Introduction: Learn to Draw With Contour Techniques

Learning to draw is a tedious task that involves several hours of practice to fully develop skills for. However, everyone has the capability to learn the skills that are required to effectively draw. This set of instructions are meant to improve and develop the skills of beginners with little to no experience in drawing. The purpose of this exercise is to train yourself to draw the object as it is seen. All objects can be perceived as several lines that connect to form a shape. There are several drawing exercises included in these instructions, ranging from blind contour drawing to sketching. It is important to know that failing to produce perfect art initially is all part of the learning process. Do not feel discouraged immediately, you are forcing yourself to view everyday objects in a way you have never imagined. By the end of this exercise, you will be able to recognize the several different lines of varying objects and be able to draw them effectively.

Step 1: Collect the Materials

For all the exercises, you will need the following objects:

  • Sheets of paper (8.5" X 11")
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • A large sheet of paper (12" X 12")- I recommend poster paper for this
  • Several objects to draw (described in later steps)

Collect the materials and find a comfortable place to sit where you can set the chosen object in front of you. A recommended place is a kitchen table or desk.

Step 2: Identify an Object

In this step you need to find an object to draw. The object needs to be more than just an ordinary shape, such as a plain cylinder, cubes, or spheres. Objects such as boxes and soup cans are not acceptable to draw. It is important to acknowledge the more complicated of an object that you choose to draw, the more practice you will achieve. Recommended objects include those that have interesting textures or formations that are not considered simple. A couple of examples are:

  • Computer mouse
  • Coffee pot
  • Headphones
  • Bananas
  • A fork
  • Pitcher
  • Mason jar

Once you have identified the object, you are ready to begin drawing!

Step 3: Learn to Trace the Object's Outlines

It is important practice tracing the object's outline with your eyes initially. In theory, when you identify an everyday object in your mind, your brain views it in a certain way. If you attempt to draw from the memory of what that object appears like in your mind, it will most likely loosely represent the object. Now, if you draw from life, you are tracing exactly what you see in front of you. Instead of drawing a representation of the object, you are almost copying the object onto the paper from the viewpoint of what you are seeing. So practice following the outline of the object you have chosen. Try to imagine the outline of the object as several lines pieced together. Follow the example of the picture on how to practice this technique.

Step 4: Blind Contour Drawing

After you have practice tracing the object with your eyes, it is time to put drawing to the test. With your pencil, paper, and large poster board paper, it is time to start blind contour drawing. In this exercise, you will draw the contour of your object without looking at the paper. This will focus and sharpen your mind to view the object as one single line. How this works is with your non-drawing hand, you hold the poster board paper over your drawing paper, preventing you from looking at what you are drawing. Pick a place on the object and begin drawing the outline of the object without picking up your pencil. If you happen to reach the edge of the page, you may look at your paper and begin drawing in an appropriate position where you left off. Blind contour drawing is a difficult skill to master. Many drawings do not turn out looking exactly like the objects. When you reveal your finished contour drawing, you will notice the resemblance of the object and drawing. The curves may look over exaggerated, which is normal. Notice in the example picture of the bananas, the contour of the bananas do not look perfect, but resemble the outline of them.

Step 5: Find Another Object

This time, find a different object to draw than the first one. Try to make this object more complex than the last one you drew. If you have the chance, try drawing another person as your object instead. The human body is an excellent object to practice your tracing and drawing skills on. If not, try the following objects instead:

  • flowers
  • crumpled up paper
  • trees
  • leaf

Remember, the more complex the object, the more practice you will get!

Step 6: Contour Drawing

This time, with your new object, you will be performing contour drawing. Instead of producing artwork blindly, you will be drawing while being able to view your creation. However, you will still be required to draw without picking up your pencil. Using another piece of drawing paper, start at a point on your object and draw what you trace with your eyes. Remember, you can look at your paper as you draw. When you are finished, compare this contour drawing to your first drawing. Do you see a difference? Are your curves more defined than the previous drawing? This means you are improving!

Step 7: Sketching

With the final exercise, you may choose from the two original objects, or a new one to sketch. Make sure the object has still has a higher level of difficulty as previously discussed. This time, you are able to look at your artwork while drawing, but it will not be a continuous line of drawing. You are allowed to use your eraser when errors are made in the drawing process. Sketching is the process of creating a rough design through the technique of a rapid pencil strokes. You will continue to trace the object's important outlines with your eyes, but this time, you are sketching quickly with capability to retract errors. Sketching is one of the most dedicated practices of artists. Typically artworks begin as sketches before they become the finished product.

Step 8: Practice... Practice... Practice...

Continue to practice sketching of several different objects from life. If you feel as though you have not completely improved your drawing skills, or would like to improve more, try to repeat the process again. The only way to completely improve your drawing skill is to practice!

Step 9: Expand Your Skills

Once you feel like you have perfected your drawing skills, try to explore other artistic techniques, such as shading and adding color to your drawings. Research and expand into more mediums, such as paint, charcoal, colored pencil, pen and ink, etc. Try to combine different mediums to create your own original artwork! Always continue to improve your artwork, and remember, failure is just the beginning of a long process of improvement!