Lesson 3: Applying Construction to Plants
Potato 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.
The second demo's going to focus more on leafy plants. We've gone over dealing with individual leaves, but drawing clusters of them is... well it's not so much difficult, as it is annoying, and I feel like it might be valuable to show you guys the process of it.
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
As always, the most important steps come first. Here we're figuring out just how these leaves are laid out. At first glance, one might think that it's just a pile of haphazard leaves, but that is virtually never the case. There's always some kind of rhythm, pattern or structure to how objects are arranged. Pure randomness tends to look awful to our eyes, and nature itself rarely lays things out that way, by virtue of the laws it follows.
If you look closely, you can see that there's a core point where the stems sprout from the dirt. Several stems come out from there, and they each go off away from the center. Then, each stem sprouts several branches, from which leaves grow. So, you can see in this image that I've laid out my drawing to match this principle. I'm not being super careful about matching the reference image - I'm more interested in matching and understanding its essence. I like to think of it as though I'm drawing a potato plant, not necessarily this potato plant.
This also lets me focus more on maintaining the solidity and integrity of this drawing, rather than fussing over being a perfectionist and ruining everything in the process.
Yeah, there's a lot of leaves to draw. Following our leaf construction method of center line, followed by simple edges neglecting any waviness or complexity, just focusing on how each leaf flows through space, we flesh out as many of the leaves as we can. It's going to get very tedious very quickly, but you've got to push through and try and maintain a solid level of quality for your leaves. If you find your quality dropping, put your pen down, stretch, take a break, whatever. Just don't allow the tedium of an exercise to decrease the quality of your work. Always put forward the best you can.
What I'm doing here is taking advantage of the shadows the leaves cast on the ground beneath them, and using flat black spaces to help clarify my drawing and organize my shapes. If you look at the previous step it's very difficult for your eye to focus on any one area - everything is equal, so they're all vying for your attention. Stare too long, and it's going to start to hurt.
Looking at this image however is going to start to feel a bit more clear. It's not quite there yet, but we'll continue to push that sort of organization and hierarchy in later steps. That's what you want to keep in mind - the idea of constructing a hierarchy. This is what should draw your eye first, then this, and so on. Every drawing you present to your audience should have embedded in it a road map for their eyes.
Now, as every drawing is going to be different and have different kinds of demands, this one in particular with its high angle shot could use a little bit of grounding and contextual information. The pile of leaves could just as well be floating in the air, or sprouting from the back of your head. There isn't any clear sense of how it relates to the surface it's coming out of, so adding these little pebbles and bits of dirt can really help to give the object some grounding. It doesn't have to be much, and you don't have to worry about applying the constructional method to every little bit. Even flat shapes can accomplish a lot in terms of lightly suggesting the presence of certain textures.
In fact, there are a lot of times where you would benefit significantly from using flat shapes instead of constructing solid, believable ones. One such situation is when they are not a part of your primary area of focus. Flat, flimsy shapes are naturally going to demand less attention from the viewer, so rather than presenting competition, they recede into the background and happily accept their supporting role.
Previously we used solid black fills to break up and organize our shapes - another approach with perhaps a lighter touch is to leverage line weight. If you've read over the 250 Box Challenge notes, you'll have come across how line weight can be used to clarify how different objects overlap, and establish one as dominant and the other as subordinate. That's what we're doing where - by adding more weight to the silhouettes of the leaves, we're pushing the ground detail back.
And once again, detail. Being that I just drew a bazillion leaves, I'm not terribly interested in going to town on this (not that I ever do). So, I splash on a few minor details to a particular area I wish to define as my focal area. It really is just a game of relativity. If nothing else has much going on, then even a little bit more detail is going to make a particular area stand out. There's rarely any need to go crazy with detail or texture on something.
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.