Skip to main content


Lesson 2 from: Learn to Draw: An Introduction

Amy Wynne

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

2. Seeing

Next Lesson: Negative Space

Lesson Info


To me, one of the most essential parts of drawing is connecting, and it's really difficult in our very busy, very speedy lives to slow down enough to really connect with what's right in front of us, a lot of the time. So, that sort of connection, that really authentic connection with what we're seeing right in front of us is to me what really creates a beautiful drawing. And artists who have built that connection, their drawings to me, they have feeling, they have emotion, they have a psychology to them that are different than drawings that are sort of unfelt. So what we're going to be doing in this lesson is I'm gonna bring you through some sort of meditative styles of drawing that really help us connect, help me connect, with the thing that I'm looking at, and through that I'm able to grow a better drawing. So first I'd like to just show a couple of drawings that I think are particularly expressive based on the line quality. So one of the things we're really gonna work with is line q...

uality. In this drawing here there's a lot of hatching but there's also a lot of situations where the artist has left a lot of process marks, a lot of extra marks on the side. He didn't go in and erase everything, thinking well you know, I don't want people to know that maybe I didn't put the leg in the right place the first time. It's all there. It's like a human act, drawing. And to show the process and leave it on the page is really what, to me, creates something very, very beautiful. This drawing here is a little bit more abstract but these two figures with the arms sort of up and around them, it's very loose and this is sort of a style of drawing, a contour drawing. We're gonna be working with blind contour and semi-observed contour, and those terms will become clear to you in a moment when I demonstrate it. But this drawing is really born from an expressive, loose sort of situation. And then this drawing here again, to me has this combination of atmospheric marks and then more sort of static marks. You can almost hear how the artist has put the marks down. You can almost hear the quality of the act of drawing in this drawing. And that's what I love. Those are the drawings I love and those are the drawings I aspire to do myself. But we gotta start somewhere. We gotta start by making lines. And line-making can be really expressive if you slow down enough to feel the line. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna bring you through a couple of drawings that are done with what we call blind contour technique. This is a really basic drawing technique but I think it's one of the most essential. So blind contour basically means that you are looking at your subject, but you're actually not allowed to look down at the page. It's a bit of a leap but it's very liberating in the end. I'm gonna humble myself and do one right in front of you and show you how I would work with it, and as I'm doing it I'm gonna talk out loud the things that are going on in my head about how I put the marks down and what's important to me with that. What I'd really like to do is I'd like to compare, in terms of generating line quality, choices in materials and also sort of the quality of the line that one might use if you were going to be working with something organic, like this leaf. For this drawing, I'm choosing a sanguine wax colored pencil, sort of earth red, which pairs a little bit with the color of this, but I look at this pencil and I think, it's a bit of a more organic color, and a softer quality to the line. And if I'm unsure about what to pair with the object, I might make a little bit of a preliminary mark just to see how it feels. And I feel pretty good about how these might pair. With this clamp, however, which is an industrial object made of steel and rubber and plastic, I'm actually more inspired to use a ballpoint pen, which is in and of itself industrial, so that pairing to me feels really natural. So I'm not only gonna be showing you a blind contour technique, but I'm also gonna show you about how the type of line you make and the type of media you choose to draw certain substances, whether it's organic or mechanical can really elevate a drawing. So we're gonna start, I'm gonna put the pen to the side. I'm gonna put this clamp to the side. And we're gonna start with this leaf. I'm gonna tell you the ground rules here and that'll make it easier for you to try this at home. These drawings can be done in like a minute or two, and they can be done from your coffee cup on your counter in the kitchen, they can be done from your dog. They can be done from the toothbrush in the cup on your sink in the bathroom. You can do it from any subject, but the key thing is slowing down and connecting. So I really encourage you to try this at home once I show you sort of how to work it. In order to do a blind contour drawing, the first step is relaxing. And just dropping any expectation of it looking really anything like the object that you are looking at. I mean, it might. Okay, but that's not the point. The point is that you're actually looking at the leaf for an extended period of time, and by looking you're sort of internalizing it's substance, what it really looks like. I'm just gonna go ahead and start the blind contour drawing. And I'm gonna talk you through the rules as I go. You're gonna put your pencil down somewhere on your pad, and that's the last time you're gonna look at your pencil. That's the last time you're actually gonna look at your paper where you're doing the drawing because the rest of the time you're only looking at your model, your subject. So, I'm gonna look, I'm not gonna be looking at my drawing, I'm gonna be looking at my leaf and I'm gonna start at the stem. And I'm gonna use my pencil expressively. The thing is, you never wanna lift the pencil off the page because I'm not looking down, I wouldn't know where to put it back. So as my eye moves around the outer contour, the outer edge of this leaf, my pencil is moving at the exact same speed, and I'm not lifting the pencil. And I'm also trying to be mindful of the pressure that I'm putting on the line as I'm sort of working with this outer contour. And I'm also aware of slowing down. You can't speed through this. This is a meditative style of drawing. It's a felt drawing. It's something that is very connective if you let it be. And it's something that you will want to practice, and I think through practicing this, you really start to see objects more clearly, and really understand them more. Like, on an average day, you probably wouldn't spend a minute staring at all the nuances of an oak leaf in this way. So when I'm doing this, I'm really understanding and connecting with my subject. I don't know if what I'm drawing is really looking like an oak leaf, but I'm taking that pressure off myself because I'm not actually looking down. I'm not looking at my outcome. I'm purely in the process of drawing. And I'm aware that this oak