Lesson 4: Applying Construction to Insects and Arachnids
This one's a rather interesting example, as the head louse is not something one often thinks about when it comes to insects. Having a somewhat translucent body, it can be a little tricky to break down, but it really comes down to all the same forms as everything else.
The demo video includes full audio and discussion of the concepts demonstrated in the drawing.
Step by step
Like many of our other insects, the louse is composed of a head (cranium), a thorax and an abdomen. You'll notice that I have not yet included the large skirt-like mass that covers its abdomen. If you look closely at the reference, you'll see that it's somewhat distinguished from the darker mass that is visible through it. As such, I decided to separate the two, and build out this narrower abdomen first.
Here, I'm blocking in the skirt form. I'm also leveraging a few contour lines - both around the skirt as well as a center line passing down the length of the whole body (from head, to thorax, to abdomen) to help establish how these masses align to one another.
This can be tricky at first, and requires you to really think about how your line runs over the surface of these forms, so don't rush through it. Give yourself the time to think carefully about how those surfaces turn through space.
Additionally, you'll notice some of the extra forms I've added to the head. At first glance, you may feel that the eyes - or at least the beady black things I assume are eyes - attach directly to the cranial mass, but if you look more closely you'll see that there's something of a supporting mass between them. I've drawn this in as a separate ball, even though it's quite subtle.
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.
I did decide to apply the "stretched spheres" approach to the antennae however, as upon examining the reference, I felt they weren't quite as flexible, or at least didn't look flexible enough to merit the full sausages. So as always, identify the task ahead of you and pick the best technique for that particular problem, rather than seeing every problem as a nail, just because you've got a hammer in your hand.
Now, one of the most satisfying aspects of this particular subject (at least in my opinion) is the ribbing along its skirt. It's got that nice ballooning effect that pushes past the silhouette.
Notice though how it comes down in three rows, so I've actively drawn lines to split up those rows first before drawing the ribbing itself.
Ultimately the ribbing is just made up of glorified contour lines, wrapping around the form and tucking in or ballooning out where I want to modify the appearance of that surface.
As you may have noticed, I left the claws out from the initial leg construction, as they were more complex. Ultimately it is preferable to work on the entire drawing all at once, rather than focusing in on any one area until it's done. This allows us to keep building up complexity for the whole drawing in an even manner.
The claws are, however, really just following the same principle as the legs, in that they're mostly sausage-like forms intersecting with one another.
Just an extra touch of line weight here to help clarify certain overlapping forms, but nothing too different from the previous step. I'm not too preoccupied with texture on this one, as my focus has primarily been identifying and capturing the semi-translucent forms, all of which were quite intriguing in how they were layered on top of one another.
The Art of Blizzard Entertainment
While I have a massive library of non-instructional art books I've collected over the years, there's only a handful that are actually important to me. This is one of them - so much so that I jammed my copy into my overstuffed backpack when flying back from my parents' house just so I could have it at my apartment. My back's been sore for a week.
The reason I hold this book in such high esteem is because of how it puts the relatively new field of game art into perspective, showing how concept art really just started off as crude sketches intended to communicate ideas to storytellers, designers and 3D modelers. How all of this focus on beautiful illustrations is really secondary to the core of a concept artist's job. A real eye-opener.