Contour Drawing – Raleigh Sketch-In

May 2, 2011
Henry Spencer Moore
Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge

Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the North Carolina Museum of Art for the Raleigh Sketch-In. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and the museum has beautiful grounds and a wonderful collection.

We began the day with a contour drawing exercise. It’s one of my favorite ways to LOOK at something. It’s not about the drawing at all.

I’ve been reading “The Natural Way to Draw” by Kimon Nicolaides and here is what he has to say about the exercise. Even though I have been doing contour drawings for a while now, what he said was a revelation to me.

1 – The Sense of Touch

“Imagine that your pencil point is touching the model instead of the paper. Without taking your eyes off the model, wait until you are convinced that the pencil is touching that point on the model upon which your eyes are fastened. Be guided more by the sense of touch than of sight.”

Blind Contour Drawing

2 – An Experience, not a Product “.. a contour study is not a thing that can be ‘finished.’ It is having a particular type of experience, which can continues as long as you have the patience to look.”

3 – Contour = Outline “Do not be misled by shadows. When you touch the figure, it will feel the same to your hand whether the part you touch happens at the moment to be light or in shadow. Your pencil moves, not on the edge of a shadow, but on the edge of the actual form.” He shows two apples and explains that an outline including both apples is a visual illusion. In a contour drawing your finger/pencil would have to leave one apple (lift from the paper) to get to the other apple. “A contour can never be an illusion because it touches the actual thing.”

It was a whole different experience to actually imagine my pencil touching the subject and to realize that I have looked at shadow or though of outline.

Raleigh Sketch-In
NCMA grounds ….. as you walk past this boulder there is a surprise
Collapse I by Ladelle Moe

It’s huge. I find the combination of the feelings of nature and fallen monument to be intriguing. I think a good time was had by all. We intended to meet back together for another sketch exercise at the beginning of the second hour but all were late as time just seemed to stand still/fly by as we lost ourselves in the meditation of drawing and seeing and experiencing the art. I think I am learning that my experience of the world is richer when I have a drawing tool in hand.

Our littlest Sketcher
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  • Reply
    April 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    The fallen monument picture reminded me instantly of Ozymandias:
    I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,Half sunk, a shattered visage lies…
    from 50 years ago Lit class. What a total surprise how how deep some things are embedded in your brain.

  • Reply
    Hannah O. Koch
    May 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    It was a wonderful day Lyric! My daughter and I had a blast. Thanks so much! Between the sketchbook challenge and the sketch-ins, I am getting back comfortable with just a pencil again.

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