1. Break the subject down into simple shapes.
“Looking at the dolphin’s forehead, I see a ball or sphere. Looking at the body, I see a tapered cylinder that is curving,” Nugent says. First draw a circle for the head, and divide that circle vertically and horizontally. Nugent also recommends sketching a quick profile view of the dolphin on the same page for reference. “The first sketches are usually very rough and unsure because you’re essentially communicating with yourself, and that’s okay,” he says.
2. Refine the body shape.
Draw curves over the cylinder lines to represent the curvature of the dolphin’s body. Then draw an ellipse around the center of your sphere. “This gives me a line where I can start to draw the mouth of the dolphin,” Nugent says. Let the mouth line overlap the body to give the dolphin a bit of dimension, and note how the head isn’t an exact sphere. Flatten it a little about three-fourths of the way up. Place the eye at the corner of the mouth, adding a small curve under it to show that there’s volume there.
3. Add fins.
The pectoral fins sit about a third of the way back from the head. This fin is just two opposite curves, but look at your reference images to see how to make the small indentation on the back of the fin. Add the dorsal fin on the top, continuing up the curve of the back.
Again, check your reference image to get the shape right. “Draw from observation so that you can draw from your imagination,” Nugent says. “When you draw from your observation, you’re storing symbols and ideas in your head.” For the dolphin’s horizontal tailfin, draw a line that, in perspective, is 90 degrees to the central axis. This will help you get the angle right for the curve of the tail.