The first shape to be decided upon is our canvas (the term used for the shape and size of our paper). For my portrait drawing of Verna I have chosen a square.
Within this square canvas I very lightly sketch the overall, general shape of Verna's gesture. I refer to this as striking the arabesque.
Many artists also call this the contour or outline. Terminology implies intent: Contour, or outline, tends to denote a static state whereas arabesque speaks of gracile rhythm.
This initial shape immediately infers the composition and directional movement of this portrait. Even after several decades of teaching drawing I am still surprised by the number of artists who cannot accurately strike shape. This skill is readily learned and not being able to see and draw shape infects every step of their drawing and painting.
An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.