Contour Drawing


Watch and draw along with the video, or follow the written instructions, whatever works for you.

Continuous Line Drawing Video Draw Along Link
Cross Contour Drawing Video Draw Along
Gesture Drawing Video Draw Along 

You don’t need to be an artist in order to draw. You just need an eye or two. Slow down and draw things out. Rene Magritte said his goal with art was “to breathe new life into the way we look at the ordinary things around us. This is exactly what the artist does: by paying extra attention to their world, they teach us to pay more attention to ours. Everything you need to make extraordinary art can be found in your everyday life.

Austin Kleon

Materials needed: Pencil, unlined paper, eraser, pencil sharpener. Optional: felt tip pen or marker.

Blind Contour Drawing

Look around and find a complex object to draw. Simple objects don't work as well as, say a plant, an ironing board and iron, a comfy chair and pillow. Step 1: Practice drawing along with the blind contour drawing video (left.) Step 2: Set yourself up in front of a mirror with a pencil and paper if you want to try a self portrait, or set up an interesting object. Really look at your object or  image in the mirror and decide where you will start your drawing. Look at your paper and decide where to start your pencil on the page. Step 3: set your pencil on the page and draw excruciatingly slowly, while you look deeply at your image and move your pencil along without looking at the paper. If you go off the edge, just look at the paper briefly , reset your pencil, and keep going. You may get a good drawing on your first try, but I usually have to do 2 or 3 before I get one I'm happy with.

Continuous Line Drawing 

Try a pair of shoes, gloves, cup and saucer, your hand, or other fun subjects. This process is similar to blind contour drawing in that your pencil never leaves the page and you are looking deeply at what you are drawing, but in continuous line drawing you can look at the paper, and you do more than just the outline of your subject, you draw all of the lines that you see by doubling back on your single line. You are looking for a finished drawing that seems to add significance to an ordinary object because of the way you drew it. Apply light and heavy pressure as you draw to get more variety in your line. Try two or three different subjects and submit your best one.


Reading: The Elements of Art from the Getty Museum

Use these terms in your discussions, critiques, and to guide your own work.


4 Prep Drawing Assignments

(25 possible points each)

Cross Contour Drawing

Make a Cross Contour drawing of three pieces of fruit or veggies, or other interesting kind of rounded objects, like sports equipment, musical instruments, look around for something that interests you. (Or, draw from one of these - Cross Contour Reference Photos

  1. Arrange your subjects in a way that pleases you. Shoot a photo in from your drawing point of view in case you get interrupted.

  2. Really look at your subject and decide where to place it so it falls within the edges of the page. (Tip: if you lightly mark off an inch on the edge of the page, it will automatically take the viewer's eye to your subject.)

  3. Lightly draw the outlines of your subject.

  4. Think of the longitude and latitude lines on a globe, and visualize those contour lines on your subject. Plan where you will use thinner lines (hint: background) and thicker lines (your subject). Put on some fun music and take your time filling in your cross contour lines. Try for lots of line variation in this drawing. Keep going until you are happy with your work. You may get frustrated, if you do, set your drawing aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Do the best work you can.

Gesture Drawing

Construct a Gesture drawing from an action photo of a person. Your drawing will be boring if you shoot someone just looking at a camera, so try shooting at a sports event or where people are moving. I find that it's best to draw gesture drawings from a photo, because people just move too fast. If you have a newspaper, try the sports section, it always contains interesting action photos.

  1. Look deeply at the subject you are about to draw. Will you draw just the person or are there some elements in the background that will make your drawing more interesting?

  2. Plan where you will place your person on the page and make some light marks to indicate where the head, feet, and sides will be placed.

  3. Use your pencil and draw rapidly, filling in important details quickly. Tip: I usually draw a little inside the edges when I start, so I can refine my edges later.)

  4. Include any background details that will help tell the story. Your background is a playground of possibilities, use it to your advantage. Gesture drawings are quick, so try a few until you get one that pleases your inner artist.

1.4 Submit Contour & Gesture Drawings

Take a look at the rubric on the submission page and make a comment when you submit on how these assignments went for you and what grade you would give yourself. Ignore your inner critic that is practically yelling negative things at you. Listen for your deeper artist voice that is kind and says things like, "what would happen if I tried..."


Portfolio Drawing Assignment

Your portfolio drawing should take longer than your prep drawings. Put yourself into the assignment, use your best work, and shoot for a drawing of the quality that you could show in a portfolio interview for a job or a scholarship.

Look around for three to five interesting objects to compose a still life to draw. Vary the size and shape of the objects for more interest. Compose the objects in different ways until you get an interesting arrangement, shoot a photo in case you don't get the drawing done in one sitting. Here are some tips on composition.

Make a contour or gesture drawing of your still life, be mindful to fill the page. Vary your line quality. Hold the pencil in different ways. Show me what you learned in this challenge and do the very best work that you can. Here are some Portfolio Quality Drawing Examples: Contour & Gesture

1.5 Submit Portfolio Quality Drawings

Look at the rubric on the submission page and give yourself a grade. Let me know your process in this piece and how you think you did, what you would do differently if you did it again.  100 points


Reflection & Revision
1.6 Contour & Gesture Critique

Upload your portfolio quality drawing and comment on the process you went through to get to your final drawing. Talk about any obstacles you overcame and how you did it. 

Then, look at three other student's works, and make either a positive comment or suggest a change. Use the vocabulary from the Elements of Art reading in your comments. You are trying to help another artist improve, because that's what artists do. There's no room for negativity in these critiques. Your purpose is to help other students and listen to the feedback they give  you.

1.7 Submit Revised Portfolio Drawings

Take another look at your portfolio drawing before you finish this challenge and ask yourself what you can do to improve them. Listen to the feedback you got from me when you submitted your work, and the feedback you got from other students in the critique. Upload your revised portfolio drawing for the opportunity for additional points.