Sensitivity in Seeing

contour drawingsThis week as part of a challenge to draw as much as possible, I have picked up some of  my favorite drawing books and revisited techniques that I seemed to have shelved over time. In Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing he starts out with what I remember as being a challenging exercise, but also one of the most fun. Contour drawing was something that I once thought I had sporadic success. One day everything I would attempt to draw without looking at the paper and only the subject would end up being a jumble of lines. And then on another day the end result would astonish me. I am not sure if on those latter occasions I was just in the zone or if my right brain decided to kick into gear.

But then I realized the end result was not the goal. The point of contour drawing is to draw what you see not what you know. We all have preconceived ideas or mental images of what something should look like. Contour drawing forces us to really see what we are looking at. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter what the end result looks like, its the process and the development of visual awareness along with hand and eye coordination that are the names of this game.

Following the contours of the subject and at the same speed I draw the line seems to frustrate me. I do remember a very helpful hint that artist, and author Robert Dvorak shared with me. He suggested that one should visualize their pencil/pen tracing over the edge of the subject. Most of time that seems to work. He suggested stopping at some interval to take a look at the paper. This gives you a chance to regroup if necessary. But he also adamantly said that when you look at the paper the pencil must stop. Never draw while looking at the paper, because if you do at that point you are drawing what you think it looks like and not what it does look like. One of Roberts books, Experiential Drawing is a fun creative reference for transcending the “rules” of drawing into a creative enperience.

Contour drawing requires observation and sensitivity to form. We develop the skills to see the whole and details at the same time. Have some fun, start your day with a contour drawing. I even tried some using my non-dominate lefthand.

Does anyone have a favorite drawing book they would like to share with us?


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9 Responses to “Sensitivity in Seeing”

  1. asrai7 Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this. I often feel like after a bout of contour drawing, that my eye and muscles are more coordinated together, and it helps pull you out of a rusty spot if its been awhile. I’ll catch myself being able to use these skills in life drawing as well, getting down a curve ‘just’ right- without even having to look.

    I dont htink I have a favorite drawing book, there’s too many! ^^

  2. mariela Says:

    Oh! this is great!! I also tried once to draw like that and it was really funny and relaxing for me…
    could you please post your sketches a bit bigger so that we can see it more in detail?? thanks

    • Marianne Post Says:

      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that contour drawing is a fun exercise. It frees me from any expectations of a “finished” drawing. But I can tell that when I go back to doing it, my awareness and drawing skills take a leap. You should be able to click on the sketch image and see a larger one open in a new browser window. Let me know if this doesn’t work!

  3. mariela Says:

    οκ Thanks!

  4. asrai7 Says:

    Not a problem! And I DID think of a really inspiring book that I just finished, and almost forgot about! Its An Illustrated Life, a book with a compilation of artists sketchbooks, with commentary on how sketching plays part in their artistic lives. Give it a read!

  5. Maggie Latham Says:

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences ands insight into contour drawing. Must do some of this as it has been years.

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