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crosscontour3    Self Portrait

This week in Creative Drawing we practiced drawing by using only cross contours. We drew our subject material by imagining that our pencil was travelling across the form from top to bottom and left to right. As the pencil moved across the form we tried to replicate that form. We lightened the pressure on our pencil where we saw more light or where the form moved towards us and applied more pressure where it was darker or  moved back and away. We concluded that cross contours could add to the shape, heft and movement of a drawing. We decided to look for the evidence of cross contours in finished drawings and paintings that we observed in the future.

I decided to title this piece “Grandmummy” because my grand daughter recognized it right off as being me. I guess that’s a good thing?


  1. I like those exercises. They’re like sculpting, but on canvas. Isn’t it called modeling?

    • Thank-you for this comment, Shiraz. Actually, cross contour is more like the framework of the surface of the object. It is the groundwork for modeling to begin to take place. The way I understand it from what I’ve been taught is that modeling incorporates feeling the object from the inside out and bulking up the form actually reaching for the far side that can’t be seen. It does feel as though you are sculpting on paper. I posted a cross contour that led to a modeled drawing on this post:

  2. Well I don’t think you look like that at all. It’s a very useful and difficult drawing exercise for sure, but this is slightly spooky, 😯 more like mummified – which is appropriate for Halloween – no offense intended Leslie :mrgreen:

    • Thanks June. It looks like a MUMMY, then! Most plain cross contours give the viewer a feeling of a wrapped object giving them a mummified appearance and it is one of the reasons I chose this exercise for Halloween week. YOU GOT IT! I love it that you use those emoticons. I can’t figure out how to do that.

  3. “Waves” to Leslie via her self portrait.
    I think it’s quite good that your granddaughter recognized you!!! Lucky you.

  4. VERY COOL Leslie! I think this is a very interesting technique and one I’d like to try. I love how you made your lines. Squiggly with lights and dark. The eyes are especially interesting. It’s like seeing you through a shattered windshield!

    • Thanks, Carol! I like that shattered windshield idea. I thought I sort of looked like those creatures from “Night of the Living Dead” the old version……Ha! Try it. Just remember those wavey lines are there because the pencil is bumping along the contours as you imagine you are dragging the point of it across the surface of your face. Have fun!

  5. cool drawing for sure.
    The holes for eyes really give it impact

    • Thanks, Kokot. All of you posting Halloween type scarey things…I had to join in the fun. Thought this kind of looked like a mummy. I didn’t want to get too many dark lines around the eyes, so left them blank.

  6. hi leslie! I came here from y’s blog. your self-portrait is quite unique. this technique really does seem to ‘move’ the eye completely differently around the image.

    • Hi Otto! Thank-you for visiting, you of the expertise with “sharpie line”. I agree. Line contour does change the visual quality of an image.

  7. That’s great! It would be interesting to do a cross contour drawing but then erase certain parts of it and see what it leaves, using what’s left as shading. Don’t know if that makes sense, but I like the cross contour concept and hadn’t thought about the possibility of doing a drawing using lines in that fashion before.

    • Thanks, K. Yes. You can use the eraser. There are artists who use this technique to achieve just what you are referring to. This is what I meant when I said I like seeing those lines in your soldiers that show me your whole process. I see cross contour in your beginning lines where you gesture the form in.When you leave those, your drawings say so much more. Again….understand that is only my opinion. Check out the creative drawing page and scroll down to see the example of the apple that I used cross contour on the shaded side. The one where I left a highlight. Maybe it’s something you want to consider.

  8. That is rather creepy Leslie! No eyes! I like the technique though. British artist Maggi Hambling uses broken cross contours in her drawings to good effect, I think. There are a few here
    but you have to scroll down the page.

  9. Thanks, Sarah. And thank-you for the link. It looks like Maggie paints her contours. Fascinating link Thank-you!

  10. Great exercise, Leslie, but my, my! you are not looking very well. Are you OK?
    You are looking a bit skeletal and grey!
    Just kidding.

    • I know.It’s rather ugly when you first look. The thing I like about practicing cross contour without anything else is that it helps me to see ways that I can bulk up my drawings that appear flat. Thanks for the comment K. It brings to mind that cross contour, rendered fairly accurately, will display what lies underneath the surface.

  11. Very interesting concept, i will try it out someday. I like the hollow eyes, give an impression of like able to see through the viewer.

    • Thanks, Francis. I love it that you said that about the eyes because I didn’t see that until you mentioned it. Your comment makes me like it more!

  12. You look good all “lined” up.

    • Thanks, Bill! I think this would make a good image for the ghost of Chritmas future under that black hood.

  13. um.. I don’t know what to say for the best, Leslie, if I say good thing. then I’m applauding your G’daughters view of you.. and her recognition through the ‘aged and scary look’ BUT … ’tis a wonderful basic and almost ‘nude’ fashioned drawing and a testament to the wonderful artform you’re using.. so….I shall say um.. Lovely!! 😉 xPenx

    • How did you eveer find this, Pen? I love line. For me? Everything begins with line, so this exercise of contour drawing is one of my favorites. Just think of the lines in all the letters when you write your wonderful poems! Now, that is a lovely thing! What would either of us do without line? Thank you, Pen! 🙂

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Beginning Drawing Fall 2015 | Leslie White on 10 Oct 2015 at 1:02 pm

    […] practiced with other objects they found around their home for homework. We discussed and practiced cross contours, not just the outlines of things we were […]

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