Sunday, April 22, 2012


A contour drawing is a line drawing that describes the outer and inner form of an object or a person.  Sounds simple, right?  But, it's one of the most important things I ever learned.

Contour drawing requires close attention and patience -- but it will improve your concentration and focus, and your eye-hand coordination (ability to draw what you see).  When contour drawing, we try to combine two experiences -- touching and looking.

Choose a simple, everyday subject, like a shoe. Or, draw yourself -- your own hand or your feet, or your face, while looking in a mirror.

You can choose any object, although natural forms will offer the most variation -- a flower or plant, a piece of fruit or vegetable.

Focus your eyes on some point -- any point -- along the contour (edge) of the subject.  Imagine that your pencil or pen point is touching the subject.  Keeping your eye on the subject, follow the contours of the objects with continuous lines -- no sketchy lines and no erasing.

Move your eye slowly along the contour of the object, and move your pencil slowly along the paper.  Try to feel that you are not just looking at it, but also touching the object with your pencil.

Look at your subject more than at your paper.  In fact, try not to draw while you're looking at your paper -- only draw while you're looking at your subject.  Take your time -- don't be impatient or too quick (just the opposite of gesture drawing).

Occasionally, the contour line you're drawing may leave the edge of the subject and eventually come to an end.  Then, glance at your paper, and choose another point to start again.  Or, when you come to a point where one object or part of an object disappears behind another, stop.  Then, begin drawing the visible contour of the overlapping shape.

And, don't be misled by shadows.  Your pencil should move on the edge of the form, not the edge of a shadow.

When contour drawing, don't worry about correct proportions -- that will take care of itself with practice.  Remember, the way to learn to draw is by drawing!

"A contour drawing is like climbing a mountain, as contrasted with flying over it in an airplane.  It is not a quick glance at the mountain from far away, but a slow, painstaking climb over it, step by step."  - Kimon Nicolaides


  1. Very Inspiring. This is one of the best lessons to start with and I'm loving these. Keep em up.

  2. You have an incredible gift for art and teaching. Thank you!!!