Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids

8:18 PM, Saturday July 25th 2020

Drawabox Lesson 4 Homework - Album on Imgur

Imgur: https://imgur.com/gallery/cZxOUhK

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I've switched to a different sketchbook that is supposed to be more pen friendly with thinner paper after last lesson. It's still resisting a bit with the pen so I wanted to ask if you had any drawing book brand recommendation besides printer paper for the 0.5mm Staedtler pens.

Also there are a few mistakes with the contour curves, I've been practicing them and the contour ellipses a quite a bit so they're better than when I started. The mistakes are still pretty noticeable though so let me know if you want them redone. Maybe even a 250 sausage challenge hahaha.

For the insects/arachnids these are my references: https://imgur.com/a/ooChIx1

I included 3 of the demo drawings in the 10 total drawings, I also drew the scorpion, louse, and tarantula but didn't include them since I thought they would take up too much. If you want 3 more that aren't demos I can draw them, my assumption was that I could include the demos like in the plants exercise as long as it was less than half. No issues if I have to draw more though, I really enjoyed this exercise in figuring out construction!

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10:09 PM, Saturday July 25th 2020

I agree that the paper you're using here is still not suited to your pens, though as I do not recommend students use sketchbooks at all for this course. As mentioned here and in my last critique, I mention that using printer paper is ideal. I'm not sure why you're insisting on finding a more suitable sketchbook when printer paper is considerably cheaper, and at least in most places easier to acquire.

Starting with your organic forms with contour lines, these are largely well done, though continue to keep an eye on the ends of your sausage forms. You tend to have one that is properly circular/spherical, and another that comes out a little more stretched. Both should be equal in size, and circular, so as to give a stronger impression of solidity. Also, don't forget that the degree of a contour line basically represents the orientation of that cross-section in space, relative to the viewer, and as we slide along the sausage form, the cross section is either going to open up (allowing us to see more of it) or turn away from the viewer (allowing us to see less), as shown here.

Moving onto your insect drawings, the interaction between the paper and the fineliner definitely does hinder things somewhat. The toothier paper tends to result in more bleed, resulting in thicker, less refined lines, and also encourages you to work somewhat more loosely (simply because it's hard to do otherwise with how the pen wants to behave). I genuinely cannot stress enough that you should switch over to printer paper, regardless of what reasoning you may have to want to stick with sketchbooks.

Looking at your rhinoceros beetle, what stands out most here is that while you start out with your basic masses, you don't really treat them as though they're solid forms present in a 3D world. As I've highlighted here, when adding additional forms on top of those masses, you cut across it freely, not really respecting it as a solid entity within the world but instead treating it more like a flat shape on the page that can be ignored when necessary. To this point, give these notes a read.

The thing about drawing is that we are able to put down marks of any sort, and draw shapes of any kind - but only a small subset of this infinite set of options will actually serve to reinforce or even maintain the illusion that this object we're drawing is actually three dimensional, solid, and believable. All the rest will undermine that assertion, reminding the viewer that, "oh, it's just a piece of paper with some marks on it". So we have to, at every turn, always make sure that we're constantly reinforcing the illusion we've started with.

Simplicity is key - by drawing a form so it is as simple as possible, it is easiest to give the impression that it is three dimensional. That's why we stress the importance of simple sausage forms so heavily, or rely on very basic primitive forms. With that solidity in place, we then take steps, bit by bit, to build up our construction as a whole while continuing to maintain that simplicity. Every mark we put down risks losing the illusion, and once it's lost it is very difficult - even impossible - to get it back.

On top of cutting across your basic forms, and not really establishing them as being three dimensional and solid first and foremost (you seem to treat them more loosely, not quite investing the time to ensure that you believe they're solid and 3D), the forms you add on top don't really wrap around those masses or define any kind of a solid 3D relationship with them. As a result of this and their own complexity, they end up reading more as flat shapes.

You do have better drawings - the praying mantis, for example, is much more visibly made up of individual solid forms, and it's actually not because you've covered it in contour lines. In fact, the vast majority of these contour lines aren't contributing much at all to making the construction feel solid. Contour lines tend to experience diminishing returns - the first you add to a form will make it feel much more solid and three dimensional in isolation. The second will simply reinforce the first, and the third will probably not contribute much at all. Soon you end up with marks that contribute nothing, but clutter the drawing.

