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Figure Drawing with Line and Contour

Figure Drawing: Line and Contour

The drawing of the contour is arguably the purest form of figure drawing – nothing but pure line. Most of us start creating a natural drawing simply by selecting a point on the side of the figure and copying it onto our paper, hand following eye. This can result in good drawing – this line is called ‘arabesque’ by Academy artists – but it can be complex to achieve good results without proper training.

Gestural Structure

A common problem with pure contour infusion is that the number of ‘tempo’ of drawing changes, and as we focus on one small area at a time, the figure’s dimensions disappear. Gradually mistakes make mistakes, and the figure becomes chaotic. We need to know to preserve the dimensions of the figure. The best way to do this is to learn to draw the structure of the figure first.

As you become more familiar with the structure of the human body, you will gradually learn to judge proportion by instinct. We can then maintain the figure’s proportions by looking at the signs before drawing and constantly checking against the line one has already drawn.

In this example, released by Sharon McKeeman, you can see how the artist quickly scrutinizes the basic structures of the figure before describing the controversy with a few elegantly descriptive lines.

Short pose drawing

The short-pose drawing asks the artist to visualize the figure as a whole, observing the whole composition, selecting important lines, and putting them down for a moment. They are good at building a confident, flowing line. The artist should strive to represent the pose in as several lines as possible. Students who regularly use temporary marking may benefit from using black markers or brush and ink, forcing them to make clear decisions about their drawing ideas.

Actor Pat Hayes kindly provided this example of a short figure drawing. He caught the spirit of the pose with quick eyes and clean, straight lines.

The continuous line

The continuous line moves between contour and cross-contour in a musical figure exploration. These can be short poses, as in this example, or longer, more detailed cool drawings. The goal is to keep the pen or charcoal on the paper and to keep it moving. Finding the edges first, then exploring the cross-contours to suggest form, and tracing the edges of the shadows across the figure. Placing the model’s hands all over the body is complicated by the subject. The wrinkled fabric can add another dimension. For variation, try tightly controlled lines, loose and free lines, and expressive or aggressive lines.

Exploratory Line

As the name implies, the exploratory line is an indirect approach to contour, ‘finding’ the line in space. Adjacent lines are followed until they intersect the contour, the edge is between the figure. The background is described and then destroyed. The eraser cuts across marks, ‘knock them back’ before drawing further into the form.

I like elements about this example, which I drew a long time ago – the hair handling and the hip curve – although the overall drawing doesn’t work much. However, this type of exploratory drawing can lead a student to discover new ways of dealing with line and form. This is particularly useful for investigating the connection between the figure and the surrounding objects and spaces.

The drawing, together with a selective tone

Tone can be used selectively in contour drawing for creative effects, such as drawing attention to a particular area of the figure; the contrast of highly realistic or expressive voice work combined with pure color movement can create great visual tension.

In this drawing, I tried to keep the line as simple and elegant as possible, and the line weight only varies a bit. Only shadows under the hair are rendered, and the face is lightly modeled. The face modeling is gone – when I drew it, I didn’t learn any strategies for handling the head – but it was otherwise successful, I think – even though I wanted to use the line weight a little differently right now.

To make the voice values effective, you need to move beyond simple shading and observe how light and shade follow the planes of the figure.

Expressive line

Confidence is critical to figure drawing. You can get killed as long as your line is sure. Here, I used a combination of strong contour and simple tone areas to create an informal drawing, with residual lines and tone from a large change of position, creating a nod to Cubist abstraction. While large shifts can be effective, hyperbole isn’t – a clean line says ‘I want it to go here’ while a re-worked line says ‘I’m not sure about this shape.’

Source: Paid Daily USA

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