This surf art tutorial is brought to you by Bob Penuelas, an illustrator famous for his surfing comic strip, Wilbur Kookmeyer. Created by Bob Penuelas in 1986, Wilbur Kookmeyer was a regular two-page feature in Surfer Magazine, gaining a cult following in the surfing community.
You probably spent a lot of time in high school, or at work, daydreaming and doodling a thousand perfect cartoon waves in your notebook. This tutorial will help you change your throw-away wave doodles into works of art you’ll want to keep forever.
Remember, there are many ways to draw a wave, this tutorial only covers a few techniques, but hopefully, with these simple pointers, you’ll discover many more ways to draw a wave. Have fun!
P.S. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these surfing illustrations.
The following illustrations and captions by Bob Penuelas take you through the basic steps of drawing a wave.
Sketch in the basic shape of the curl, spray, foam and base of the wave.
Add an extra line running parallel and below the curl line to define the thickness of the lip.
Add a flow line starting at the lip and curve it around to suggest roundness of the liquid lip. Continue that same flow line around with a half oval down to the base of the wave to show the concave curve of the wave face.
Add the rest of the flow lines. Gradually make each flow line less steep as you move away from the curl, to show the tapered shoulder. Continue the flow lines into the tube to show hollowness.
Add simplified spray with thin wispy lines. Add the foam explosion with a series of explosion lines getting bigger as they moving away. Maybe add a foam ball in the tube. Round off the foam at the base of the wave so it won’t look flat.
Add shading on the wave face with smaller contour lines. Gradually make the lines darker as you get further into the tube. Use crosshatching to add more depth. Lightly shade foam and base of the wave. Maybe shade the sky a little, too.
Drawing a basic wave can be fun, but after a while it can get boring if you are merely following the same formula over and over again. The key to breaking out of this potential rut is achieved by drawing waves from different angles. There is only one way to successfully create a variety of angles and that is by using the basic principles of perspective. The two basic ingredients in perspective are the horizon line (your eye level) and the imaginary vanishing points. By merely changing the position of these ingredients in your image you’ll be amazed at the variety of waves you can create. See the two sketches below:
Low horizon. Vanishing point off left:
High horizon. Vanishing point left:
Additional variations can be achieved by moving the horizon line high or low and by moving the vanishing point right or left. Give it a try:
A high horizon line and one vanishing point on the left makes it look as if your face is against the face of the wave and you’re racing for daylight (see first two images below). And if you move the vanishing point to the right then more of the face becomes visible (see last two images below):
A high horizon line with two vanishing points off to the right and left makes it appears as though you’re viewing the wave from a pier, looking down on the wave:
A paddler’s eye view can be accomplished by placing the horizon line extremely low. Both vanishing points are located outside of the image border, one to the left and one to the right:
A bird’s eye view can be accomplished by moving the horizon line up and completely off the image. The two vanishing points are positioned way out to the right and left:
A view looking down the point can also be achieved by moving these ingredients around:
With perspective, you can now create line-up scenes, with multiple waves. It could be a reef pass, a beach break or a point break Add land in the background or in the foreground to give the scene some depth. See the four sketches below:
Don’t forget about hollow waves, freight-trains, slow-churning or paper-thin waves. The possibilities are endless:
Avoid drawing a peak by merely attaching two mirror image waves together. The right and the left are the same yet they are drawn differently.
Don’t forget to add surfers to your waves, whether you draw them regular or goofy foot, backside or frontside, you soon realize that there are endless combinations. See the three sketches below:
A surfer doing a cutback on a wave:
A surfer riding a big wave:
A side profile drawing of a surfer riding a barrelling wave:
Curated by Bob Penuelas on Jun 24, 2008