With every single mark you draw, it's critical that you think about what job you want it to do, whether it is the best choice for that job, and whether another mark is already doing that task for you. Only when you decide that mark is valuable to the drawing in some way, should you move on to actually work through the steps of drawing it.

There are also different kinds of contour lines, some more valuable than others. The contour lines that sit along the surface of a single form (like the way contour lines were first introduced) are okay, but what's far more valuable are the ones that sit at the connection between two separate 3D forms, defining a clear relationship between them in 3D space. That's basically like the intersection lines in our form intersections. These are vastly more effective, and can render the first kind of contour line largely unnecessary in most cases.

Another significant issue I'm seeing is that your use of the sausage method for constructing your insects' legs is inconsistent in most cases, if present at all. It's true that not all of your insects' legs will look like a chain of sausage forms, but the technique is still incredibly valuable because it can allow us to capture legs in a way that appears solid and three dimensional, whilst maintaining the impression of fluidity and gesture. You really should be applying it to each and every creature's legs - even in the next lesson when you tackle animals - to create an underlying base structure or armature. Once in place you can and should go back over it, adding additional forms as shown here to add bulk where it's needed.

The last thing I want to touch upon is your liberal use of hatching and form shading throughout your drawings. You appear to have forgotten certain rules and restrictions for this course, such as the fact that we don't get into form shading in our drawings. As an extension of that hatching should be avoided entirely as well. Any area intended to be filled should be filled with solid black - and filled areas should be restricted to just cast shadow shapes and nothing else. We are not loosely sketching things - we are first and foremost constructing our objects in order to convey to the viewer how one could ostensibly manipulate the object in their hands, and then we capture the texture of their surfaces to convey what it might feel like to run our fingers over the surfaces of those forms. We are not sketching things or trying to make them feel rendered and detailed for the purposes of impressing people. Each and every one of these drawings is just an exercise and nothing more, with the focus being on learning how to communicate visually, and to work in 3D space.

Now I've left you a number of things to try to process and apply, so I'm going to assign additional pages for you below to demonstrate that you understand the points I've raised.

Next Steps:

I'd like you to draw 4 additional insect constructions, adhering to the following restrictions:

  • Draw them on printer paper

  • Do not use any contour lines that sit along the surface of a single form. The contour lines that define the relationship between two separate forms are still allowed, and encouraged.

  • Be sure to use the sausage method as explained in this diagram for all of your legs.

  • At every stage of construction, make sure you are focused on establishing the forms you've put down as being solid and three dimensional. Do not manipulate them in two dimensions, cutting across their silhouettes or anything like that - always interact with them in three dimensions by wrapping additional forms around them.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
4:43 PM, Thursday August 6th 2020

Here are the additional Pages: https://imgur.com/gallery/1CTGE66

First off I apologize for not using printer paper prior, I felt organized with a sketchbook so I was looking for one that worked for pens. After reading your critique I've immediately switched to printer paper and also bought folders to keep the lessons organized.

In these revised pages I did use one contour line on the stag beetle which sat along the surface of one form. This was an error since I started constructing the back like I did with the louse when practicing but quickly realized this wouldn't work for the beetle abdomen form I was constructing.

I've tried to follow these 4 restrictions as meticulously as possible, if there are any mistakes or additional pages required I have no issue retrying. I heavily appreciate the extensive critique and all of the focus on details I messed up on. The advice is very helpful as well because while I was drawing these on my first attempt I was definitely getting distracted with making them presentable. I don't notice these mistakes at times until the critique and it helps me get back on track before I start forming bad habits. The diagrams especially helped with this. I feel much more confident with these additional pages and if you see anything I didn't while making these I'd love more feedback.

5:51 PM, Thursday August 6th 2020

I have a number of things to point out, but I found it easiest to have first marked it out in this image, and to address each point below.

