Friday, March 25, 2011

Contours with Brush and Pen

Welcome to the third of my Friday Drawing Tutorials. You've probably all heard of contour drawing: you look at the object as you draw it, only glancing down to your paper occasionally, and draw its outlines. Pretty straightforward. You can do just the very outer edge of the object, or some of the interior lines as well. The key to contour drawing is to SLOW DOWN, take your time, let your hand and your eye coordinate their movements. Use a pen. "Mistakes" are part of the experience.

Here is an early attempt at a contour drawing of my chair:

After this drawing I did another, adding some of the interior lines:

You'll be amazed at how quickly your powers of observation increase when to take a few minutes once in a while to do a contour drawing. Here is another chair I did adding a bit of cross-hatch shading:

To make it a little more juicy, try doing a contour drawing with a big, wet watercolor brush. This makes you see the contours more generally, less in detail. After the watercolor dries, try a contour drawing of the same object in pen on top of the watercolor. Here is my spray bottle:

And a jar of brushes:

In the above two examples I tried to keep the pen drawing and the watercolor drawing together, so I fudged a little on the spray bottle nozzle while drawing in pen. In this self-portrait, I did the contour in watercolor, then the drawing in pen over it without trying to coordinate it.

Try both. See where it takes you!


  1. ..oh, nice examples; this is looking 'do-able'; thanks Jane!

  2. This series is so inspiring, I have done some free-form doodles without looking and then looking, colouring it later. I will try some contour drawings too this week.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas!

  3. Oh, I am so happy to hear the word "do-able"! Whether you want to develop your drawing skills, or just take a few minutes to slow down and be present to this moment, these drawing practices are accessible. The more you put into them, the more you'll get out.

  4. Jane I'm interested what size paper are you working with for these; or what size boundaries would you suggest we should start with. Small seems more manageable ......

  5. I am thoroughly enjoying these exercises, and it is fascinating what your head/heart/hand interfacing will do when you change your perspective in sight. Really cool results!


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