Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants
Pitcher Plant Demo
This demo is a little older, having been published in August 2016. As such, while I have decided that there is still something of value here, any techniques or approaches outlined in demonstrations not flagged with this message should be considered to take precedence over what is covered here. This is a natural part of Drawabox being an evolving, growing resource.
When thinking about what kind of demos to do, I figured I'd spread them out over a few different kinds of plants you might see. This doesn't have a whole lot of leafy flat-ribbon type stuff going on, and instead is more closely related to organic forms.
This recording has no accompanying audio commentary.
As with all of our constructional drawings, we will be working from reference. This image was found on Gardening Know How.
Step by step
In lesson 2, we tackled constructing organic forms with no real limitations or targets. In this case, there's a particular flow that we want our form to follow. Just like how we set out the center line for our leaves, we do the same thing here. Then we follow it up with a few ellipses along the length to define how the form is going to expand or taper. It's actually a lot like building a ship - you lay out the ribs/supports before putting down the...
Alright, you got me. I know nothing about building ships, neither technique nor terminology. I'll stop that analogy right there.
With the supporting scaffolding set out, we build our form around these ellipses, and I've also extended the lip on the top to match my reference.. It can be a little tricky, but always remember to be confident with your linework. You'll make mistakes, you'll mess things up, but it doesn't matter. We're not here to make pretty pictures, we're here to learn how to draw.
Looking at the mouth of this plant, there's two additional features - the leaf hanging over top, and the strange form curled along the rim. The form on the rim's got some shape to it, but we want to lay it in first before even considering that bit. So, we lay it in as simply as possible, capturing the fact that it's simply curled back. Always capture your details as simply as possible first, then refine them.
So, with our forms blocked out, we can start breaking them down. Keep in mind that our initial lay-in is not a suggestion. You adhere to it as closely as you can, even if you start to find that you've deviated here and there from your reference. Just go with it.
You made decisions in the previous steps, and those decisions cannot be unmade. As with the analogy I mentioned in the intro video, you've laid down the scaffolding, and now you're raising the building itself. You can tuck things in, or stick them out, but you can't work outside the bounds of your scaffolding, or everything will fall apart.
Looking at the reference image, you can see some pronounced ridges along that form that rests along the edge of the mouth. These are useful, as they're natural contour lines. Whenever these sorts of things occur, we want to take advantage of them in order to better describe how our surfaces twist, turn and deform through space.
You can think of natural contour lines as freebies - where you need to be careful about how and where you place your artificial ones (those that you add yourself that wouldn't be part of a pristine drawing, like the ellipses we used earlier in the construction), the natural ones are already supposed to be part of the final image.
And finally, detail. It's very easy to get caught up in detail, and it's very often that I see students half-ass prior steps, expecting to be able to recover in this phase. It does not work like that.
An undetailed construction can still be beautiful in its own right, but an awful construction covered in detail is going to look like a bulldog in makeup. No one wants to see that. Spend your time focusing on your construction. Details should be an afterthought. It would probably be a good idea to reserve details to the last half of your homework, so your first few drawings can be properly focused entirely on construction.
Color and Light by James Gurney
Some of you may remember James Gurney's breathtaking work in the Dinotopia series. This is easily my favourite book on the topic of colour and light, and comes highly recommended by any artist worth their salt. While it speaks from the perspective of a traditional painter, the information in this book is invaluable for work in any medium.