leaf is crispy and brittle, and delicate, and organic, and as I'm understanding that through drawing it and looking at it, I'm hopefully allowing the drawing to have that quality as well. I'm gonna look down. Okay, that's the outcome. It has a certain resemblance to the leaf but again, that isn't the whole idea. The whole idea is like, I actually feel so much more relaxed now after doing that, and I really feel connected with my subject. So that's a blind contour drawing. We're gonna do one more of an industrial object with a pen, as we mentioned. So I'm just gonna replace my leaf with this clamp. I'm gonna do it on the same page here. I'm gonna do it right around here with my ballpoint pen, super cheap ballpoint pen. Don't need to spend a lot for drawing materials. Now, I'm gonna feel this first. This is sort of cold and slick. It's made of metal. This is softer, red, squishy. It's really different. Its substance is so different than this leaf. So this is a huge part of drawing is connecting with the object, connecting with the substance of the object, and trying to relay that through your materials and the quality of line you make. So we're just gonna do one more quick blind contour drawing of this. So again, same thing. I'm gonna put my pen down on the paper. I'm gonna connect with something, a starting point on this, and then that's the last time I'm gonna look at my paper. I'm only gonna be looking at the clamp. So here I go, looking at the paper, now I'm only looking at the clamp. People cheat at this all the time, right? Like of course. Like, who's watching? But I actually find great satisfaction in not cheating at this, because then I really get a sense of how connected I was and actually, it's a sort of surrender. It's a sort of letting go of outcome and again, this sense of connectivity and slowing down. So I'm coming along the metal bit here. I'm actually pressing much lighter with my hand because it feels like that really sharp edge feels like maybe it need a lighter line, and then I'm gonna come into the interior a little bit. Again, one continuous line, not lifting my pen at all to draw, because if I break up the line, this is a continuous contour line, if I break up the line, then again I really won't know where to put it back down again. I'm coming around this rubber bit here. I'm coming around this side. Coming down to the back. And I'm gonna have to back track. And you might get lost when you do this. It's okay. Just back track. It's like a journey, the eye is making a journey. The eye is sort of caressing the edge, and again your pen is going at the exact same speed. And if you feel yourself speeding up or thinking about what you want for lunch or a conversation you had earlier in the day, try to bring yourself back. Just back, this is all that's going on right now is just you're looking at this object in a way that you've probably never looked at it before. Alright I'm gonna look down. Okay, so the evaluation mind comes in. Does it look like a clamp? And I'm like, oh yeah, it does. How good am I, right? But maybe it wouldn't. Maybe it's totally abstract. It doesn't matter, okay. So, these are blind contour, meaning I didn't look down. But there's a next step, which is called semi-observed contour, which actually allows you, this technique allows you to look down a little bit, here and there when you need it. And I'm just gonna do a quick one of those with the clamp. Just so you can see the comparison between the two drawings, but I also want to speak to what goes on in my head when I do that. When I'm actually able to evaluate how I'm doing, like, judging it and noticing and being able to control it a little bit more, and that's just an experience that you might like to try as well because it does shift your attitude, it shifts the energy of the drawing, and the outcome as well. So I'm gonna keep the clamp where it is. And this time I'm still gonna keep my pen on the paper. I'm not gonna lift it because it's still a continuous contour drawing. I'm gonna mostly look at the clamp, but I am gonna allow myself to look down a little bit, and let's just see how the drawings in the end, side by side, how they look. Alright so I've got my pen on my paper. I've got the clamp pretty much in the same position as last time, and I'm just gonna start to, again it's a flowing continuous line, but my eye is now sort of bouncing back and forth a little bit between the two. And I'm, in my mind I'm thinking, okay that's pretty accurate. I'm all of the sudden able to ask myself how I'm doing. Like, how are you doing? How good are you? Right, I'm looking at the accuracy factor and that's actually something that comes into play when you're drawing. You're always from observation sort of asking yourself, how can it be better? How could I make this better? But the reality is that sometimes letting go of that evaluation actually can create a better drawing. So I'm coming down this handle, and I'm coming down the side, overlapping. I actually love having drawings overlap each other on the page. A series of drawings where they sort of coalesce. And again, I'm not gonna lift my pen. So I'm gonna have some extra marks here. Okay. Blind contour, semi-observed contour. This is a little bit more realistic, right? This is a little more abstract and loose. It's great to try both because you might find you have a preference for one or the other. To me, the blind contour is super liberating because the outcome wasn't 100% up to me so I can kind of relax around it. When I'm looking down and observing, it's still about connecting to the object and building your ability to see, but it's also definitely about evaluating, and it might feel a little tighter, it might feel a little bit more self-conscious, but allowing yourself the time to play with different kinds of objects, industrial, organic, pair those drawings with different kinds of materials and have a playful attitude with it. Working with that connection is gonna connect your eye, your hand, and your mind with your world.

Ratings and Reviews

Juliana Lugg

Amy is a talented artist and a very effective teacher. I have the pleasure of having her as a professor, however these online classes show her passion and expertise just as much as in our in-person classes. If you are intimidated by drawing, like I was, her teaching helps to simplify the process of learning how to draw while also inspiring her students to take more risks with their artwork. She will help you realize that studio art really can be for anyone, and that drawing can be a meaningful tool for expression, relaxation, and growth. I highly recommend any course that she teaches, online or in-person!

Alisha Weiss

Great introduction to drawing and sort of the key skills to develop if looking to improve or starting. Not a lot of hard and fast skills but definitely a great first building block to what someone can expect. Great job Amy!

Myndi Quirion

This was an excellent class. As a beginner I learned a lot of great techniques that I hadn't even considered. It really changed the way I view drawing! She's great, I'll definitely watch more of her classes!

Student Work