  1. As discussed back in Lesson 2, you should absolutely not be dividing your drawing up into an "underdrawing" or "sketch" (basically marks you don't feel are part of the final drawing, and therefore purposely draw more lightly or faintly with the intent of hiding them, and a "clean-up pass" (marks that are much heavier, usually drawn with more hesitation. Constructional drawing is about every single form you draw being a solid, 3D entity within the scene, and those forms connecting and relating to one another in clearly defined ways, and this kind of approach contradicts the spirit of construction. Instead, you need to treat every mark you put down on the page as being solid and three dimensional (as I believe I mentioned in my original critique). If you're going to put down a simple ball form to represent the abdomen, then you need to go on to wrap other forms around it for segmentation - not just ignoring it in a way where the original mass could just as well be erased from the final result. Each entity is a part of the final construction, and each and every mark should be drawn with confidence. If you look at any of my demonstrations, you'll see that I don't take any steps to hide things, and so neither should you.

  2. The shell on that beetle in your first drawing reads entirely as a flat, two dimensional shape, rather than a solid 3D form entirely because of how it lacks any clear relationship with the underlying, simpler structure of the abdomen (the one drawn in with a faint line). The initial mass doesn't feel that solid on its own, since you didn't really go to any effort to make it so (doing the whole underdrawing thing), but since it's a much simpler shape it's easier to interpret it as something three dimensional. Construction works under the premise that we can build upon a simpler scaffolding, and as long as we define the relationships between our newer, more complex forms, and that existing 3D structure, then we can make the new addition feel 3D as well. What you did here was largely taking a complex shape and stamping it on top, without defining any actual relationship between it and the form beneath. No attempt to wrap it around that structure, and so it just sits on top as part of the flat drawing.

  3. There are a number of important elements of the sausage method that you're skipping over. While as you move through the drawings your sausages get better at sticking to the 'simple sausage' characteristics, you pretty much always skip the important contour line that should be used to reinforce the joint between sausages as shown here.

  4. Similarly to what I explained in my previous critique about not cutting back across the silhouette of a form (because this will immediately flatten out your drawing), manipulating the silhouette of a form in any way is generally considered to be damaging to the illusion we're trying to create. If you want to add bulk to a sausage form, do so by adding another form that wraps around it, as shown here. The key is establishing a relationship between the original form and the new one.

Now, while I'm largely disappointed in the first three drawings, the last one is vastly better, and shows a total shift in how you're thinking about constructing in 3D space. I'm not entirely sure what changed, but it gives me a lot of hope about your understanding of the concepts, even if you weren't doing the best job with them initially.

Now, one drawing alone isn't enough to pass, and there are still aspects of the issues I lived above that are still present even here, even if to a lesser degree. So I'm going to ask for another 4 drawings, with the same restrictions as before.

Next Steps:

Do another 4 drawings. Focus especially on establishing the idea that everything you add to your drawing - every single little mark - is to define another 3D form being added to the structure. Don't think in terms of individual lines, and changing the drawing itself. The drawing is just a byproduct of this thing you're creating in 3D space.

When finished, reply to this critique with your revisions.
6:46 PM, Friday August 7th 2020

The next set of additional Pages: https://imgur.com/gallery/rEguYVy

I went back to the demos extensively and also looked at other students' homework, and I think I'm finally starting to make the connection.

I'm not sure why I've been having so much trouble with this, but I feel like these 4 drawings are much more 3D compared to the original submission and first set of additional pages. I looked at both the Mantidfly and Praying Mantis to see what my other drawings were lacking. 2 of my drawings I re-followed the demos for (while using different references images to make sure I actually learned and didn't just copy the site's instructions) and while I feel they're quite messy/excessive with lines, they do adhere more to what was asked. I used a lot of contours early on to keep in my brain that the constructions were 3D, and that made it a lot easier for me to add to it. Looking back at the ant I should have made the top addition to the thorax more in line with the silhouette, there is a bit of unintentional underdrawing present.

Anyway thank you for being patient and taking the time to inspect these 18+ bugs I've made! If these don't pass I hope at least I'm going in the right direction, because it feels more like it after these.

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Like the Staedtlers, these also come in a set of multiple weights - the ones we use are F. One useful thing in these sets however (if you can't find the pens individually) is that some of the sets come with a brush pen (the B size). These can be helpful in filling out big black areas.

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