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Drawing Fundamentals: Getting Started

Lesson 4 of 5

Line Quality: Blind Contour

Amy Wynne

Drawing Fundamentals: Getting Started

Amy Wynne

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Lesson Info

4. Line Quality: Blind Contour


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:05:43
2 Materials Duration:05:57
3 Demo: Materials Duration:33:27
4 Line Quality: Blind Contour Duration:21:35
5 Blind Contour Portraits Duration:17:14

Lesson Info

Line Quality: Blind Contour

We're gonna draw some objects. I've got a bunch of fun things, I think they're fun, you might look at them and say oh my goodness but a bunch of fun things that we're gonna use as props to draw, and I'm gonna take you through a type of drawing that's so fun, and it's so much about process you can't even get in the head space of like how it's gonna look, okay and I'm gonna get there with you and I'm gonna lead you through it every step of the way so don't, don't panic. The objects I have to offer you and then I'll talk about how we're gonna draw them are both mechanical, things made of metal and gears and plastic and then I also have things that are organic, right. Already you might be saying I want that one, I want the organic one, you know. So we also have preferences around that you're gonna do both just to see how it feels. We'll talk a little bit about, the difference between what it would feel like to observe and draw something mechanical like a corkscrew, versus something organic...

like a plant. Because that has to do with line quality. It has to do with like kind of connecting with what you're looking at and feeling what it needs from you, right? Feeling the line, feeling what it needs. And if we look at this Da Vinci drawing of these inventions and flying machines there's this precision to the line, there's this like starkiness and kind of like industrial quality to it that really evokes what he's working with, these ideas. But if we look at this Rodin drawing there's this really fluid, organic quality happening, right and that has to do with the curves of the human body and this organic sort of thing happening. So artists evoke felt line, depending on what they're looking at. And by no means do you need to do a Da Vinci or Rodin, right? We're doing our own thing, we're doing our own thing our own way so I wanna talk about how that's gonna go. Okay. So all you need right now is a clean piece of paper probably the cleanest one is probably one of your, just regular sketchbook papers, and it doesn't really matter, but you're gonna put your clean paper on top just have a nice clean surface, and we're gonna work a little bit with something called blind contour drawing. Has anyone here ever done a blind contour drawing? Yeah, you wanna come teach it? No I'm just kidding. So what I'm gonna offer you is I'm gonna offer you a choice of object so I'm gonna come over and I'm gonna have two trays, and you're gonna take one organic item and one industrial item, and you're just gonna have it out in front of you. If you're feeling crowded in any way, you can move your materials off to the side, but what might be nice is when you choose your objects, is to sort of have an area in front of you that's relatively clear, you can definitely put aside your water glasses in fact, the water glasses could even be taken away, at a certain point, and you could just have like your industrial item and you can have your organic item just sort of laid out in front of you just so they're there, they're available for you. So I'm gonna come around and let you have a choice of items and then we're gonna just do a couple drawings so that I'm gonna lead you through and I'm gonna demonstrate, and I also just want you to notice that now that we're gonna be observing something like where how you feel, like, you know, nervous or we shifted we're not playing anymore but we actually are so don't worry. Okay. This is getting lighter it's good. (chuckling) awesome. So check out your objects. Hold the botanical one, smell it if you have a flower it might smell like that, smells organic, how does it feel, right? Does it feel like prickly or sticky or soft there might be, you know, there's some texture to it, right? So connecting with our item and really like feeling it and smelling it and looking at it it's like a huge part of drawing. So, we're gonna start with the organic item but before we do anything, actually in a moment I'm gonna invite you, you can put down your organic item this is part of getting ready okay, I know, excited. In a moment I'm gonna invite you to stand up, actually so have, go ahead and stand up for me. Okay. This is where the dance routine starts, no, just kidding, so. What I'm gonna invite you to do is we're gonna do a little centering. Because we rushed to get here I've been talking with you, you've been trying things maybe this is your first time at Creative Live, it's my first time at Creative Live. And every time I lead a drawing class, especially when we're about to get into blind contour drawing, and don't worry, I'm still gonna explain exactly what that's gonna be, we take a few minutes just to center and slow down. So we're gonna do two things. And the first one is breathing. So I'm actually gonna ask you to close your eyes and just relax your hands at your sides. And I'm gonna invite you to breathe in through your nose deeply. And out through your mouth. And do it three times, and in through your nose and out through your mouth. And in through your nose. And out through your mouth. And then open your eyes. And just sort of notice if anything shifted. You might just sort of notice like, maybe you're a little more relaxed, maybe you're a little bit more here, okay. And then the next thing we're gonna do is a little jazzier, you ready for this? Alright, you're gonna shake your hands out just give yourself a little room, you're gonna just shake and you're gonna shake pretty vigorously, just shake it, shake it, shake, shake it. If you have loose rings on they may fly off. Alright so shake and shake and just really like, uh, shake all the energy down out of your hands and your hands and you might notice as you shake you feel how they get rubbery, it's weird right, what is that, okay. So you're shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking and then stop. You feel something. A little tingling in your hands right. These are your tools, these are what you're gonna draw with. So you want them to be alive and awake. And you wanna arrive, okay? So that's a big thing about like, breaking through hurdles is like, can we like get past the speed and just get into our body, and slow down enough to see something and just let it be about that. So that's something we're gonna try now, alright? Have a seat. Alright. So, I think we should start with the basics, and I think I'd like you to pull out your graphite pencil. And we're gonna start by me doing a demonstration of a blind contour drawing of this, and I'm gonna, as I'm drawing it, I'm gonna speak through what's going on in my brain about it and you're gonna watch it happen and then I'm gonna lead you through it. So I'm never just gonna say okay do this. I wanna really show you each step of the way. I'm gonna talk about blind contour drawing. So we're gonna do a blind contour drawing of an organic item and then we're gonna do one of an industrial item. And then if time commits, we're gonna do it one more time we'll trade items and we'll see how that goes, okay? So blind contour is this. It's a drawing where you're looking at an object, and I, you'd hold it in your hand when you draw it, you're looking at an object, you're moving your pencil across the page continuously with a contour line and you're not allowed to look at your page. Ooh. That's a curve ball, right? So but what does that do, it removes the inner judge right it removes like Oh my gosh this isn't looking good and you know, look at the person next to me and look how good they're doing, you know. It totally removes it, because it's all about seeing, you're just looking at this thing. And the more you slow down to really look at it, the more connected you'll be to it, and the more you'll grow your ability to see. And in turn grow your ability to draw, okay. So there, the outcome of these, really doesn't matter. Alright, the outcome of these is going to be abstract, it's okay. But it's also going to be a manifestation of your process of looking and seeing, and that's really what it's all about right now. Okay, and it should feel liberating in the sense that you are not trying to achieve some pre conceived goal 'cause you have no idea what it's gonna look like, right? Until you look down in the end. So I'm gonna humble myself by trying it with this first and then I'm gonna talk you through it. And we'll just try it together, okay. So one thing, and you can actually do this with me is just taking your drawing