Learn to Draw - What is and how to do a contour drawing




More Contour Drawing

Use this chair if you'd like - click to enlarge.

Now we'll move on to a much more complicated contour drawing - that of a chair. Get a chair, any chair, this will be your subject. Sit about six feet away from the chair with your drawing lap desk and a few sheets of paper on it, and have your picture frame handy. First, with one eye closed, just look at the chair for a minute. Try to look at the spaces between the chair parts; in between the legs, the space between the back uprights, under the arm rests. These are the areas that you will draw, and not the chair itself. Just as if you would normally draw all the positive spaces in a drawing and all the negative spaces just fall into place, if you do the opposite and draw all the negative spaces, the positive spaces will fall into place. Drawing the negative space, your logical mind will not try and assign a "symbol" to the shape because it's not a shape it knows.

Now that you have your first shape drawn, move on to the next shape, probably one that is near to the shape you just drew. Keep in mind the distance and angles between the shapes on your subject and try and put that shape on your paper right where you see it on your subject. If there are straight lines in your shapes don't worry about making them EXACTLY straight, just freehand the line and get an approximate straight line. Keep adding your negative space shapes until you have drawn them all. The proportions of your drawing may be a little bit off because you guessed at the distances between the shapes. That's OK if it's a bit off, you can still see the chair inside the shapes you drew, right? To make it a bit easier to see you could lightly shade in the positive shapes of the chair, or better yet, shade in the negative shapes you drew.

Here's what mine looked like...

Try drawing the contour of a fork.

Now you should have a nice drawing of your chair that has no detail inside the chair itself. I know it was a bit difficult because your logical mind kept trying to muscle in and make you draw shapes you knew. Think back on your thought process as you drew. You thought things like "I see a curve here that comes right into a straight line that now turns a right angle." I hope you didn't think things like "This leg connects with this cross member and this back upright connects to the seat of the chair." Drawing the negative spaces of an object should get you thinking in terms of space, forms, and shapes. Further, it should help you break your "symbol" habit of just drawing not what you actually see but what your logical mind remembers you seeing and drawing when you were a kid. Drawing the chair might have been hard for you because of all the straight lines. I know, I have trouble with straight lines too. (Look again at my attempt at the chair - Ugh!). You should try and do another negative shape drawing with another chair, or something else that doesn't have so many straight lines. Try something simpler like a fork or something.

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