This example of how to draw a bear should help you with learning to see and draw more accurately. In this article you will get a quick overview of the basic shape method I used to draw a bear.
By the end of this lesson you will know how to draw the outline of a bear using the basic shape method of drawing. This type of drawing will help you to draw many different things like landscapes, animals of all kinds and even automobiles.
Though I used a drawing tablet to illustrate the basic shape method of approaching a drawing, you don’t have to. Try a more traditional approach using colored pencils or graphite pencils. See my top reviews on some of the best colored pencils here.
But first let’s get to know some of the basics.
Before Learning How to Draw a Bear
In order to better understand outlines in a drawing you must first recognize that there are no such things as lines in nature. Lines are tools used by the artist to show the edges of contrasting values, color and texture of objects.
Somethings may appear to be lines like wire, string or tree limbs but we all know these are objects of matter. Where their shape meets other objects in the background creates the illusion of a line.
Knowing this can help you to see just the outline of objects in nature. This can help a lot especially when doing landscape drawings and sketches.
To become an artist you have to learn to see like an artist. Shapes are in everything we see around us and are the building blocks you will use to create your drawings. If you pay close attention to finding shapes in objects and landscapes you will notice that there are 4 basic shapes in just about everything you see.
These shapes are the beginning stages of drawing an outline of any given subject. By naming these shapes you have given yourself a head start on your next piece of art and need only to apply them to paper. Like grid drawing these shapes give you guidelines to go by and a way to compare your subject to your sketch before adding the details.
Learning how to sketch in this way will help you improve the quality of your drawings and you will be able to draw quicker and more accurately.
Let’s take a look at some of these shapes and see how we can use them to create various objects.
The cube, sphere, cone and cylinder are basic geometric forms that show up everywhere no matter where you look.
Not only do these shapes have width and height they give the illusion of depth.
These are the true to life objects in three dimensional form. I am not going into much detail with these as they are more related to drawing the form of objects and are also more difficult to draw.
Our focus here is outline drawing and for this we need only worry about simple shapes.
Two Dimensional Shapes
These are the shapes I focused on when drawing the bear, as you will see later on in this lesson.
While the square and circle can be smaller or larger they do not vary in the way they appear.
However, the triangle and rectangle can take on numerous variations.
How To Draw A Bear Exercise 1:
Practice sketching different triangles and rectangles. By stretching or shortening the points of intersection on the triangle in particular you will see there are many possibilities as to how these shapes can appear.
In order to train your eye as an artist it helps to try not to name things. For example a pine tree. Instead of seeing a pine tree maybe you see a triangle or a television could be a square or rectangle.
Putting Basic Shapes Together
Many objects have more than one basic shape. For instance, a car is made from rectangles for the body, squares for windows and circles for tires. Starting off simple will help you put pencil to paper quicker.
Like in the above diagram, the ice cream cone and the furniture piece, some objects use parts of shapes such as half circles and cut off triangles. By envisioning the full shape makes it much easier to draw the proportions correctly and keeps your sketch more in line with your subject.
Remember to look at the subject you are drawing more than the drawing itself. Draw lightly and once you are happy with your piece then bold the lines you wish to keep and erase the ones you don’t.
How to Draw A Bear Exercise 2:
Practice every day by making it a point to see the basic shapes in your surroundings until it has become second nature as this will help with sketching quicker.
Changing The Shape
There are no rules once you have the basics of outline drawing figured out. You can manipulate shapes into recognizable objects. Like stretching a circle into an oval or ellipse.
We can clearly see the relationship between an egg and circle. Remember it is not important to name a shape but how accurately you draw the shape. The shapes below are still simple to draw but can make more complex objects.
Start With The Largest Basic Shape
When starting a drawing of an object first study the subject and find the largest basic shapes and work to the smallest. By doing this you can get the basic composition on paper quicker. Once you have established the larger shapes then study the location of the smaller shapes then apply them. They may be inside or outside of the shape you just drew depending on your subject.
