Lesson 5: Applying Construction to Animals
The demos here have been drawn in the course of a student's homework critique, but contain information that can be useful to all working through this material.
It is important to keep in mind that these demonstrations have been done over the course of years. Given that the specific aspects of the lesson have changed over time as the material has been rewritten to either clarify or further develop how certain principles are applied, the older the demonstrations get, the more likely they are to have elements that are no longer fully consistent with how the material is covered now.
Be sure to look at the demonstrations critically - if they're listed here, they are done so because they are still of value, in some area or another. That said, if they contradict principles stressed in a more recent demonstration, remember that the more recent demonstration will always supplant the older.
The demonstrations higher in the list are newer, those further down are older.
How to think about head construction
The eye sockets are an incredibly important part of head construction, and often students will draw them too small, or without enough care to properly reflect this.
The cranial ball we start with is a rounded, smooth surface. Heads, however - regardless of species, with humans included - are actually a combination of flatter planes. The trick to head construction is figuring out how to build up to the correct arrangement of flat planes. Figuring out where to actually draw the edges between them.
The eye sockets are our first introduction to straight(-ish) edges, taking an otherwise rounded ball and laying the groundwork for separating it into a series of planes. Once in place, we can start connecting the other facial elements to it - a footprint for the muzzle, which can then be extruded out, as well as the brow ridge and the cheekbones.
All these pieces fit snugly to one another, rather than floating loosely without any clear relationships. The head is a three dimensional puzzle, and once completed, you can think of each of these forms as chunks that fit perfectly into one another, all buttressing around the eye socket.
Moose head construction gif
I didn't add the notes here that I do to most of my demonstrations, but I felt watching the construction of a moose's head come together as a gif might also be helpful.
Pay attention to how, especially around the muzzle, every mark I put down follows the surface, curvature, and plane distinctions of the form beneath it. This allows additional masses to wrap around the more basic structure in a way that further reinforces, rather than undermines, the illusion that this construction is three dimensional.
Tapir head construction
Tapirs have pretty strange heads, but they can still use the same principles we use for any other construction. The key is to remember that they are all made up of 3D forms, and to think of your forms as having planes - a top, a side, a front, a bottom, etc. Don't just stamp them on top as flat shapes.
This is a pretty detailed demonstration I did for a student who was struggling with the lesson, picking on a donkey in particular. It focuses on all major elements of construction as applied to animals - the basic masses, the use of sausage forms for limbs and torso, the adding of further organic masses that conform to the structure underneath them, etc.
This one is an analysis of how to construct a puma in a particularly difficult orientation. You'll notice a lot of animal studies look more from the side, yet here not only is the subject in more of a three quarter view, but it's also got its hindquarters in a higher position. Our Discord community came to know this one as the "drama puma", and for those reasons it's a real challenge.
It's also a great example of how all of the drawings we do for this course are exercises. The end result is still pretty messy and confusing, but going through this process can teach you a lot about the nature of the forms that make up this complex animal.
The torso sausage
The torso-sausage is the core of any animal, and quite easy to construct. In this demo I actually drew the ribcage way too small, but ignoring that, look at how the sausage is like a water balloon that is being held up by these two solid masses inside of it. The middle sags in the middle, and it remains relatively rounded and simple, conveying solidity and volume.
While a lot of animals will have visible masses and bulk along their spines (on the top), I still construct them in this manner, only adding the additional bulk after the fact similarly to the organic intersections from lesson 2.
Bear cub construction
This one's very old, but I feel like the way it accentuates the volumes and general gestural nature of the legs still makes it valuable in some ways. There is a lot to be learned here, just don't let it cause you to stray from the techniques covered in the main lesson and demos.
A construction of an elephant. Again, I'm not adhering to the sausage technique for the legs here, though they're still reflecting a lot of the gestural qualities that the technique espouses. Remember that these techniques you're learning are intended to teach you the concepts that lay beneath them. Once you get the hang of them - which can take some time and practice - you can then apply them as much or as little as you want.
Just be sure to stick to them when working through these lessons so I can be sure that you're getting a good deal of experience with them.
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.