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
Total Time: 1 hour
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.
To learn more drawing techniques that will help to improve your paintings, see the Drawing Lessons in our year one online painting class.
What Our Students Are Saying About The Virtual Art Academy
No need to buy expensive art books…. Just do the VAA 4 year course. I still refer to it
I finished the VAA course a few years ago, but always refer to the notes, rereading the course many times. This is not a course the day you are finished, you are done. No, you keep practising the assignments getting better and better over time. When I look back at my work when I had just finished VAA, I can see that I have grown over the years as well. I will always be grateful to Barry John Raybould for taking the time and sharing his knowledge with us. You don’t need to buy expensive art books to help you with your paintings. Just do the VAA four year course. I still refer to it. The course is most informative and you will never regret doing the course. I certainly am glad I did.