tool and just, on the corner of your page, just like noticing how lightly you can make a line, and also how dark the line can go, so light and dark, light and dark, this undulating line, light and dark like, the light parts are sort of like a spider's web, the dark parts are really velvety. And so, even the simplest line drawing can be really beautiful, if you vary the line quality. And this is all about line quality, a botanical line quality, and then maybe, you'll want to do something a little different when we get to the industrial object, okay. So I'm gonna go ahead and try not to cheat and look down, I'm gonna do a blind contour drawing of this and I'm gonna hold it out in front of me. And I'm just gonna speak through it. You don't have to do anything but just sort of watch and I'm gonna speak through what's going on in my brain as I'm working on it. So when we get it up on the screen, great okay. So I got, I'm not even sure what this is, like a cabbage flower, but, it smells very organic. Alright. So I'm gonna start by, by the way, it's very hard not to look down, I know it, I know that. Sometimes if I'm working an easel, I'll actually stand the easel to my side back here and do the drawing you know. But I'm gonna try not to cheat and look down. Alright so I'M gonna put my eye somewhere. And sometimes it helps to put it off to the side. I'm gonna put my eye somewhere on this flower and I'm gonna put my pencil down and that's the last I'll see my page. And I'm gonna start moving my eye across the form and I'm, as my eyes caresses the edge of the form my pencil is moving at the exact same speed. And if I think I'm going slow enough I actually might try to slow it down a little bit more like I'm feeling a little pressure right now. Because there's a lot of people watching me do this but that's okay. And I'm also looking, oh look at that. The frill of the edge of it is so beautiful, now, I might have not even noticed that, had I just taken a glance at this. But it's like there's a little ant crawling along the edge of the petals and my pencil is echoing that. Notice how I'm not taking my pencil off the page I'm just letting it come around the contours and try to push in certain areas a little darker and pull in other areas. So at the end of this drawing, I have no idea what is gonna, probably, who knows if it's gonna look anything like what I'm holding, it doesn't really matter. But in the end of this drawing, I could imagine this drawing to be a gray string. That I could lift off the paper in one piece, and the reason I want that is 'cause if I do pick up my pencil, I won't know where to put it back down will I? Getting into here. And I'm finding myself really relaxing doing this. Like I'm, it's all me, and the flower. It's all that's going on right now. Of course I'm also on Creative Live and you're all watching me but I really do feel like this is an incredible way to center. Okay so I'm gonna look down, okay. You know, it, it has, it resembles something organic, right? It has a sense of this. I could've worked on it longer but I want you guys to have a chance to try it. So I don't care about the outcome. I mean you're gonna look down and be like, oh does it look like it or doesn't it look like it, that's totally natural, but just, really try to stay in the process. So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna take you through it every step of the way. So you're sitting in a position somehow that you have your organic item visible to you, right? Then you have your paper underneath you and you have your drawing tool, right? So when I say go, you guys ready for this? When I say go, we're gonna start drawing. So put your pencil on the paper. Anywhere. And you can hold it, I probably choked up on it didn't I? You could hold it either way. You could experiment with a spoon hold or if you feel like that's a little too much you can hold it either way but good question, alright. So you're gonna place your eye on the object, place your pencil on your page, and then, as your eye starts to move around your object, you're going to slowly move your pencil. And, don't forget to breath, and as your eye is coming up and around the shapes, the pencil's also going up and around the shapes and there might be moments where you feel this organic impulse to go darker with the pencil like a feeling like it should go darker and you can push the lines darker in that case, and then there might be moments where you feel you wanna go much lighter and you can push it lighter. And if you get lost it's okay. You might be noticing things about this organic item that you had never noticed before. Little details or little things that feel particularly interesting, and you can spend a little more time in that area. And notice how hard it is not to look down. And we're gonna do this for 30 more seconds so we'll just play it out. And if you feel like you're running out of things to draw, you could even draw your hand. Pushing and pulling the line that undulation of line is really important. Okay take a look down, see what you got, right? So it's playful, right? And you know what, it may resemble what you were looking at it might not and it's all good, it's all perfectly good. So how was that? Fun? Okay. Little nervy, little scary, but it was okay, alright. So see how much in the process you were though, you were really in the moment weren't you, right? Like all the things that were happening around you or outside the things you have to, if you can really get into that place of just, focusing on that moment, the drawing becomes authentic, alright? Let's try something different. Let's try the mechanical item for something different. So with your mechanical item, first of all, smell it, it's kinda weird, smells like metal mine, I can smell the metal, right? And plastic, and so already, it's a very different experience. It's hard, it's cold, it's, you know, shiny it's very different like when I look at these two items together, they are very different. Very very different. And so as an artist, as a drawer whatever we choose to draw is gonna ask us something different from our materials. I might wanna draw this with graphite, I might prefer to draw this with pen. In fact let's do that. We'll use your favorite, we'll use a ballpoint, how's that? (laughing) alright so let's get the ballpoint pen out. And so the ballpoint pen is also sort of industrial right and so it pairs with this in a way. So, we're gonna do the same thing. I'm not gonna demo this because you know the drill but I'm gonna lead you through it again. You could do it right on the same page, it's kinda fun, if they overlap it's fine. It's kind of fun to try that, alright. So you're gonna hold your industrial object in a certain way and then you're gonna take your ballpoint pen and you're gonna put it on your page and you know I'm gonna actually draw along with you even though you're drawing there, I'm just gonna kinda do it and so, alright 'cause I'm better at talking out loud when I'm actually in the process so, you put your pen on your page somewhere and then that's the last time you're looking at your page. And then you're gonna let your eye move around, your object. Slow it down. And just notice like wow this couldn't be, I'm noticing this couldn't be more different than the flower. And I'm noticing the pressure of my line also feels like it has different demands. Your eye's moving same pace as your pen you're trying not to let your eye or your pen get ahead of the other. You're not lifting your drawing tool off the page and again you're not looking down. I can't be the eye cop, but you know you gotta be honest. And you're working with the outer contour, but you also might find times where you're going across the form right. Across the form and back and forth and of course connecting areas that aren't normally connected because you know you have the inability to lift your pen so it just becomes what it is. Just a few more seconds for this one. I find it's a little harder to push and pull the line quality with a pen for me I feel like I kinda wanna bear it down a little more, I'm just sort of noticing that in myself. So you can also just sort of notice like, hmm, you know, am I varying my line like I did with the graphite? Okay, take a look down, check it out. So yeah. So this is, so different experience right? A different experience drawing something metallic or something, you know, with a mechanical purpose. And that experience is really something that is something to experiment with. Challenging yourself to draw both organic and industrial objects is gonna help push your ability to be sensitive with your line, right? And really trying these things so just you know, if in your mind you're like, I only like to draw flowers, that's all I'm gonna do, right? Well, you could do that but what about drawing a can opener, what about drawing, you know, like a hammer? Like what would that teach you, okay?

