the forms you draw exist in 3D space, and I'm happy to see that you're "drawing through" your forms including the parts that you can't see and figuring out how these pieces fit together. I do have some points that should help you get more out of these constructional exercises in the future.

Right off the bat something that stands out on the many of your pages is that you've started your constructions with noticeably fainter lines, then come back later with darker lines to trace over the parts you want to "keep." This is something Uncomfortable calls a clean up pass, and while it is a perfectly valid method of drawing in general it is one we firmly discourage in this course as discussed here. This can encourage us to redraw more of the structure than we strictly need to. I would strongly recommend that you maintain roughly the same thickness of line throughout the entire construction, applying further line weight to clarify overlaps only towards the end.

You've done a good job of starting most of your constructions with simple solid forms, though I couldn't find the simple forms for the head and thorax of this grasshopper. I'm not sure if you drew them very faintly, or skipped them entirely. Either way, I wanted to highlight the importance of building a solid foundation for every construction, these first steps are not a rough guide, or a vague suggestion, we're effectively introducing structure to the world.

Once we have established this solid foundation, there many actions we can take when interacting with a construction, which fall into two groups:

1 Actions in 2D space, where we're just putting lines down on a page, without necessarily considering the specific nature of the relationships between the forms they're meant to represent and the forms that already exist in the scene.

2 Actions in 3D space, where we're actually thinking about how each form we draw exists in 3D space, and how it relates to the existing 3D structures already present. We draw them in a manner that actually respects the 3D nature of what's already there, and even reinforces it.

Because we're drawing on a flat piece of paper, we have a lot of freedom to make whatever marks we choose, but many of those marks would 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 this happening on a number of constructions. As an example I've marked on your ant in red where you cut back inside the silhouette of forms you had already drawn.

On the leg of this grasshopper I marked in blue an example of where you attempted to extend your silhouette without really providing enough information for us to understand how that new addition was meant to exist in 3D space.

Instead, when we want to build on our construction or alter something we add new 3D forms to the existing structure. forms with their own complete 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 understanding that everything we draw is 3D, and therefore needs to be treated as such in order for both you and 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 As Uncomfortable has 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.

So, here is how we might go about adding bulk to the thigh of the grasshopper with complete 3D forms. I also want you to avoid trying to describe 3D structures with single lines, as seen on the antennae. A single line is infinitely thin, and does not provide enough information for the viewer to understand how it exists in 3D space. Instead use one of the 3D forms that you have learned how to construct in this course. You may end up with something that looks a little different from the reference image. We aren't to focus on reproducing the reference image at all costs, but rather to treat is as a source of information that helps us determine the direction of our goal, and we start out with simple pieces, gradually building them up piece by piece until we're able to achieve something more complex, somewhat closer to our reference than when we started. That process involves considering how different forms sit in 3D space, and how they relate to one another within it - it's by forcing our brain to think about these things as though they exist in three dimensions that helps develop that mental model of space, and our underlying spatial reasoning skills.

Something else that undermines the solidity of some of your constructions is the tendency to redraw or repeat your lines, we can use the two forms on the tip of the tail of this shrimp as an example. Each one has been drawn at least 3 times, as far as I can tell.

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.

So in future, commit to your lines, and do not attempt to redraw them in an effort to "fix" a mistake. Adding more ink to a mistake won't help, it will just make your work messy and confusing. At no point in this course are we "sketching," every mark we add to a construction must serve a purpose. This is one of the many benefits of using the ghosting method, during the planning stage ask yourself what this mark is going to contribute to your construction.

The next thing I wanted to talk about is leg construction. It looks like you were working on using the sausage method as introduced here, on most of your pages. I did notice a tendency for you to use ellipses instead of sausage forms for some of your leg segments, which makes them look stiff. You're a bit inconsistent about applying a contour curve to show how these sausage forms connect together in 3D space. using contour lines to define how different forms connect to one another is an incredibly useful tool. It saves us from having to add other stand-alone contour lines along the length of individual forms, and reinforces the illusion of solidity very effectively. You can see them highlighted in red on this copy of the sausage method diagram.

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 shown in these examples here, here, and in this ant leg demo and also here on this dog leg demo as this method should be used throughout lesson 5 too.

The last point I need to talk about is texture. You've done a good job of following along with the texture and detail in the black widow demo, but I have a strong suspicion that the black bands on this insect are indicating a color pattern. Remember that when using texture in this course you should be using the shapes of cast shadows to implicitly describe the smaller forms on an object's surface. You're telling the viewer how that surface feels. This has nothing to do with what color the surface happens to be. For the sake of these exercises, imagine your insect is all one colour, like it has been painted white or grey. I'm also seeing cases where you'd coloured in the eyes of some constructions, which again I think may be copying things that look dark in the reference, rather than considering the forms present in the construction, and designing shadow shapes cast from one form onto another.

