In her book, Art for Kids: Drawing, artist and author Kathryn Temple reminds us that, “The most important thing an artist can do is pay attention.” It’s amazing how most people go through life without really looking at the world around them. Contour drawing will help you break this pattern and begin to notice all the amazing details that surround you each day!
“Memory” contour drawing simply means that you carefully study your subject for a couple of minutes, then put it away (or turn so you can’t see it!) and draw everything you can remember about it without looking at your subject again (it’s okay to look at your drawing!). On your first attempt, you will probably be wishing you had looked more carefully while you had the chance! It won’t take many times of doing this before you find yourself paying better attention!
“Guided” contour drawing will feel like a welcome relief after this! In a guided contour, you can look back and forth between your subject and your drawing, as often as you like. It’s still a good idea to spend more time looking at your subject than at your drawing, but you have control over when and for how long!
The tricycle drawing above was a guided contour drawing done with a black chisel tip marker on a sheet of 22×28 railroad board (a lightweight poster board). The tricycle is a super-fun subject for this activity and working directly with a permanent marker (no pencil first!) produces a quirky, go-for-it result with tons of personality! If you don’t have a preschooler at home to loan you a tricycle, you can see if there is a “Freecycle” group in your area. (Freecycle is a nonprofit organization made up of people who give (and get) stuff for free by creating a post on their local website. It’s awesome, so check it out!)
“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”
~ Paul Klee