Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
9:51 PM, Sunday March 28th 2021
Thank you for your hard work.
Starting with the organic intersections, there are a couple suggestions/reminders I want to offer:
Firstly, try to avoid the "mother ship" arrangement - instead of making one big one and a bunch of smaller ones, try to keep all the sausage forms the same size. This will allow for more useful exploration of their interactions in space.
Work bottom up - meaning, always add a new one to the top of the stack, don't try to sneak one underneath. After all, the way you draw a given sausage is going to take those underneath into consideration, so it can realistically wrap around them and abide by gravity correctly. If you try to add one underneath, then there isn't really any way to change the silhouette of the top one to respond to it, since it has already been defined.
Moving onto your animal constructions, there are areas of strength and areas of weakness, but overall I think you are moving in the right direction. One thing that stands out in particular is that where a lot of students kind of slap on their additional masses more like random blobs, you're definitely showing a greater awareness of how they wrap around the underlying structure. It can still be improved, but it's definitely a sign that you're absorbing the material fairly well.
So the first thing I'm going to point out is how those things can be improved, despite already moving in the right direction with it. On this donkey drawing I've pointed out a number of changes:
First and foremost, while you're definitely thinking about how your forms wrap around the structure they're being attached to, when your forms get particularly small, I can see those silhouettes being drawn a little more vaguely, rather than being designed with as much intent as the bigger ones. Even though a mass is going to be small, try your best to think about how it's actually wrapping around the structure and work in individual, purposeful marks. 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.
Similarly, be mindful of where your forms overlap one another. I think you are thinking about this to a point, but those overlaps appear more timid, like you're not entirely sure so you kind of hedge your bets. Choose a course of action, then commit to it whole heartedly.
Towards the back hip, you blocked in a nice big mass that connects to the leg. There's an excellent opportunity to wrap the mass along the buttocks around it, to create a sort of "puzzle" of pieces that fit solidly together. We can achieve that towards the front as well, at the shoulder.
Not related to additional masses, but I did notice that in the muzzle, you cut back into the silhouette of the box you started with. I called this sort of thing out in my critique of your lesson 4 work - make sure you avoid it, because it does flatten out the result. When working on organic construction, always work additively.
Before I move on from this donkey construction, I do want to point out one last important point - the actual positioning of the donkey's legs appears to be quite different from the reference image (specifically for the legs on the opposite side of the body). This suggests that you're not necessarily investing as much time as you should in the direct observation and study of your reference image. If it's occurring in those less significant areas, it's likely happening elsewhere - make sure you're investing the vast majority of your time on observation rather than drawing. That's how we determine the specific nature of how these things should be drawn.
The last point I wanted to call out is the head construction. This explanation from the informal demos page covers the most up-to-date strategy I want students to use for their animal head constructions. Eventually I'll swap out the demos to approach it in this manner, but since I'm working my way through overhauling Lesson 1, it'll be a while before I get to this point. That said, the explanation explains how to approach the eye sockets as the first move in taking the rounded surface of the cranial ball and break it down into a series of planes.
Aside from the eye socket, the other point to take away from that explanation is the importance of keeping all the components of the head wedged together, like pieces of a puzzle. You generally draw the components so they float loosely, which keeps the structure from feeling grounded and solid.
Now, I've shared a number of things for you to address, so I'm going to assign some revisions below and give you the opportunity to apply the points I've raised.
Please submit 4 additional pages of animal construction, keeping the points I raised in mind. Be sure to go over that head construction explanation, and apply it to the best of your ability.
Starting with your squirrel, this one's pretty well done. The tail on the back there has some issues - you didn't draw it in its entirety (it got cut off when it hit the body so it reads more as a flat shape rather than a solid 3D form) and you way overdid it with contour lines as well. The main body of the squirrel is pretty good though.
The wolf has a lot of major issues:
Most of all, you're really not observing your reference carefully enough here, so your proportions are completely off. One thing that helps a lot with this is paying attention to the "negative shapes" created by the various parts of the animal's body. For example, if we look at the shapes that exist between the wolf's legs, we can see just how far off your own construction is. Keeping those negative shapes in mind as you construct the body will help you maintain a closer relationship with your reference material. The goal certainly isn't to create a perfect copy, but your wolf drawing definitely suggests you allowed yourself to spend too long drawing without looking back at your reference frequently enough.
With head construction, it's very important that you stick with the core head construction I shared with you previously, because it provides a foundation upon which we can build upon. From what I can see, you probably read through it, but you weren't really attempting to apply it as directly to your drawings as you could have. Things like the specific eye socket shapes, minding the brow ridge, and so on ended up falling by the wayside. As you can see where I drew on top of the wolf reference itself, I would definitely consider the "cranial ball" we start out with to be MUCH smaller than the whole furry mass we can see in the reference. This is one of those things you'll develop an instinct for as you do more animal studies, but in general always try to work with smaller forms rather than committing yourself to a ball that occupes the whole visible space of the head. It's much harder to do that and then pull back, and so you end up with really exaggerated proportions.
For the legs, I'm noticing that as you draw additional masses, you seem to be trying to keep the resulting silhouette of the leg very smooth and simple. When we add additional masses to a structure, we're inevitably going to end up with these little "pinches" formed by two or more outward curves meeting together. This occurs when we respect the fact that each new mass is its own volume, its own entity being incorporated into the structure. We can't simply smooth them out based on what we want to achieve - we have to take them into consideration and allow each additional mass to bring a bit of its own volume to the structure. As a result, those 'pinches' help create a more complex silhouette that still reads as solid and believable, and can help imply things like musculature.
For the rabbit, I did notice that you were building up some of your additional masses without really thinking about how you ought to design those silhouettes, as shown here. Consider where you use inward vs. outward curves more carefully.
All in all, I think you're moving in the right direction but still have a ways to go. Take what I've laid out here and try another 3 animal constructions. I'm adding one additional restriction as well - for these 3 constructions, you are not allowed to use the kind of contour lines that just sit on the surface of a single form. Those that define the intersection between forms are still allowed, but not contour lines like these.
Please submit an additional 3 animal constructions.