Drawing Lines and Boxes

Lines don’t exist in reality. Everywhere you look you can see various forms bouncing into other forms, but no lines. This is the first thing to understand about a line. It is completely a creation of the human mind. We understand lines and pictures because we know how to read them. When a line is drawn on a piece of paper it’s intention is to depict the three dimensional world on a two dimensional surface. You are the magician deciphering what you see in reality and transforming it onto a two dimensional surface.

In the following drawing assignments you are going to be exploring contour lines. That means no shading. You are going to be focusing only on the edges of forms and shadows. It is on these edges where your line will wander.

Contour Line Drawings

Blind Contour Drawing of your Hand

Sit at a table where your arm is lying comfortably on the surface. Turn to a clean page in your sketchbook. Now I want you to pose your hand. Try to be a bit creative and scrunch up your fingers and position them at interesting angles. Hold your hand in this position. With your other hand place your pencil on a clean page in your sketchbook. Now I want you to begin drawing it. But here’s the catch. You are not going to be looking at your paper. You are going to keep your focus on your hand, and do the drawing looking only at your hand. That’s the “blind” aspect to this drawing. I want you to imagine that your pencil is touching the outward contours of your palm, winding in and out of all those wrinkles, and sliding down those slopes. As your eye moves: Your pencil moves. The urge to glance down at your paper will be strong. But don’t fall into the dark side. Just keep your focus on your hand. The good thing about this drawing is that you have absolutely no responsibility to try and make it look “right” at all. Just let the lines wander all over the page as your eye traces the outside contours of your hand. As you can see in the example below, if the drawings look “correct” then you’re not doing it right. You have 20 minutes to make 5 blind contours of your hand. Go!



“50% Blind 50% Looking”

In this drawing I want you to continue to draw while looking at your hand. But you can cheat. With that being said don’t allow yourself to fall completely back into how you would normally draw. Do an outside contour of a finger blind, then regain your positioning, and start again. So half of the time you should be looking at your page and the other half you should be drawing while looking at your hand (blind contour). You have to really slow down in order for this to work. One hand should take you at least 10 minutes. You have thirty minutes to make at least two hands.


“Finished Contour Line Drawing”

For this drawing you will be positioning your hand once again and drawing it however you wish. Try and remember everything you’ve learned from the last few drawings and now incorporate those ideas into making the best completed drawing of a hand you can do. Don’t worry about shading. It’s still about the contour lines. You can outline areas of shadow if you wish, but please refrain from shading them in. We’ll get to that later. You have 20 minutes.


Rock on.

The second stage of this assignment is to start thinking about creating form and structure.  These drawings exist inside your head, and go against a lot of the observational skills we talked about in the previous lesson. You see, in order to become better at drawing we must master a set of seemingly disparate skills. One is involved with careful observation, and the other is concerned with invention.

In years past this type of drawing was referred to as “technical drawing” and it was widely used by architects, and product designers. However, it has also proven to be a useful tool as well for artists. This is an instance where you simply have to trust that it will pay off later. It’s hard to explain exactly how this way of thinking influences your observational drawings, it is rather something which must be experienced.

Here’s a youtube tutorial which is a good introduction to technical drawing. Have a look at it quickly ( you don’t need to watch the whole thing) as we progress to the drawing assignment.

The first thing you’re going to need to get a grasp of is 2 pt. perspective. The video below is a great tutorial on how to do this.  Copy this video in real time on a sheet of paper, and create a basic two point perspective city scene.



After you’ve finished with the video it’s time for some more practice. As you can see in the illustrations below there is a simple and quick way to create planes in space. Start with dots which are converging to some imaginary vanishing points ( You don’t need them to be exact, just make sure your lines are converging) . And create 20 of these planes on a big sheet of paper ( or multiple pieces of paper). If you haven’t yet, it is good to buy a ream of copy paper or something else very cheap as we are going to be doing a ton of practicing. Save your nice paper in your sketchbook for later. Right now we just need to bust out a ton of drawings. 

drawing_plane_space drawing_plane_space2drawing_plane_space3drawing_plane_space4drawing_plane_space5drawing_plane_space6


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For this lesson you will need the following drawings in order to progress to the next lesson.

One blind contour drawing of your hand.

One Modified Contour Drawing of your hand.

One Finished Drawing of your hand.

One copy of a two point perspective city from the video.

25 planes in space. ( Multiple drawings on many sheets of paper.

This should take you around 3 to 4 hours to complete. break the lessons into two, if you need more time or get tired.

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