Draw an Outline

Outline drawing develops the idea of drawing without looking and undertakes a slightly modified type of drawing, which is still based on careful observation and deliberate slow movements of the pencil.

It is often called modified contour or outline drawing, because it is still based on drawing the outline of the shapes that make up the image in front of you. This time, instead of doing them without looking, you are going to be able to have a few quick checks on how you are doing.

The main thing in this type of drawing is that you are still drawing with the right side of your brain – accurately putting on paper what you see, without naming the parts or trying to recall how they should look – just recording what is there.

Before you start, you may like to try some more drawings without looking to relax your mind. Choose some fairly complex objects around you, such as a plant or a flower, and just relax into the drawing process

When you have finished one or two more drawings without looking, your hand and eye will start to become more accurately coordinated, so that you will have a better feel for what you are doing.

Modified Contour or Outline drawing

Now try another drawing of your hand, so decide whether you will do a back view or a front view, or one with curled fingers. Generally, the more complex the better.

The drawing is likely to take about 30 minutes, so make sure that you will have sufficient time to complete it.

Start by taping a piece of drawing paper to your drawing surface or use a large enough pad so that the paper will not move while you draw.

Now, turn so that it is not easy to see the paper but it is not impossible – say about quarter of a turn, but make sure that you face away from your drawing once you have put down your pencil in the place you intend to start. While you draw you will need to keep your hand and head in more or less the same places as when you started, so make sure that you are in a comfortable position

Carefully study the contours of your hand, the lines, the edges and shapes made by the fingers. Imagine how they will look in the paper in relation to the edges of the sheet, and then choose a place to start.

Slowly, as before, move your eye millimetre by millimetre along the contour of your hand tracing out the line on your drawing as you do so.

This time, when you come to a natural place to stop, and before you start a new line, have a quick glance at the drawing and make sure you start your next line in the right place on the drawing. When you have checked, look away, and continue to draw only by looking at your hand, following the curves and noting all of the shapes. As you complete each major line, for example, when you reach a point where the fingers cross each other, check the positions again.

Do not draw the complete outline at once, and then try to fill it in with the internal lines. It is much better to draw each part of the subject at the same time so that you can feel the relationships between the lines as you go along.

The results

If you have studied this exercise carefully and look at the drawing that you have made, something magic has probably happened – you have realised that you can draw!!

Whatever your drawing looks like, it will be an example of your free expression of the subject done straight from life.

Here is a typical example done by a student

When you have finished the first drawing like this, it is important that you keep on using the techniques that you have learned to tackle other subjects.

For more practice find some objects that are fairly complex, such as a kitchen tools, flowers, chairs, or anything that you have around you. Position them so that you can draw them in the same way as you drew your hand, turned slightly away from your paper, but near enough to be able to quickly glance at your paper while you work.

Most of the drawing should be able to be completed by looking directly at the object, with maybe less than 10% of your time checking the progress of the drawing.

You should have some drawings that are far more impressive than any that you may have done before, but most importantly, you will have experienced the shift in control from the left side to the right side of the brain. That shift is going to be vital for your future drawings, whether you are doing it for pleasure or for profit.

As long as you can see shapes in front of you instead of objects your skills will have a platform on which to grow.

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