Although I had visual plans and layouts for the structures, it’s was proving way too hard to illustrate them consistently from different angles. These models took a couple of hours to put together, made from an old wood ruler, some balsa wood, cardboard and hot glue. They’re not pretty, but they get the job done.
I’d thoroughly recommend making little models of structures and characters. It never takes as long as you think, and it gives you a much greater understanding of the dimensionality of what you’re drawing. You’ll also find a great deal of surprises when working from models, where shadows fall, the way shapes intersect, the way things look from unusual angles.
We can imagine a great deal of things. Our minds are like little reality engines. We can run structures through a range of lighting conditions, palette swaps, textural variations. There’s a great deal that we can’t do though, and model making reveals those gaps.
This is especially useful with character heads. I often find myself drawing characters from “comfortable” angles, angles that I know I have clear visual models of in my head. With a physical model, it makes it easy to create lots of new possibilities quickly.