The basic guidelines to create a contour drawing

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Fine Art By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Art » Fine Art
Last updated: 07/08/2012
Tags: art tutor, basic fine art drawing, contour drawing, drawng lessons, life drawing

Learning how to draw from life can be a daunting experience contour (or outline) drawing teaches students to draw what they see rather than what they think they see. The practice of contour drawing disciplines hand and eye co-ordination allowing the student to practice and be able to draw the objects accurately before adding tone. 

Before beginning to start to draw an object it is best to plan your drawing first. I would firstly suggest looking at the object in more detail, solely with the eye break the object down into easy manageable shapes such as circles, ovals and triangles.  I always find drawing an object such as a teapot perfect for beginners, as it's a man-made object it is texture free meaning the student is not overly daunted or distracted by the task, however a teapot has enough shapes for it to be interesting to draw.

Drawing a teapot

At first all my students think this is too easy and always start by ‘drawing what they think they see’ which usual is a caricature of a teapot rather than ‘what they see.’  (I did have visual examples but I don't seem to be able to upload them)  

*All tips and advice given in this article apply to all life drawing.

Planning the drawing 

Think of the teapot in terms of shapes this will then become easier to break down the drawing. Your teapot may be a different style or design so the following is a guide and you can readjust the shapes for your own drawing. 

1. The basic shapes of a teapot will consist of ovals and circles. The main body of the teapot is made of a larger oval at the bottom and a smaller oval at the top, a smaller circle on the top of the teapot for the lid and the handle again is the outline of a circle. The spout is a bit more difficult but I tend to break it down with the top being a small oval and the thicker bottom as being a larger oval.

 2. We can now start drawing the outline of the teapot by connecting the shapes with lines. Drawing the shapes first will help develop hand and eye co-ordination meaning that your outline drawings will be more accurate, it is important to get out of the habit of erasing the lines which you believe are wrong instead keep drawing on top and treat the first attempt as a guide it often takes drawing over the lines again and again to get them accurate. 

Tip: drawing faster means that the brain does not have time to think and ‘correct’ the lines, it is an automatic response for your hands to follow your eyes (like riding a bike) the more you look at what you are drawing rather than the paper the more accurate the drawing will be. 

3. After you are happy with your teapot you can start smoothing out the lines and defining the teapot shape by connecting the elements so your drawing works as a whole. I would sharpen the pencil or use a slightly darker pencil so the contour drawing is clearer and more defined. 

Tip: At this stage I find that touching the edges of the shape your drawing often make it easier to see how the contours alter (which at first may not be so obvious or different) by making an ‘air drawing’ while drawing on paper at the same time will help to learn how to concentrate and look more precisely at what your drawing.

You can now begin to add tone to your drawing.  

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