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Focus your eyes on some point — any point will do — along the contour of the model.

The Natural Way To Draw

The contour approximates what is usually spoken of as the outline or edge. Place the point of your pencil on the paper. 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. Then move your eye slowly along the contour of the model and move the pencil slowly along the paper.

As you do this, keep the conviction that the pencil point is actually touching the contour. Be guided more by the sense of touch than by sight. Exactly coordinate the pencil with the eye. Your eye may be tempted at first to move faster than your pencil, but do not let it get ahead. Consider only the point that you are working on at the moment with no regard for any other part of the figure.

Often you will find that the contour you are drawing will leave the edge of the figure and turn inside, coming eventually to an apparent end. When this happens, glance down at the paper in order to locate a new starting point. This new starting point should pick up at that point on the edge where the contour turned inward. Thus, you will glance down at the paper several times during the course of one study, but do not draw while you are looking at the paper. As in the beginning, place the pencil point on the paper, fix your eyes on the model, and wait until you are convinced that the pencil is touching the model before you draw.

Not all of the contours lie along the outer edge of the figure. For example, if you have a front view of the face, you will see definite contours along the nose and the mouth which have no apparent connection with the contours at the edge. Draw anything that your pencil can rest on and be guided along. This exercise should be done slowly, searchingly, sensitively. Take your time.

Learning to Draw: My First 90 Days

Do not be too impatient or too quick. There is no point in finishing any one contour study. So much the better! But if you finish long before the time is up, the chances are that you are not approaching the study in the right way. A contour drawing is like climbing a mountain as contrasted with flying over it in an airplane. It is not a quick glance at the mountain from far away, but a slow, painstaking climb over it, step by step.

That problem will take care of itself in time. And 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. At first, no matter how hard you try, you may find it difficult to break the habit of looking at the paper while you draw.

You may even look down without knowing it.

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Ask a friend to check up on you for a few minutes by calling out to you every time you look at the paper. Then you will find out whether you looked too often and whether you made the mistake of drawing while you were looking. This exercise should be used in drawing subjects of all sorts. At first, choose the contours of the landscape which seem most tangible, as the curve of a hill or the edge of a tree-trunk. Any objects may be used, although those which have been formed by nature or affected by long use will offer the greatest amount of variation, as a flower, a stone, a piece of fruit, or an old shoe.

The Natural Way To Draw by Nicolaides, Kimon

Draw yourself by looking in the mirror, your own hand or foot, a piece of material. It is the experience, not the subject, that is important. We think of an outline as a diagram or silhouette, flat and two-dimensional.

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It is the sort of thing you make when you place your hand flat on a piece of paper and trace around the fingers with a pencil — you cannot even tell from the drawing whether the palm or the back of the hand faced downward. Contour has a three-dimensional quality; that is, it indicates the thickness as well as the length and width of the form it surrounds.

We do not think of a line as a contour unless it follows the sense of touch, whereas an outline may follow the eye alone. Place two apples on a table, one slightly in front of the other but not touching it, as in Figure 1. Figure 2 shows the visual outline of both apples. Figure 3 shows the visual outline of the second apple.

Neither Figure 2 nor Figure 3 could possibly be a contour drawing because, in both, the line follows the eye and not the sense of touch. If you feel that you are touching the edge, you will not jump from the edge of the first apple to the edge of the second without lifting your pencil, as in Figure 2, just as you cannot actually touch the second apple with your finger at that place until you have lifted your finger from the first apple. As an outline, Figure 3 shows what you see of the second apple only, but if you think in terms of contour or touch, part of that line belongs to the first apple and not to the second.

The outlines in both Figure 2 and Figure 3 are visual illusions. A contour can never be an illusion because it touches the actual thing. This action might not be possible to undo.


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