Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants
This marks the beginning of the 'Constructional Drawing' curriculum. At this point, I assume you've completed both lessons in The Basics section (Lesson 1 and Lesson 2). If you haven't, no matter how good you may be, I strongly recommend you complete them first. All the lessons on this website tackle drawing in a very specific manner, with specific techniques that are repeated throughout. These techniques are introduced in The Basics section, so if you miss them, you probably won't fully grasp what is explained here.
To start us off, we're going to ease into the subject of drawing rather gently. Each topic will build on the last, gradually working you up. We are also using these different lesson topics to look at the topic of constructional drawing from many different angles.
I don't necessarily expect that upon completing this lesson, you'll be able to put all of the concepts I mention here into practice. Instead, I wish you to finish with a general understanding of what the concepts are on a theoretical level, an awareness of what you are doing wrong, and a target to aim for in the long term.
Due to how all of these lessons are structured, you will continue to develop the skills explored here in later lessons, so in the future, you may want to come back to this lesson and attempt the homework again - just to see how your skills have improved.
One of the most important concepts covered in this lesson is the importance of conveying how a form flows through 3D space. Things like leaves, petals and so on don't have any real solidity or mass to them. Being as thin and weightless as they are, they are entirely subject to the whims of the forces around them. Wind, airflow, drag, all of these forces are what determine just how a leaf will move through space.
When tackling anything that relies heavily on leaves, think about it like the arrows from lesson 2. Where a box may focus on its solidity in order to feel three dimensional, forms like leaves must emphasize their natural flowing nature - sometimes to the point of exaggeration.
More than anything, if you want your lines to flow smoothly, draw them confidently and from the shoulder. Don't hesitate, don't get overly careful and wobbly. Just push your lines through and commit to them.
Aside from the flat, flowing shapes of leaves and petals, the majority of your constructions will be done with a variety of organic forms. Organics are essentially combinations of balls and tubes, and are what we explored in lesson 2.
You can, and should, try and think of these in terms of flow as well, while also trying to convey their solidity and volume. It can be tempting to cover them with dozens of contour lines - don't do that. Every mark you put down should be evaluated based on what it's going to contribute to your drawing, and how that task can be accomplished best by the stroke. This means drawing a couple contour lines that do their job effectively, rather than many sloppy ones. If you find yourself wanting to put down a bunch, then you're probably doing something wrong.
Drawings as exercises
In the previous section, you were assigned very specific exercises. What we're doing here is not so different. Rather than our focus being to learn how to draw plants, we're using plants as an exercise to learn how to apply constructional techniques and to develop our understanding of space.
The end result is not our focus. As with any other exercise, its benefit comes from the process we follow, not how pretty the resulting drawing is. If you skip steps or ignore certain instructions in favour of achieving a cleaner, more presentable final drawing, you will be missing out on a good deal of what we are doing here.
If you're interested in exploring plants and how to draw them with a greater focus on flair/presentation, our sponsor New Masters Academy has you covered:
Drawing Trees, Plants, and Landscape Compositions with Charles Hu
This lesson from Charles' Dynamic Sketching course explores how to think about plants in a more compositional manner - paying attention to grouping, and overlapping structures to create interesting studies and scenes. His demonstrations include working with pen, markers, and gouache for colour.
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Homework and exercises
Before jumping into your own plant constructions, be sure to go through all of the technical exercises and demonstrations included in this lesson. I strongly recommend drawing along with them as well and following them closely when doing so. If you choose to, you can include your attempts at following the demos in your homework, but they should constitute less than half of your plant drawings.
Also, remember that this homework must be drawn from reference. When looking for reference, I recommend that you specifically look for those of a higher resolution. Google's image search tools allows you to limit your search to large images, and I recommend you take advantage of this.
The homework assignment for this section is as follows:
1 filled page of the Organic Arrows exercise from lesson 2.
1 filled page of the Leaves exercise.
1 filled page of the Branches exercise.
8 filled pages of plant drawings. The first 4 must have no texture whatsoever, focusing only on construction. The last 4 can have texture/detail but you are not required to go past the constructional phase for these either.
All the assigned work for this section should be done in ink, using fineliners/felt tip pens as described here. You may also use a brush pen to fill in dark areas, but not for your linework.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This is a remarkable little pen. Technically speaking, any brush pen of reasonable quality will do, but I'm especially fond of this one. It's incredibly difficult to draw with (especially at first) due to how much your stroke varies based on how much pressure you apply, and how you use it - but at the same time despite this frustration, it's also incredibly fun.
Moreover, due to the challenge of its use, it teaches you a lot about the nuances of one's stroke. These are the kinds of skills that one can carry over to standard felt tip pens, as well as to digital media. Really great for doodling and just enjoying yourself.