Notes: Contour Line Drawing

Contour line drawing is a great exercise that helps you focus while drawing. It’s one of the first lessons you learn in art school. All you have to do is not look at your paper while you draw.


Go slowly, try to judge how long it would take to get your eye from one point to the next with your hand. It’s always a surprise when you finally see what you have made. Almost like someone else drew it.


This style of drawing always looks surprisingly interesting. Self portraits make a great subject. I love how this one came out:

It’s not supposed to be good, but it often is. via


Once you’ve tried it a couple times without looking, you can start rchecking your hand position every once in awhile, then quickly returning your eye whatever you are drawing. Think 95% looking at your subject, 5% looking at the paper. Which is how I drew this one, (the shading was added later):

2015-07-20 19.33.02

With practice you can get really good at it. Once you have a few you like, try adding color. For example: Hey There Red Man by 


And one more example by one of my favorite artists, Egon Schiele:


There are a couple different styles of contour line drawings:

  • Blind Contour – you never look at the paper.
  • Continuous Blind Contour – you never look at the paper + you never pick up your pen.
  • Contour line drawing – 99% of the time you never look at the paper.
  • Line drawing – drawing the outline of an object with a connected line and no shading.

Simple, provocative, good stuff.



P.S. There is a really great exercise on contour line drawing in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.


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