Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
A great place to start is with a wasp - they've got a solid separation between the three major body masses (head, thorax, abdomen) and all kinds of spindly legs. They've also got natural contour lines that really lend themselves to establishing the illusion of 3D form without straying much from the reference itself.
The demo video includes full audio and discussion of the concepts demonstrated in the drawing.
I did notice some additional masses present on the creature's body. It's important to understand that while we start from those three primary masses, we are not bound only to them. We just want to generally get them down first.
When you do add additional forms, you mustn't add them like stickers onto a flat image. You need to leverage your awareness of how these forms intersect and interact with one another - take your additional form and actually wrap it around the masses already present in the construction.
Also worth mentioning, I put down some contour lines to vaguely match the segmentation of the wasp's abdomen. I drew these to flow over the surface of my simpler mass rather than trying to tailor them to the specific segmentation visible in the reference, mainly because I wanted to use them to add extra solidity that the reference more or less gives me for free (rather than having to invent my own contour lines).
Next, I'm starting to point my attention to the legs. Before we get to them however, I noticed that there were some intermediary forms that connect them to the thorax, so I decided to drop them in as some solid volumes.
I didn't construct these in the same way I tackle legs (which you'll see next), because they seemed to exude more solidity than gesture. Whenever I'm applying a technique, I try to think about what that technique is best suited for, and whether or not that matches what I need right at that moment.
Now when tackling legs - be it those of an insect or those of an animal, I see a lot of different strategies being employed (most of which I've tried myself over the years). I've found that the most reliable approach is to construct legs out of a series of sausage segments.
By sausages, I mean the kinds of organic forms we introduced in lesson 2, though not quite as fat. They're essentially two spheres connected by a tube that maintains a consistent width through its length. This means no arbitrary swelling or pinching, as this will undermine its solidity.
The great thing about sausages is that they can strike a balance between the need for our forms to maintain the illusion of solidity, while also being quite gestural and flowing in their nature. We can reinforce the illusion of form with a single contour curve right at their joints where they intersect, and leave the rest free and clear.
So, let's apply this to our wasp to achieve what appears to be something of a flying spaghetti monster. For each leg, I am focusing only on that one leg. When there's so many things floating around, it can be very easy to be distracted from your task. Stay focused only on the marks you're making at that moment and don't let yourself get overwhelmed.
Here I'm starting to organize my mess with a little extra line weight and a few simple cast shadows. I'm not doing this to replicate anything I see in my reference - just to subtly clarify what's going on in my drawing.
When you use line weight, it can be rather tempting to start going crazy with really thick lines, but I wouldn't advise it. Take it slow, and err on the side of subtlety. Don't use different pens, unless you need to fill in large cast shadow areas (in which case you can use a brush pen once you've established the outline of that shadow shape). In general, you should be doing all the linework - construction and line weight both - with a single pen.
I've also added a few additional forms - a relatively flat wing and some of the structure in the area it connects to the thorax, as well as the large eye.
For the most part, the rest is just a matter of detail. Pushing the segmentation along the abdomen to bulge out past the silhouette, pushing line weights and cast shadows a little more to help continue organizing the drawing, and so on. This stage is the least important - your time should be spent primarily on the underlying construction, as that is what will help develop your spatial awareness and your understanding of how the forms you're using all relate to one another.
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.