Basic Proportions and Shapes

Let's begin by getting those basic proportions and shapes on paper.

1. Once you have your subject framed and your paper and pencil ready, start with a few gesture or action lines that represent the main limbs and direction of movement.

2. When you have an idea of how the animal moves, try to find a base unit of measurement, like the width of the head, the length of the body, or the height from the ground to the chest, and use that as a reference point.

3. Measure that shape, space, or length and see how it relates to other measurements on the body.

4. See the relation between the height and the length of the animal, its legs, how high they are, and how long the body is relative to the legs. Look at the head relative to the neck, the chest relative to the girth of the body, and the size of the head.

This giraffe and elephant are reduced to the basic geometric shapes that define how they look.

5. Next, think of the body as a collection of spare parts drawn as geometric shapes of various sizes and on various angles, relative to each other.

6. Look for ovals, ellipses, ellipsoids, cylinders, cones, and spheres. Think of the hard-edged shapes, too, then round them off.

7. See the barrel shape of an elephant's big body, the long curving cylinder or cone of its trunk, the even longer, curving neck of a giraffe, the slender ellipses that make up the shapes of a deer.

8. Try to draw each part of the body as a three-dimensional part, not a flat shape. Using ovals and ellipses in light lines helps you think, see, and draw round, full shapes for the body parts.

Quick drawings of animals concentrate on gesture and on the shape of basic body parts.

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