Lesson 7: Applying Construction to Vehicles
Coast Guard Boat Demo
Step by step
This time, let's slow down and try doing more preparatory work. By doing an orthographic proportion study, we can start to lay down basic landmarks against which we can place our major forms. I always start this off by drawing a rectangle that roughly matches the overall length and height of my subject. Then I subdivide it like crazy, creating a grid. When I actually draw the side view of the object, I try to stick to straight, clear-cut lines. I'll only use a curve when it's integral to the form I'm building, and even then I'll often start it off as straight cuts, coming back afterwards to smooth it out.
The approach I'm using here is a mixture between the encompassing-box technique I first introduced in the last lesson, and the more standard stacking of forms. I'm using the encompassing box to create sections of my object, rather than the entire thing. In this case, the section is the base of the ship.
The first step I'm taking to construct the bow of the ship is to establish its curvature with a sort of footprint. In order to construct this, I further subdivide the front section of the box a fair bit, in order to give myself a finer grid to work from. The important thing here is that I want to make sure that if the curve passes through certain points on one side, the opposite side of the curve should pass through the same corresponding points. This helps maintain consistent perspective distortion, which can be tricky without any additional reference points to rely upon.
In retrospect, I probably could have created that footprint on the top face of the box, but I felt that having it on the bottom would help me relate it more easily against the actual footprint (which is slightly smaller and more tapered). Ultimately, I replicate that footprint on the top face, tuck in the base section a bit and connect them together to produce a three dimensional form.
This ship has three tiers to it, so now I'm stacking on the next one. Before I do so, I want to place its footprint (which is pretty straightforward this time since it's just a box) on the existing base. In order to do this, I take a rough estimate on one side, and then mirror that measurement across the center line of the base form. Then it's just a matter of extruding that foot print up.
Same idea, once again. Establish the footprint, extrude the form up.
Warning: Anyone with half an eye for perspective can start to see that my lines are... well, falling apart a bit. The reason being, the angle I'm drawing this at required me to work in three point perspective, which is notoriously difficult to estimate. I strongly encourage you at this stage to focus on constructions in two point perspective. Being able to trust that your verticals are all running straight up and down is incredibly useful. If you are going to be working in three point perspective, laying down a series of lines that go off towards the same vanishing point when you start out can be incredibly useful - just make sure that they are consistent in their alignment.
For the sake of time and my sanity, I'm skipping over the big structure on top of the wheel house, as well as a lot of the extraneous details. Here's the point that I want to start organizing my lines and generally sorting through my mess. The best way to do that is, of course, to add line weight to key areas. The biggest thing I want to reinforce is the overall silhouette of the object, bringing it out from the rest of the construction lines.
Continuing to do what I can to bring the meat of the boat out of the mess, while adding some minor details. One approach that I often use to help organize heavy messes like this, is to lay down some large, deliberately-designed shadow shapes. The key here is being deliberate. You have to think about how those shadows will run along surfaces, and you have to make sure the angles of projection are consistent. Basically, think about where your sun is going to be, and what direction it's going to be casting its shadows. Having a shadow come out towards your light source is a big no-no, as it'll break the illusion. Don't go too heavy with this, just place shadows in key areas, especially where it's going to help separate a key shape or form out from the fray.
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.