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Curved shapes are important in many paintings, not only in paintings with figures in them, but also if you are trying to capture the gesture of a particular tree, an archway on a bridge, or a vase.
Many drawing books concentrate on teaching you to draw by following the outline of a curved shape as accurately as you can. This technique is called contour drawing. However there is a major a major problem with this technique — it is impossible for most people to do this accurately.
Even after many years of practice drawing accurate curves directly and getting them in the correct proportion at the same time is extremely difficult. For most people, including me, it is an impossible task.
But luckily there is a much easier way for how to draw curves accurately. It is called the straight line approximation technique.
In this technique, you approximate every curve by a series of straight line segments. It is much easier to get the proportions of these straight lines accurate. Once you have drawn these straight lines accurately, you can then easily convert them into curves as shown here. This is what you do:
How to draw curves accurately
The great classical master draftsmen, such as Pierre Paul Prudhon, used this technique to draw the complex curves of the human figure. Follow these steps for how to draw curves accurately
Step 1: Draw the straight lines
Simplify each curve and turn it into a straight line. Start a new line every time the curve changes direction by a lot.
Step 2: Smooth the lines into curves
Round off the transitions between the small lines to turn it back into a curve.
If you don’t know how to draw straight lines accurately, see triangulation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you are interested in a structured approach for learning how to paint, and want to learn more about my Visual Music & Poetry® model, take a look at my online painting classes.
Barry John Raybould
Virtual Art Academy