Lesson 2: Contour Lines, Texture and Construction
While we've had some exposure to texture now with the texture analysis exercise, we're not really expected to have any kind of mastery or even comfort with it. All the same, we're going to jump into the next step - unwrapping a texture from a reference image and then applying it to a completely different object.
Many of the same challenges as the previous exercise come into play, but now we also have to deal with the curvature of these simple sausage forms, as well as an opportunity to make use of the form's silhouette to convey information.
Apply the approaches from the texture analysis exercise
As many of you know, Drawabox is an evolving course that improves as I develop a better understanding of what I'm trying to explain. Texture is definitely an area where over time my explanations have improved - and while we're currently working through a gradual overhaul of the entire course from start to finish to eliminate any contradictions, this one can definitely be a source of confusion.
To put it simply, the demo/examples for this exercise are old, and still includes things like outlining textural forms, capturing local surface colour, and so on - things that the newer texture analysis exercise, with its focus on implicit markmaking and cast shadows specifically says not to do.
The demos are still useful, but until our overhaul is able to reach this point, just keep in mind that you should continue to apply the principles from the texture analysis to the best of your ability.
So, as a reminder:
Don't outline your textural forms (except when they break the form's silhouette)
Focus on implying the presence of the textural forms by designing the shadows they cast (which you'll create based on your understanding of how those individual forms sit in 3D space, rather than copying them straight out of your reference)
Ignore local/surface colour - doesn't matter if something is green or red or yellow, or light or dark. All we're capturing is information that helps us understand the 3D qualities of the surfaces, conveying to the viewer what it would feel like to run their fingers over its surface.
You start off with an organic form with contour lines. It's important that you don't start off with any particular design or object in mind.
You can go ahead and use your pages of organic forms with contour ellipses/curves for this, just make sure you take pictures or scans of them first for the purpose of having others review it.
Alternatively, you can create new pages of them, but I want you to construct the forms without any changes. No trying to hide your contour lines or be extra clean - the textures are going to go right over these construction lines.
Pick a section of your organic form, between two contour lines. This section will be your point of dissection - imagine that you've cut it out and removed it, and add a bit of line weight/thickness to the edges to emphasize that they are the edges of the forms, and that the section between them has been cut away.
Now... stop. Put your pen down. Go find photo reference, or live objects you can look at and study. I've received plenty of homework submissions where people try to use their imagination for this step, and quite frankly it never turns out well. Reason being, your imagination - or what we call your "visual library" - is empty right now. You don't fill it by just knowing certain things exist. You fill it by actively studying those objects, analyzing them in detail and then applying what you've learned about them so as to solidify them in your mind. That's what this exercise does.
So, grab some photos of objects with interesting textures - anything will do, because literally any and every object has a texture to it. Next, look at the texture closely and identify what characterizes it - start by noting the major visual elements (bumps, spots, scales, any sort of visual aspect that you see repeated in a pattern). Then identify how those elements are organized - are they spread out evenly over the surface, or are they grouped together, or do they merge to form larger clumps?
Every texture follows a rhythm - randomness does not exist. At its surface, something may appear random, but if you look deep enough, you'll always find some manner of organization and structure. Never scribble or draw randomly. It simply won't look good or capture the texture you're after. Furthermore, refrain from using hatching lines, as they generally aren't present in most natural materials. More often than not, people just use hatching lines as a shorthand for "I have no idea what goes here and I don't really want to take the time to find out."
Lastly, draw your textures to various parts of the organic form. Remember that you're transferring texture only - leave any form information behind.
The purpose of this exercise
The purpose is honestly simple. It's not for you to amaze people with your texturing skills, or even to test you. It's just to get you working with observation, to start thinking about the differences between looking at something and actually studying it. I have no expectations of you being able to pull off amazing textures right now. If you can, that's great. If you can't, you're going to have plenty of time and many opportunities to continue to work on it.
Mistake: Not minding the curvature
A lot of students make this mistake at first - they'll get so caught up in the texture they're trying to draw that they'll forget about how the surface they're covering actually turns in space. These organic forms are indeed curved, so you need to ensure that the texture gets compressed and warped along the sides as the surface turns away from the viewer.
Mistake: Not breaking the silhouette
Students are also sometimes afraid to break past the silhouette, so they'll do lovely work within the simple sausage form, but they'll miss the opportunity to push past it and really bring their texture into its own.
Remember that punching through the silhouette and providing information there at the edge is going to have the biggest impact. You could fill the whole silhouette in with black and it'll still communicate a great deal - that's how important this kind of technique is.
Everything has a texture, but some people do find it a little challenging at first to recognize this, and as such you may struggle with finding resources to work from. As a starting point, you can use this pinterest board by Ryan Malm. Alternatively, I always find google image search to be particularly useful, especially due to the "Search Tools" where you can limit your search to high resolution results.
This page has student-made recordings
They're great to draw along with, or just to see how much time these exercises really take when they're not rushed.