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.
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The most comprehensive, in depth and well-organized painting course available online
After a thorough research, my personal conclusion is that the Virtual Art Academy (VAA) is, by wide margin, the most comprehensive, in depth and well-organized painting course available in the internet. Unlike most tutorials and color mixing recipes commonly found online, VAA’s philosophy is rather to provide the students with detailed information about all aspects of painting – color theory, brushwork, drawing, composition, techniques, materials – in an organized manner, in a way to allow for short-term improvements while optimizing the learning curve throughout the course. And, while the VAA curriculum, by itself, is already among the most valuable literature about art one can find (both online or offline) – for its depth and comprehensiveness –, the online platform adds a lot more to the learning experience, since the exchange in information and experience with other students is of immense help. Finally, what is most unique about the VAA, in my opinion, is that its creator Barry J. Raybould not only has a successful career as an artist himself – with an economic style and distinguished understanding of color – but he was also able to distill his own knowledge and experience into an accessible and effective method (as can be proven by the works of some of his earlier students). If you are serious about learning art and (as was my case) can’t enroll formal art schools, I would say there’s zero chance you will regret joining the VAA. In fact, I truly believe that, in the centuries to come, people will still learn to paint through Barry’s method.