Remember to study your drawing and ask yourself questions like; Is the basic shape long or tall? Or is it short and wide? Is it vertical or slanted just a bit? These are just a few questions from among many that can be asked to help insure the large basic shapes are accurate. This also helps insure you place the smaller shapes in their proper positions.
Once this is done you can bold the lines you want to keep and erase the rest.
Note: Always start your drawing using light pressure so that unwanted lines can be erased more easily.
If you are doing a still life this technique is extremely important since you do not want to change your viewpoint before getting the outline of your drawing. If you get up and move it is very difficult to get back into that same exact position which changes the shapes ever so slightly. Try to get your shapes into their proper positions before moving from your work.
As you can see there is quite a bit of time and practice for the beginner artist to overcome before learning how to draw a bear.
How to Draw a Bear Step By Step
I sketched this bear using basic shapes as a stepping stone by first studying the subject to try and come up with some large general shapes. This will be my starting point and become a general guide for establishing the size, position and angles of my smaller basic shapes.
Notice how these shapes appear sketched rather loosely. The subject I was using here was a drawing of a bear I had practiced when I was in art school. Here I am also using a digital drawing tablet and software as my medium to draw a rough outline to use as a guide.
Also, notice the large oblong circle I used to encompass the smaller shapes of the body and the more circular basic shape of the head. These were the larger basic shapes I began the drawing with. By doing this I was able to achieve general locations of the legs, snout, eyes and ear.
I noticed some of my proportions were off when compared to my subject so I made some adjustments and erased some of the lines I did not need. See picture below.
Look at the head and snout of the bear below and you will notice that there was a big change in the size of the head and the length of the snout. I also extended the length of the legs and the shape of the rump.
I added light details to help indicate some of the muscle shape in the legs and the roundness in the belly.
As an artist you need to be somewhat critical of your own work so that you are able to adjust your drawing to be more balanced and accurate to the subject model. For example, I can see that I need to adjust the length of the hind leg in the foreground to help balance the bear so that it does not appear to be leaning toward the viewer.
Being able to see these slight differences improves with practice but also requires you to focus more on the subject you are trying to draw rather than the drawing itself. This can be difficult at times but by reminding yourself to look at the subject you will be able to make corrections more accurately.
In the drawing above you can see that I brought the hind foot in the foreground down some to help the bear look more proportioned and balanced. It also seems more planted into place.
Notice the adjustments I made on the front foot to help push the bear back up into a more upright position and it also helps to suggest the bear taking a step. Still seems this leg may be just a little bit short.
I left some of the large basic shapes to illustrate how all the parts of the bear relate to the starting point of the finished drawing so you can see how I used it as a guide for some of the details. I would not call this finished by any means as the ear needs work and the details such as lighting and shading are still needed. But you do have a basic understanding of how to draw a bear.
The bear below is a relatively finished outline drawing with the exception of the back right leg is slightly out of position causing the bear to appear to be falling away from the viewer. I am trying to point out the errors in my interpretation of this bear to help give you an idea as to how to correct your own drawings.
Careful study of your subject and your own drawing gives you the ability to draw exactly what you see. You can see that I struggled a bit with the head, being that it is a bit to small for the rest of the drawing. A quick adjustment of enlarging the head would solve this issue but I am calling it done:)
As I was erasing the lines I also made subtle adjustments to the ear and mouth. Details like this can make or break a piece of art.
Though my drawing of this bear still needs some refinement after I removed my unnecessary lines the bear looked fairly proportionate and is ready for adding fine details such as color and texture for the fur.
We have learned how to see and utilize lines to form basic shapes and combine basic shapes to create an outline drawing of a bear. Now you are ready to start getting into the details and color to bring this to a finished piece.
Read my art lesson on how to draw with colored pencils where I go through the whole process of bringing a bluebird to a finished piece of art.
I can not stress the importance of practice enough when first beginning in art. Drawing and sketching helps with muscle memory as well as brain memory.
Hopefully this lesson helps you to better understand how basic shapes work when developing your own outline drawing. It does not matter what the subject is the basic shape method will help you hone your skills as an artist and is also the basic building blocks for beginning artists.