Contour drawing technique

Contour drawing is a fundamental drawing technique that involves creating an outline or contour of an object or subject without lifting the drawing tool (such as a pencil or pen) from the surface of the drawing medium. The purpose of contour drawing is to capture the essential shapes, lines, and forms of the subject while focusing on observation and hand-eye coordination.

Here’s how the contour drawing technique works:

  1. Observation: Before beginning the drawing, the artist carefully observes the subject, paying close attention to its shapes, edges, and details.
  2. Starting Point: The artist selects a starting point on the subject and begins to draw the contour line by tracing along the edges or outlines. It’s important to maintain a continuous line without lifting the drawing tool.
  3. Hand-Eye Coordination: As the artist follows the contours of the subject with their eyes, they simultaneously translate what they see onto the drawing surface with their hand. This requires good hand-eye coordination and a steady hand.
  4. Slow and Deliberate: Contour drawing is often done slowly and deliberately, allowing the artist to carefully observe and accurately depict the shapes and proportions of the subject.
  5. Focus on Line Quality: Contour drawing emphasizes the quality of the line, including its thickness, weight, and variation. Artists may vary the pressure on the drawing tool to create different line effects and textures.
  6. Ignore Erasures: In traditional contour drawing, artists typically refrain from erasing mistakes or inaccuracies. Instead, any errors become part of the drawing, contributing to its unique character and expressive quality.
  7. Variations: While traditional contour drawing involves drawing only the outlines of the subject, artists may also explore variations such as blind contour drawing (drawing without looking at the paper), cross-contour drawing (adding internal lines to indicate form), or modified contour drawing (allowing occasional lifting of the drawing tool).

Contour drawing is a valuable exercise for artists of all skill levels, as it helps develop observational skills, hand-eye coordination, and a sensitivity to line and form. It’s often used as a warm-up exercise or as a way to train the eye to see shapes and proportions more accurately.

Many people read our art newsletter ; you should too!