Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
11:24 AM, Sunday August 16th 2020
Thanks for the critique!
Starting with your organic intersections, while these are mostly going in the right direction, there are a few issues that stood out to me.
Firstly, the second page overall feels much more solidly laid out than the first. In the first page, towards the upper right you've got a grouping of sausage forms that don't really feel in any way stable in how they're sitting atop this pile. It's important that with every form you add to the pile, you're thinking about how it's actually going to sit atop it without falling off. We're conveying an illusion of physics - specifically gravity - so always think about that when your forms are drawn.
When drawing your cast shadows, make sure you think about which part of a form is in front of another, and which is behind it. For the right-most form on the first page, you've got shadows being cast by both sides of it, when the left side should definitely be behind the bottom most sausage. This breaks the illusion quite a bit.
Your second page is better, as I mentioned, and generally feels more stable, though I'm unsure of what the strange, complex silhouette/shape along the far left side is intended to be. It certainly doesn't appear to adhere to the instructions for the exercise, though.
Moving onto your animal constructions, I think you have shown a good deal of improvement over the set, but there are a number of issues I still want to address, and I think there is still a lot of room left for improvement.
The first thing that jumped out at me was a tendency that came up early on in the set: looking at pages such as this one and this one, it's very clear that you're very interested in getting into detail and texture with these drawings, and that a significant part of your focus is immediately taken up by that particular goal. I can't stress this enough - every single drawing you do for Drawabox is an exercise. At no point are we concerned with creating a pretty detailed drawing that we can use to impress our friends and family and pin to our fridge. It's a very common misunderstanding students have, and more than that even when students grasp this in earlier lessons, they often have a tendency to forget when getting into this lesson. I suppose animals are just an enjoyable thing to draw, and so our priorities suddenly change.
Looking specifically at the page of birds I linked shows a particular issue - here you're very clearly breaking your drawing into two distinct phases: an underdrawing, and then a "clean-up pass". The clean-up pass is where you basically go in to replace most of the existing linework with a darker stroke. That concept of "replacing" those lines is an important mistake - constructional drawing is all about building on top of the structure you've already added to the world. We don't redraw entire forms, we merely add them on top of one another. So the way in which you've constructed the feathers with these two birds is very much moving in the wrong direction.
I won't dwell on that much further though, because you do visibly improve upon this as you move through the homework. I'm still convinced that you are at least partially distracted by the need to delve into detail and to draw impressive things, and as a result much more time and effort could ostensibly be invested into the actual construction, in following the steps laid out by the various demonstrations and the instructions. It's very normal to see students getting caught up in drawing detailed things, and so even while they're working through the underlying construction part of their cognitive capacity will still be dedicated to figuring out how they're going to work in all that detail, leaving them with far less with which to sort out the important spatial problems.
Moving on, another concern I have comes down to how you're handling the 'additional masses'. While I am very pleased that you are trying to use them in building up the complexity of your constructions, as it stands right now your additional masses tend to read more as flat shapes being pasted on top of the existing drawing, rather than solid 3D forms being wrapped around the existing 3D structure.
Here's some notes I just wrote up for you, which go into the particular mechanics of making those additional forms actually feel three dimensional, rather than like a series of 2D shapes you've pasted on top of your drawing. And here's a quick analysis of areas where some of the kinds of issues I noted occur in your drawing.
Related to this, I do want to talk a bit about your use of the sausage method when constructing your legs. Firstly, you're doing a decent job of drawing the sausages themselves in most cases, but you regularly forget to reinforce the joint between them with a contour line, as explained in the middle of the diagram. Furthermore, it seems to me like when it comes to drawing the legs you end up relying a lot more on memory rather than actually studying the reference to get a more nuanced, complex idea of all the little forms and elements included in that structure. As you can see here, there's a lot of individual components you can find in something as mundane as a dog's leg. A lot of this of course goes back to being able to use those additional forms correctly, of course.
Now, in regards to much of this I do feel like you're showing some progress as you move into the deer and other later drawings, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. As one last thing I'm going to touch upon how you approach head constructions - specifically the fact that you have a tendency to have the eye sockets and muzzle floating more loosely and separately from one another, rather than fitting them together snugly like pieces of a 3D puzzle. A shown in this tapir head demo and this moose head demo, it's important that you think about all of these components as fitting together tightly. Consider that the eye socket doesn't just float loosely on its own - it's buttressed on all sides by the muzzle, the brow ridge, the cheekbone, etc. They're not elements pasted onto the head - they are each of them a solid chunk, and together they make up the head as a whole.
Now, I've given you a number of things to review. As such, I'm going to assign a handful of additional pages below to demonstrate your understanding of these principles. I want you to adhere to one thing though - don't get into any texture/detail. Push the construction as far as you reasonably can by building up forms, wrapping them around one another and really selling the idea that each component is three dimensional, but don't get into things like fur, and such. You'll find the revisions assigned below.