Okay, I have given you quite a few things to work on here, so I will be assigning some revisions for you to apply this feedback. The concepts in these lessons build upon one another, so if I send you forward with unaddressed issues they may become exacerbated in the next lesson. Take your time. Sometimes students get the impression that if they work on a drawing or a page of an exercise, then that drawing/page must be done by the time they get up. That of course doesn't really make too much sense when you think about it, since it would mean that how much time the drawing requires is entirely dependent on how much time you happen to have that day. Instead, in order to give each drawing as much time as it requires - and more than that, each individual mark as much time as it requires - we simply break our drawings up across multiple days as needed.

Next Steps:

Please complete 3 pages of insect constructions.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
edited at 9:46 AM, Mar 11th 2023
6:05 AM, Monday March 13th 2023

Hello, thank you so much for your critique. Based on your feedback, in these revisions, I have attempted to be more conscious of these following points:

  • To not use a 2nd line pass

  • To add contour lines to joints of limbs

  • To not cut back on form silhouettes, and focus more on doing additive construction

  • To avoid implying details with just a single line (antenna etc)

  • To add additional 3d forms with more solid information (like contour lines/wrapping around original form)

  • To ignore flat colour patterns.

Please let me know if these sufficiently summed up the points I needed to improve on, and whether the correction sufficiently addressed these points of concern.

Thank you so much!


10:32 AM, Monday March 13th 2023

Hello HxHexa, thank you for replying with your revisions.

Maintaining a more consistent line thickness through the various stages of construction and avoiding using a clean up pass. Yes, understood and applied in your work, good. I can see that in most cases you're reserving additional line weight for clarifying overlaps, good stuff.

Adding contour lines to the joints where leg sausages intersect. Yes, and you've applied them much more consistently here, well done.

Not altering the silhouettes of forms you've already drawn, and building your construction by adding complete new forms instead. Yes, you're doing much better at treating the forms you've established as solid and 3D, and trying to avoid undermining the 3D illusion of your constructions. Sometimes I think you accidentally cut inside forms you have already drawn where there is a gap between passes on your ellipses, as marked in red here. There is a way we can work with a loose ellipse and still build a solid construction. What you need to do if there is a gap between passes of your ellipse is to use the outer line as the foundation for your construction. Treat the outermost perimeter as though it is the silhouette's edge - doesn't matter if that particular line tucks back in and another one goes on to define that outermost perimeter - as long as we treat that outer perimeter as the silhouette's edge, all of the loose additional lines remain contained within the silhouette rather than existing as stray lines to undermine the 3D illusion. This diagram shows which lines to use on a loose ellipse.

Avoiding trying to describe part of a construction with single lines, yes, I can see you've understood and applied this point.

Ignoring changes in local colour, as they do not indicate form. Yes, good, I can see you understood and applied this point.

Something I'm seeing is that sometimes you to draw around your leg sausage forms twice. We ask students to draw around ellipses twice because this leans into the arm's natural tendency to make elliptical motions. As these sausage forms require a different series of motions going around them twice isn't particularly helpful, and can actually lead to you accidentally making your leg sausages elliptical, which was something I commented on before. So in future only draw around your sausage forms once, and keep the characteristics of simple sausage forms in mind.

So, overall great work! I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete, best of luck with lesson 5.

Next Steps:

Lesson 5

This critique marks this lesson as complete.
The recommendation below is an advertisement. Most of the links here are part of Amazon's affiliate program (unless otherwise stated), which helps support this website. It's also more than that - it's a hand-picked recommendation of something I've used myself. If you're interested, here is a full list.
Ellipse Master Template

Ellipse Master Template

This recommendation is really just for those of you who've reached lesson 6 and onwards.

I haven't found the actual brand you buy to matter much, so you may want to shop around. This one is a "master" template, which will give you a broad range of ellipse degrees and sizes (this one ranges between 0.25 inches and 1.5 inches), and is a good place to start. You may end up finding that this range limits the kinds of ellipses you draw, forcing you to work within those bounds, but it may still be worth it as full sets of ellipse guides can run you quite a bit more, simply due to the sizes and degrees that need to be covered.

No matter which brand of ellipse guide you decide to pick up, make sure they have little markings for the minor axes.

This website uses cookies. You can read more about what we do with them, read our privacy policy.