250 Box Challenge
Just a heads up - as of February 19th 2024, the challenge has been altered. If you started the box challenge before this, don't worry about it. If you happen to see the changes while in the middle of your challenge, certainly go through them thoroughly but you need only apply their instructions as stated here going forward. If you only caught the changes after completing the challenge, that's fine too.
Either way, you can simply mention that you started before the changes when submitting your homework for feedback - so don't stress over things changing without you noticing, we assume we'll be getting a lot of submissions done the old way for quite some time.
Welcome to Drawabox's titular challenge. This challenge relies heavily on the concepts we study throughout Lesson 1, as well as the matters of mindset and balance presented in Lesson 0 - so if you haven't gone through those, you aren't ready to tackle this challenge.
This overview video will get into the whys and hows of the challenge - why it's such an important part of the course as a whole, why it's structured the way it is, and specifically how it is meant to be approached.
This challenge is a big one, so you do not want to rush into the exercise without first ensuring that you're doing what is asked. It will not be uncommon for you to come back and revisit this material periodically as you move through the challenge. Human memory is only so effective, and so it is inevitably that over the weeks you spend on this (at minimum), you will forget things, and you will need refreshers.
But... seriously, why?
I've just added this writeup to fill out the space when it shows up beside the comic - feel free to just read the comic instead, which you can view in a larger format by clicking on it, or by reading it on our Unsolicited Advice comic page.
Over the years I've heard a lot of people question the reasoning behind the 250 box challenge, and to be completely honest, the true value of the challenge itself - not the exercise, but the act of drawing two hundred and fifty boxes as meticulously as we prescribe it, has revealed itself steadily over the time we've been assigning it.
I first assigned it in response to a student who was having trouble with the organic perspective boxes from Lesson 1 - an exercise that comes straight out of the Dynamic Sketching course I'd taken with Peter Han at Concept Design Academy, which itself served as the starting point for what eventually became Drawabox as you know it today. I didn't really know how to explain the logic behind how to draw their boxes more successfully, so instead I decided to try something that didn't rely on explanation at all. I asked them to draw 250 freely rotated boxes.
They came back some time later, and lo and behold - it helped. They had markedly improved, and so I started suggesting it to others as an optional challenge. Over time, and in a sort of back and forth with students, we added more elements to it - drawing through the boxes in order to better understand how they sat in space, the Y method to provide a more structured approach that shifted the focus to sets of converging lines, and finally the line extensions themselves to drive that focus on convergence home.
All of this certainly helped students better develop their sense of 3D space - at least enough to make considerably better use of the lessons that followed, but that wasn't where the benefits of the challenge shined through most clearly.
The true value that eventually became clear was the discipline it developed in our students, and more than that, the knowledge of that discipline as a part of themselves. Not some external thing to chase, but an internal well of willpower upon which they could draw in order to face anything.
I know it sounds really lofty and, frankly, like self-help nonsense. But the 250 box challenge is just a big task. And like any task, it can be broken down into smaller pieces, which themselves can be broken down further, until all you're really doing in the moment is one simple, achievable thing.
The totality of it may take weeks, or even months, depending on how much time you can throw at it each session, and how often you can sit down to chip away at it, but it's looking at the overall goal that we become overwhelmed. After all, climbing a mountain is a terrifying prospect. It gets a lot easier, however, if all you need to focus on is the very next step, and nothing more.
In completing this challenge, you will discover that for yourself in a way that goes beyond simple understanding. We can understand something by having it explained to us - but knowing it, truly believing it, demands something more. It requires experience.
Climb this mountain, and you can climb any mountain. Complete this overwhelming task, and you can complete any overwhelming task. But really believing you can do it isn't the first step - it's the reward you get at the end.
Throughout the 3 main videos associated with this challenge (the overview above, and the first 50/next 50 videos on the next page) we introduce a variety of concepts. The next few sections below will briefly discuss these so you can refer to them easily, though do be sure to review them within the context of their videos now and again.
Checking convergences with line extensions
If the challenge itself stopped at simply drawing 250 boxes, it wouldn't actually be all that beneficial. There would certainly be value in it, but by adding an additional step where we analyze our boxes by extending each edge back in space, we can actually identify where we need to adjust our approach for the next page, on a conscious level.
You don't need to use fineliners for these line extensions - you can use ballpoint pen,
What matters most here is that the line extensions are drawn in the right direction, ensuring that they move back in space along the edges, rather than towards the viewer. Fortunately as explained in the section below, we can use the initial Y we started with to guarantee that we are extending our lines in the right direction.
Easy way to extend correctly
The standard way in which we construct our boxes using the Y (which is introduced here in Lesson 1's organic perspective exercise) method results in the central point of the Y (where all the arms connect) representing the corner that is closest to the viewer.
So, when extending your lines, place your pen at this central point and then extend back along the arms of your Y. This means we'll be starting at the corner of the box that is closest to the viewer, and moving back away from the viewer, guaranteeing that the lines are extended in the right direction.
Between this and the demonstrations of those lines being extended in the videos, there should be enough information here to execute this correctly by simply following the steps. If you remain confused about how to do this, do be sure to use our community (our discord chat server for instance) to get confirmation.
Extending in the wrong direction would be very detrimental to the benefits of the challenge, so this is not an aspect of the exercise to be approached carelessly.
Drawing through your forms
This was introduced back in Lesson 1's rotated boxes exercise, so you should be familiar with it already. Every box we draw through the box challenge will be drawn as though we have x-ray vision. This means we'll be drawing 12 edges in total, including those that are only visible by seeing "through" the box.
This will help us better understand how the box itself sits not only as a flat, two dimensional entity on the page, but also as a structure in three dimensions. Just keep in mind - being able to see that back corner is going to make you want to focus on it, and to want to fix it - but as explained in the video, the back corner is a distraction. It is a symptom of our edges not converging to consistent vanishing points, so addressing it means focusing more on how our lines converge, not on the back corner itself.
Width of opposite ends
Back in lesson 1's ellipses section, we talk about how when we draw a cylinder, the degree (or width) of the farther end is larger than the end closer to the viewer. You can follow the link for a deeper explanation as to why, but to keep it simple: it's because of how angles work.
This "degree shift", where the degree of our cross-sectional slice gets wider the further away along the cylinder we go, is one of the ways in which we convey foreshortening to the viewer. The other is the "scale shift" where the overall scale of the end closer to the viewer is larger, and the end farther is smaller.
This may sound contradictory, but it's not - the far end can be both smaller in its overall scale, but wider in one dimension. Furthermore, we see this in all forms, including the boxes we'll be drawing here.
Not done yet
To be honest, I'm a little worried that students will reach the bottom of this page, think "that's it!" and go on to drawing 250 boxes - so, just to be completely clear, there are further instructions on the specifics of how the exercise is to be done on the next page. This page was simply getting way too long already.