I'd like you to do 5 additional pages of animal drawings, with no texture or detail as mentioned above. Take care to implement the points I've mentioned above, especially making better use of those additional masses to have them read as 3D forms rather than as simple flat shapes on a flat page. The key to that is controlling the silhouette of that form as you draw it.
Thank you for the critique!
I think I have understood most of it, and will try to demonstrate it in the revision. But I still have some questions :
About the texture, I personally don't like adding details, since it takes so much times (I am very lazy) and teaches very little, and was forcing myself to do it to not miss a part of the lessons. I think, since I don't like to do it, that it is my weakness, not only in Drawabox but also in my other works/exercises. Now the arrival of my new brush pen motivated me to do more of it, since I could learn about texture and handling that new difficult thing.
a. I though I was doing silhouette, but you said I was redrawing over the lines. I don't really understand the difference. What I understood from the insects lessons is that once we draw a force, we should not cut into it. And since birds have sometimes space between the feathers, I though the outward line of the form couldn't be drawn using the full volume of the wing.
b. I don't really understand what is proper texture in those exercises. We studied it in lesson 2, and seen it many times in the demos of the other lessons, but I still don't understand how should it be drawn. What differentiates an exercise with proper texture and a pretty detailed drawing?
This one is about the shape I made in the second form intersection page. Is it all right if I draw the shape of the cast shadow on the ground but don't fill it? You do a similar thing in the insects demos and I was interested into doing the exercise of visualizing the shape of the cast shadow, without wasting so much ink.
Thank you again for the critique
So the thing to remember is that Drawabox is not focused on texture and detail - while we do touch upon it, the course is primarily focused on construction, and it becomes very easy to get distracted from that core focus. In general, don't look at Drawabox as being a course to be combined with your particular goals - I understand that there are particular things that you will want to focus on, but the course is designed in a particular way in order to develop very specific skills and understanding. At this stage you aren't equipped to modify that approach properly.
In regards to the wings, you actually did cut back into that wing several times while redefining the silhouette. Your intended strategy wasn't wrong, but the execution was off, and the use of your brush pen to do it compounded those mistakes. You should only be using your brush pen to fill the cast shadow shapes (even the outlines of those shapes should first be drawn with your regular fineliner). You can see a better way of handling the feathers as shown here, but before that the wings themselves were drawn to be quite flat, and this also impacted your result.
The drawings we're doing here are at their core about learning how to communicate visually. Through construction we communicate to the viewer what it'd be like to pick up the object and manipulate it in their hands. It gives them the spatial understanding of the structure, how the forms fit together and so on. Through texture, we communicate what it would be like to run our hands over that surface, to understand the nature of the little textural elements, and how they're spread out over the surface.
The thing to keep in mind is that everything serves a purpose here, we are transferring a bit of information that we feel the viewer requires to fully grasp the totality of the object. When we get into the territory of "making a pretty picture" is when we instead start thinking of it more as decoration, taking steps to add detail for detail's own sake. This is definitely still a confusing concept, but one key issue is when students jump to detail before fully fleshing out the construction. A solid construction with no texture still communicates 90% of the information the viewer will need, with the texture itself constituting just the last 10%. Many students who are focusing more on just decoration will end up communicating only a small portion of the construction, plus 10% from the detail. This results in far less than even the 90% we'd get from the construction alone.
I can see now that you made certain decisions because you were eager to work with your brush pen - but in doing so you broke away from the actual instructions you were given, which was to work with a specific kind of pen.
As to the organic intersections' shadow outline, that would generally be okay, but in this case it didn't come through clearly because that particular shadow was not consistent with the other shadows in the scene. The shadows you had filled in suggested that the shadows were coming a little more forward, as shown here.
I hope that clarifies any confusion.
Thank you, I'll reply to the first critique when I finish the revision.
This definitely shows a good deal of improvement in a number of areas. Overall I'm fairly pleased with your results, and while I think further practice will help solidify these concepts, I'm pleased to mark the lesson as complete.
There's just one relatively minor issue I want to call out:
On a number of your drawings (like both these wolves, the mountain lion at the top of this page and the otter at the bottom of this one), you have a contour curve right through the middle of the torso that basically wraps right around the whole thing, including around an additional mass along its top.
This contour curve is a big contradiction, because it neglects the fact that the additional mass is an obviously irregular bump (and is meant to be). Make sure your contour lines actually flow along the surface of the forms as they exist - don't try and use these contour lines to contradict existing elements of your construction, as any kind of contradiction will undermine the illusion you've tried to build up.
So, keep that in mind as you continue practicing these on your own. As I mentioned, I'll go ahead and mark this lesson as complete.
Move onto the 250 cylinder challenge, which is a prerequisite for lesson 6.
Thank you for the critique! And also for answering my questions during your stream that other day :)