Draw and Measure Height to Width of Ellipses


Drawing Fundamentals: Cross Contour Lines and Ellipses


Lesson Info

Draw and Measure Height to Width of Ellipses

What you're gonna need is just a blank piece of paper. I know you have your practice pages, but we're just gonna try to do it freehand, but later on you can work with your practice pages. And each of you has a cup. That cup is going to be your motif and you're gonna have your pencil, so if you need a moment to sharpen your pencil you can do that. I think that they left some basic pencil sharpeners on the table if you need that. So you just need a blank paper, you need a pencil, and an eraser. Probably won't be erasing much, but it's good to have, right? I'm gonna come around and I'm gonna come over here and grab a piece of paper. First thing I'm gonna do here however is I'm gonna just demonstrate the variations in the ellipses just here on my paper, which you can observe, then I'm gonna show you some freehand sketching of ellipses and talk a little bit about height to width, and then we'll try it ourselves, okay? I want you to also notice your mindset. You might've been drawing previou...

sly rather freely and experimentally, and now we have this information, which is really good information, it's pretty basic information, but I also want you to understand that this is also a process. We're drawing ellipses. They're really kind of curvy, cool little shapes and they can be playful. They don't have to be perfect, it's just to practice. We're gonna continue that attitude. On this drawing here I just want to highlight a few things that were highlighted in the demonstration, but I'm just gonna come through noticing that I have an ellipse here, I'm just gonna darken it to reiterate some of the ideas and then I'm gonna draw them freehand. Here's an ellipse, and if I was looking at this coffee cup, I'd be having it at about this height, I know you can't see this directly, I can't quite angle, let's see, can I do it? Kind of. It's backwards in my, there we go. So the ellipse would be at that angle, right? In the monitor, it's much narrower than it is wide and so I'm observing that when I go ahead and work with the drawing. If I tip the cup a little bit more toward myself, the ellipse... So we talked about an ellipse like a squashed circle. The ellipse widens a little bit, then it gets a little bit deeper I suppose here, so this is a longer distance than this because the cup has shifted direction. Does that make sense? And then, once again, if I'm wondering how much coffee do I have left? Which I often ask myself. I kind of peer into my cup a little deeper. Then if I do that, I'm gonna play with what would that ellipse become again? Notice that I'm really darkening this line quite a lot to sort of demonstrate this idea, but I'm gonna talk a little bit about line quality in a bit. So that width gets wider, and then when we come to really looking at the cup from more or less straight above, it really becomes circular. This idea of drawing ellipses is really helpful for coffee cups, but it's also helpful in terms of what we're gonna go to afterwards, which is working with cross-contour lines wrapped around a form, so we'll get to that place.

Class Description

This beginner-friendly class will teach you essential techniques for drawing realistically. Understand the three dimensional form and curved objects. Instructor Amy Wynne teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and exhibits her work nationally, winning numerous grants and awards.

This class covers:

  • Turning 3D forms in space & using cross contour lines
  • Learning how to draw and measure height to width of ellipses
  • Applying knowledge of ellipses to drawing eggs, cylinders, coffee cups, & bananas

A series of practice pages will be provided to get you started. You’ll draw 3D forms such as an egg and a cube, and build up to drawing hands.



A great course to learn how an artist visualizes objects to make their drawings look 3-dimensional on a 2-dimensional surface (such as your paper). Awesome!


Clearly explained concepts. Well thought out for the building blocks of drawing, from shape to line quality to shading. Gave me confidence and desire to keep on drawing.

Rebecca Saylor

This was one of my favorite classes. Amy is a very patient and thorough instructor. I have taken many drawing classes but I really loved her approach. I'm looking at the world differently!