Figure Drawing

Ralph Larmann

Art Department

University of Evansville




Shading & Texture


Visitor's Center

the Figure Drawing LAB

Contour and Blind Contour Drawing

An excellent starting point to improve your drawing skills and prepare for drawing the figure is through contour drawing and blind contour drawing. Contour drawing is a process of line drawing where one must concentrate on a single point and follow the contours of the body. This process should be done in one long continuous line to mimic the way that the eye works. When doing a contour drawing, you are improving your eye-hand coordination, an important skill in both art and athletics.

Blind Contour Drawing: Blind contour drawing infers that one is not looking at the figure. In fact, the process of blind contour drawing is just the opposite. You must look only at the figure and "feel" your way across the paper. This takes quite a bit of practice because we have been taught to constantly look at the paper as we draw. This was an effective "warm-up" tool for Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists.

Use a pencil and a simple object (like a pear) and follow the process written below.

  • Imagine that you have a piece of glass separating you from the object that you are drawing. On that invisible piece of glass, pretend to trace the form of the pear.
  • Using your pencil, trace around the object while closing one eye and focusing on the pencil tip. Concentrate on the object and its surface, not just its silhouette. At this point you are moving your eye and hand in unison.
  • Once you feel comfortable with this process, place your pad and paper on your lap and focus on one single point.
  • Move your eye along the contours of the object and move your hand at the same rate of speed across the paper. DO NOT LOOK AT THE PAPER.
  • Keep the speed slow because you are trying to move your hand at the same rate of speed as your eye.
The end result may not make sense as you think of a picture, but there will be small portions which will be very specific and detailed. These areas are the small parts that will eventually make up the finished drawing. Your organization of these elements will improve with practice. It is simply the same process as tracing, only the paper is not sitting on top of another picture.

A good example of contour drawing can be seen in the drawing of Dr. Ernst Wagner, by Egon Schiele done in 1918.

A good book to help your observation skills is Betty Edwards' Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain. It has some excellent exercises for honing your observation skills and improving your eye-hand coordination.







Questions or comments can be forwarded to Ralph Larmann at the University of Evansville.

contour drawing

The image above is a contour drawing of a female model. Each line is one long continuous line of differing colors which help to define the form. It was done as an exercise to get the eye and hand to work together.


[Primer][Proportion][Shading & Texture][Construction]

created 6/15/98 by R. M. Larmann
updated 06/25/04

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