Contour drawing, is an artistic technique used in the field of art in which the artist sketches the contour of a subject by drawing lines that result in a drawing that is essentially an outline; the French word contour meaning, “outline.”  The purpose of contour drawing is to emphasize the mass and volume of the subject rather than the detail; the focus is on the outlined shape of the subject and not the minor details. However, because contour can convey a three-dimensional perspective, length and width as well as thickness and depth are important; not all contours exist along the outlines of a subject. This technique is manifested in different styles and practiced in the honor of drawing development.
Contour drawing is an essential technique in the field of art because it is a strong foundation for any drawing or painting; it can potentially modify a subjects’ form through variation within the lines. Its objective is to capture the life, action, or expression of the subject. It is widely accepted among schools, art institutions, and colleges as an effective training aid and discipline for beginner artists. In the hands of a talented master, the line that conveys contour can deliver a load of visual pleasure that can be astonishing.
In a continuous-line drawing, the artist looks both at the subject and the paper, moving the medium over the paper, and creating a silhouette of the object. Like blind contour drawing, contour drawing is an artful experience that relies more on sensation than perception; it’s important to be guided by instinct. To make a blind contour drawing, an artist does not look at the paper or canvas on which he/she is working. Another technique similar to contour drawing is outline drawing; a division between form and the space a subject occupies. All three types of drawing are considered to be gesture drawings; the practice of drawing a series of bodies in still form. An outline drawing does not include the visual amusement of human sight, while a contour drawing contains form, weight, mass, space, and distance. Contour drawing often uses the 'taking a line for a walk' approach, picking a spot and continuing until the drawing is complete. Along the way, the relative sizes, shapes and directions of lines are noted and copied, a bit at a time. Take your time in the beginning, as the first parts of the drawing establish scale for the whole drawing. A common mistake is to run the picture off the page, having started too large or in the wrong place. If this happens, don't worry - either finish off, use another part of the page for a drawing, or start afresh
By altering the character of the mark, an artist can emulate many aspects of the subject that relate form and space to the viewer. For example, a line can be lighter in value, or gradation, to suggest greater distance between objects in the drawing. A darker portion of the contour could represent an object with little or no light source; the space is compressed or the object is lower. Continuous lines used inside the outline of a subject can an accent or cast shadow, depending on the value of the line.
The purpose of drawing blindingly is to force the artist’s eye to move along the contour of the subject as his or her pencil moves along the paper. Initially, this type of drawing may be difficult and slow, but an artist will find that with practice, it is an effective way of defining observation skills such as identifying and underlying the structure of the subject, relating forms, and conveying the sensual experience of the subject; he/she will be skilled at drawing anything quickly and successively.
- Sutherland, Jane. 1997. "Gesture drawings." American Artist (VNU eMedia, Inc.) 61, no. 656: 11. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost . Retrieved February 9, 2010.
- Nicolaïdes, Kimon. 1941. "The Natural Way to Draw". Houghton Mifflin Company Boston
- Sheenan, Steven. 1994. "Two types of line drawings." American Artist (VNU eMedia, Inc.) 58, no. 625: 10. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost . Retrieved February 9, 2010.