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Drawing Basics – The Complete Online Course

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In This Lesson:
Here's where we practice the idea of breaking subtle curves down into straight(ish) segments, carefully noting the tilt of each, and the positions of the corners between them. Do this right, and all that remains is to "round out" the corners to retrieve the curvature from the straight-line block-in.

Key Concepts

Once you’re feeling comfortable drawing straight lines at different angles, it’s time to move on to the next step – shapes. If lines are like elements in our visual chemistry, then shapes are like compounds – constructs made up of individual lines. Understanding shapes – their size, position, proportion and orientation – is critical in learning to draw. Any object, or any part of an object we may want to draw, has a silhouette, or an outer shape. Getting that shape right is an early and important part of drawing anything.


There’s a nearly infinite array of different kinds of shapes that we may need to draw. Some are regular, geometric shapes, like squares, circles, hexagons, etc... But most will be irregular and asymmetrical in their appearance – lopsided polygons of various sizes and proportions that correspond to the infinite complexity and variety of shapes we see in the world.

But triangles are special for two reasons. First, a triangle is the simplest enclosed shape that can be created with straight lines, making it a good place to start. Second, triangles demonstrate the concept of triangulation – a measuring technique that we’ll be using a lot going forward.

What is “Triangulation”

Once points A and B are known, we can find point C by gauging the angles from A to C, and from B to C. These hypothetical lines will intersect at C.
Once points A and B are known, we can find point C by gauging the angles from A to C, and from B to C. These hypothetical lines will intersect at C.

“Triangulation” is a concept borrowed from trigonometry that says: Given any two points (A and B), we can find any third (C) if we know the angle of AC and BC.

This concept is unboundedly useful in drawing where we seek to locate salient points of an object or composition. All we need are two known and fixed points on our page, and we can find anything else if we gauge the angles between them correctly. In other words, any three points in a composition combine to form a hypothetical triangle. If we can reproduce that conceptual triangle accurately on our page, we will also have placed the three points correctly relative to one another. It’s a powerful tool when mastered, allowing us to solve just about any problem of size, placement, or proportion of elements in our drawings.

We’ll come back to triangulation in our lesson on measuring, but for now it seems clear that practice drawing triangles might be a good idea.


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