Thursday, August 16, 2012

Give Me an Outline of That Proposal...

"Contour" drawing from life by Shirley Fachilla.

My illustration is not exactly on point. She did begin as a contour drawing done from life, but I had too much time before the next pose was struck so I added a bit of line shading and corrected some of my lines by drawing over. Nonetheless I think it conveys the general notion of contour drawing, a concept introduced to me by Peggi Kroll Roberts.

(I did not attend art school so there are many techniques and skills I’m still discovering.)

To do a proper contour drawing, the artist simply follows the contour of the figure, no shading, all line. When it works, the artist ends up with an understandable drawing, i.e. first, it’s identifiable as a person; second, the position of that person in space makes visual sense; third, there is a feeling of volume and mass.

Normally, contour drawing is not an end unto itself though there are exceptions. Unlike other gesture drawings that are often framed and hung, contour drawings usually remain exercises or studies that form the basis for other works.

Why do them? To train your hand and eye to work together, to work without conscious thought. Ideally when contour drawing, you look at the figure and almost never at your paper. (You don’t go back and shade or correct!) I found using a pen made me commit to my line rather than treating it as a gesture drawing. 

Because I see mostly in shape rather than line, I expected to hate contour drawing. But actually I love it despite my less than elegant results! 

This blog almost never discusses drawing again because I tend to see shape rather than line. But for some exquisitely beautiful work you might visit pages devoted to Jean-Antoine Watteau or Gustav Klimt. Like Van Gogh, they were excellent draughtsmen, each in his own very individual way. Van Gogh set out to teach himself to draw, but that’s another story, and I’ve already wandered from my initial subject!

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Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...