After submitting my 250 box challenge, I was cleared to start lesson 2. Where lesson 1’s focus is on straight lines, I’d say lesson 2’s focus is on organic and curved lines. The lesson starts out with organic forms (I’ll call them sausages) with contour ellipses and lines, it then moves on to adding texture to these from reference images, before tackling form intersections; both geometric and organic. Lesson 2 is more involved than lesson 1, but less so than the box challenge. I spent around three months on this lesson and that was… kind of my own fault. I’d in no way recommend anyone spend as long as I did on some of these exercises. So let’s look at lesson 2.
Organic Forms with Contours
One of many, many attempts at organic forms with contour ellipses:
The exercise, as shown above, was to draw some blobby organic forms and give them 3D form and weight by drawing contour ellipses. The aim is for the ellipse to follow the 3D curvature of the organic form. As you can see, I had mixed success. I ended up doing about 25 double sided sheets of A4 paper full of these things in an attempt to understand them and get them to look right… I ultimately didn’t have many that looked right. As an aside here, if you’re following the Draw A Box lessons, please don’t do what I did. As much as people need mileage at the drawing skills, doing what was basically 50 pages of sausages didn’t actually help that much and I still can’t really do them properly, although I understand the aim of the exercise - which is good enough! The exercise after ellipses is to draw contours, which in this case, is basically the same as the ellipses, just without the x-ray vision. Bizarrely, this one is supposed to be harder than the ellipses but I immediately had far less trouble with these. As you’ll see later with my form intersections, my brain is truly backwards.
I wish I could’ve had more fun with this, particularly towards the start. I also feel like I was stuck on this exercise for just as long as the sausages, though it was more of an inertia problem than being too prolific with my drawing like the sausages. I seriously… panicked a little when I was approaching this. I found drawing the textures out beside the organic form to be really useful in determining what information was useful and how little I could get away with putting in while still conveying the texture. The panic set in when I had to apply these flat textures to my organic form and you can see this particularly clearly in the corn texture at the top. I found a good balance when I did my final texture (polar bear fur) which I took into my second set of dissections (which is shown in the cover image at the top of this post).
The trick with drawing these is to figure out what is important from your reference and how much you can discard and still have it make sense. It’s also important to only draw the shadows when you do these because you’re using a pen that only does full black or nothing. This is something I failed at a few times despite having a background in painting! Interestingly, the organic forms with ellipses I drew for this exercise came out looking far more 3D than any of my other attempts. I think that’s just an example of overthinking a simple exercise and when it just became a step in the process, I pulled it out of nowhere…
This one… this one I had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around but somehow managed to get a bit of an understanding after a weekend of beating my head against the wall. This exercise is about understanding how geometric shapes interact with each other in 3D space. Apparently this is something that 3D modellers would be familiar with but was a concept totally unfamiliar to me when I started.
As I said, I tackled the concept over a weekend but nailed it down a bit better by around the Tuesday of the following week. On the Friday I watched the video and read the tutorial and almost immediately my brain shut down and I had no idea what I was doing. My partner, who did technical drawing in high school and has a much better sense of 3D than I do, took a look at some of the content and went “Yep, yep, yep, I see what they’re doing here” and immediately tried to explain it to me. I kind of just sat there looking dumb with my mouth hanging slightly open going… “Okay but how?” Then we opened up some 3D modelling software and experimented with smooshing primitive forms into each other. This still didn’t really click for me. On the Saturday, I asked for some help from the communtiy in the Discord channel, including from Uncomfortable himself. I received another explanation which still didn’t click. I spent about four hours that day just trying to get my head around it, including photocopying a page I’d done and trying different things. Uncomfortable did a drawover of one of my pages of compositions but I still couldn’t understand how to see it.
On the Sunday, I had my epiphany. I’d woken up after dreaming about form intersections with an idea about how to approach them. I turned out my first page of intersections that weren’t too wrong, and then I did another. On Monday and Tuesday, I expanded into other forms and discovered that I found curved shapes far easier… contrary to what I’d been told about boxes being the easiest forms to intersect, my brain was proving once again to be completely backwards, hooray? I found that it was a lot easier for me to picture the rounded objects as being 3D in my mind, so I was able to follow the contour of the object with my pen, until it hit the other object and I started to follow the contour of that one.
This one is a bit suggestive looking. Apparently the video for it on YouTube was originally flagged as inappropriate coz it looked like… well, you know what. I’d been thinking about this one for a while before I actually attempted it. I’d seen some others do these and be critiqued for the forms being too rigid and not sagging over one another so I had a reasonable idea of what was expected before I tackled it. I did a few attempts on Post-It notes at work in my downtime to see if I understood what was required. I’m not gonna lie… This is my first and only attempt at these because I didn’t have much trouble with them at all. The important thing to remember when drawing these is that anything underneath the sausage you are drawing will become a support point for the flexible, saggy form you’re drawing and anything either side of that supporting point will sag. So, that was lesson 2, the last of what I affectionately call “mechanical skills hell” due to the exercises being pretty abstract and focused on getting your ability to see in 3D space up to scratch. Below is the album for lesson 2, see you in lesson 3!