25 Wheel Challenge
As more and more students have reached the hallowed halls of lesson 7, I've been able to identify certain areas of weakness that need to be covered in order for the lessons to be more effective. This challenge serves as one of them.
I recommend tackling this challenge only after you have completed lesson 6, as well as the cylinder challenge, but before you attempt lesson 7.
Wheels serve as both a difficult aspect of the already significant challenge of drawing cars, but also an interesting summary of what makes cars so difficult. Each and every wheel has a sort of specific character, made up of a series of curves and irregularities in their forms that pertain to each model and make. As such, deviating even a little from this specific combination can make a drawing seem off without fully understanding why.
So, before we tackle the hell that is drawing cars, lets take some time to play with wheels instead.
Also worth mentioning: You are welcome and encouraged to use a ballpoint pen instead of a fineliner for this challenge, along with an ellipse guide if you have one.
Step by step
The automatic assumption for most is that a wheel is just a cylinder. And it is... sort of. I'd certainly block one in as a cylinder, before I got into greater detail.
So, lets start out with a minor axis, and align two ellipses along it. The end closer to us should have a narrower degree than the one slightly farther. If you're using an ellipse guide (and I hope you are), be sure to keep track of which specific ellipses you're using for each end, as this will help us when adding any additional ellipses between them later.
This is where we start to break away from the traditional cylinder. Instead of running straight through, a tire is a little more... bubbly. Through the length of this short cylinder, rather than running straight, it'll have a bit of a curvature to it, having it expand through its midsection. This is an important point many people miss.
It's not always to this extent - sometimes it's quite subtle, but usually there's at least some kind of beveling and curvature, by virtue of the tire being made of rubber and filled with air.
This curvature is the first key component that defines the character of a wheel.
As we'll be mindful of our hubcaps as well, you can achieve a pretty pleasing effect by drawing a bunch of concentric ellipses inside the closer end of the 'cylinder'. I do recommend that you use reference for all of this. There are many features in a wheel that you may not notice without careful study.
Try to keep your spokes evenly spaced when drawing your rims, as they're never going to be uneven or irregular. Symmetry plays a pretty big role (and on that note, I think I may have forgotten one of the spokes - woops!)
The rims, and the particular configuration of spokes and other similar features is the second of the three major components that define the character of a wheel.
The third and final component of the wheel's character is its tire tread. I often see this either overlooked or rushed, and it is to great detriment of the overall drawing. So take your time, and plan it out.
Here you can see that I've added a number of other ellipses (or at least partial ellipses) between those we'd drawn previously. This is because tire treads are complicated, and I needed more of a "grid" to work off.
Rather than jumping right in, I'm laying down points along these columns I'd drawn in the previous step. You'll see that some of the points line up to one another, while others are more staggered, falling in between the others. This is all based on the reference I'm using - so again, use reference and study it carefully as you go.
Notice how the space between the points is fairly generous towards the center, but it gets compressed as the surface of the tire turns away from the viewer (along the top and bottom).
These treads have some pretty big grooves towards the outside, and each of these grooves has a bit of a hooking curvature towards its inside end. Notice how that hook gets shallower towards the top and bottom, where the space gets compressed and the surface turns away.
I draw one line of each groove to define this hooking feature getting shallower and shallower. I don't want to draw the entirety of each groove just yet - not until I've got a bit of each one planned out.
I'm very much following a pattern of attack that involves progressing the whole wheel a little bit at a time, rather than focusing in on one particular part before moving onto the rest.
And with a few finishing touches - drawing the remainder of each groove, adding some SUBTLE bumps along the silhouette (I don't want this to look like some kind of monster truck wheel), my wheel is complete.
On that note however, if you were drawing an exceptionally large wheel, there are certain kinds of features that you'll find won't get bigger or smaller regardless of the size of the object. Tire treads are one of these - even if the wheel is very large, the tread should remain roughly the same size.
This means that you can imply a very large wheel by making the tread considerably smaller relative to that object. The same principle can be applied to all kinds of things, and I've come across it quite a bit when drawing space ships. Windows, cut-lines, rivets and bolts, all of these things do not get bigger just because the object they're on is scaled up. As such, making these kinds of things smaller relative to the whole of the object can help you convey the idea that this object is truly massive and not just a fancy toy.
In order to complete this challenge, you must complete the following, using ballpoint pen, and an ellipse guide if you have access to one:
- 25 individual wheel drawings, from reference, drawn at different angles.
If you're freehanding, don't draw these small - give yourself lots of room to work through the spatial problems and the various levels of detail that are necessary in the wheel's rims and its tire tread. If you are using an ellipse guide however (or looking to buy one), you will find two options - either a full set of ellipse guides with many different sizes and degrees (which is often prohibitively expensive), or a single "master ellipse template" - a sheet with ellipses of many different degrees, but with only a few different size options. The master ellipse template is entirely sufficient for what we're doing both here in the wheel challenge, and in Lesson 7, so you're certainly okay to use that. Your wheels will be small, but you'll likely find that working with an ellipse guide (even a smaller one) will make this challenge considerably easier.
Ellipse Master Template
This recommendation is really just for those of you who've reached lesson 6 and onwards.
I haven't found the actual brand you buy to matter much, so you may want to shop around. This one is a "master" template, which will give you a broad range of ellipse degrees and sizes (this one ranges between 0.25 inches and 1.5 inches), and is a good place to start. You may end up finding that this range limits the kinds of ellipses you draw, forcing you to work within those bounds, but it may still be worth it as full sets of ellipse guides can run you quite a bit more, simply due to the sizes and degrees that need to be covered.
No matter which brand of ellipse guide you decide to pick up, make sure they have little markings for the minor axes.