Class Description

This beginner-friendly class will teach you essential techniques for drawing realistically. Understand the concepts of line quality, contour line, and mark making. You’ll also learn about the materials used in drawing and art so you’re not intimidated by the art store. And you’ll understand how to slow down and ‘see’ things to better draw them. Instructor Amy Wynne teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and exhibits her work nationally, winning numerous grants and awards.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • The expressive potential of a variety of drawing media on varied surfaces
  • How to build a connection between eye, mind and hand
  • To practice sensitive line quality as it relates to mechanical versus organic motifs

By the end of the class, you’ll have created a series of contour drawings of organic and mechanical objects in varied materials.



I love taking courses with Amy Wynne. (I've taken courses with her at RISD and I'll pretty much take any course she teaches.) She inspires me. One thing I wish is that I had been given a list of materials so I could have prepared for this and done all the activities as Amy did them. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I loved it!


This class was great in demonstrating technique as well as helping me get in the right mindset to draw! I found it very helpful for my own practice and I will continue use what I learned. Amy Wynne is a very thoughtful and motivating teacher.

Mike Sims

So far so good; the instructor is great. BUT please add a list of materials to purchase and have ready to use for the full benefit and experience in this class! Wish I would have known. I will have to grab these items and come back to re-watch the materials demos section of this class.