Contour drawing

Today in art class our teacher did a fun exercise with us where we had to capture the pose of a model in 30 seconds. It sounded completely impossible.

But with things like contour and gesture drawing, it’s possible – and it looks really cool, too.

With contour drawing, the point is to find the edges of the subject and draw those. You use a continuous line and just draw – no picking up your pencil or erasing. Look at the edges of the things you are drawing and follow the edge with your eyes, and mimic that with your pencil. And the biggest rule is, you have to draw something that’s tangible at the moment – something you are actually looking at (not a picture).

Hands are a great subject for contour drawing, because they have so many poses. And for me, they are usually really hard to draw. Contour drawing teaches you how to “see”, and it helped me get more familiar with the hand’s structure.

Some of the faces don’t quite follow the “one continuous line” rule, but they capture the edges, and that’s really the essence of contour drawing.


Another thing you can do with contour drawing is blind contour, which is contour drawing except you are not allowed to look at your paper. The results oftentimes are kind of crazy, but have a cool artsy quality to them. What’s amazing is that with a bunch of blindly drawn loops and squiggles, in the end the piece comes together and you can tell what it is.


It looks crazy, right? But you can clearly tell that it’s a hand.
A blind contour drawing – I love this one. It’s so shaky and light, but it captures the hand so well!

Both contour and blind contour drawings are so fun. Something fun to try is to get a larger sheet of paper and draw a bunch of contour drawings on it, so you have a collection!

This may be personal preference, but I feel like it’s just so much better to do contour drawings with a soft pencil – 4B or 6B are my top choices. I love the fuzzy messy feeling of contour drawing, and having dark, fat lines just makes it all the better.

Contour drawing is a great thing to try for any artist, especially as a technique-booster. It teaches you how to find edges with your eyes, and see subjects as they truly are, not as you imagine them to be (this is a bigger problem than it sounds like). And what’s more, it’s fun and relaxing.

Give it a try! 🙂



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