Last week we learned how to do a blind contour drawing. If you’ve had a chance to practice it–and I hope you have–you probably experienced more than a little frustration. After all, when we draw we want to be pleased with the results. But that’s not easy with blind contour drawing. In fact, more often than not, our finished “drawing” actually looks more like a two-year-old’s scribbling.
Don’t get discouraged. Remember, blind contour drawing is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. It’s like an athlete warming up before a game. When football players, stretch out before a game, the stretching isn’t an end in itself. People don’t pay big bucks to go watch 22 men sit on a field and stretch. Football players stretch partially to prevent injury and partially to maximize performance. The more limber they are, the better they can perform.
Blind contour drawing is kind of like stretching. The more you practice it, the better you will be come at drawing what you see.
Today we’re going to take it one step further and do what is called modified contour drawing. It’s almost exactly the same as blind contour drawing with one small change. In blind contour drawing you are not allowed to look at the paper at all. With modified contour drawing you are allowed to look back and forth between the object you’re drawing and your paper.
Here’s how to do a modified contour drawing. My subject again is going to be a coffee mug.
1. First, set up your work area. If you are right-handed, your coffee mug will be on your left and your paper will be off to the right. Reverse this if you are left-handed.
2. Next, choose a place on the coffee mug (or whatever object you’ve chosen to draw) where you will focus your eyes. Then place your pencil somewhere on your paper. (Make sure that you’ve got enough space to draw the mug.)
3. Now as you did before, trace the outside of the mug with your eyes and allow your hand to move in the same direction. I tell my students to pretend that there is an invisible cable connecting their hand and their eyes. This time, it’s okay to flick your eyes back and forth from the mug to the paper. You should still spend 90% of your time looking at the coffee mug, but by checking the paper every now and then you can make sure that your hand isn’t trailing off somewhere.
The key to this is going very slowly. Don’t be in a rush to complete the drawing. And remember that you’re only drawing the contour (that is, the outside edge). You don’t need to worry about shading or any of the details. At this point, we just want the basic shape.
Here’s the modified contour drawing that I just did of my favorite coffee mug. Now you give it a try.