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  continous line drawing

Every year, I teach a beginning drawing class and am reminded about how important it is to learn to “see” and to begin to feel the curve and shape of a form. My favorite way to draw is like the above picture of a father and daughter. I begin with one line and pretend I am drawing across and around their form, making choices, all the time, as to what bumps my pencil up or down or makes it curve and circle. It took me a long time to learn that every image I create may not be perfectly proportionate but that it would have some truth of the reality of the subject I chose to see. I think that is the real joy of being able to draw and anyone can draw, you know……..

My students begin by drawing blind line drawings of hands and faces and objects.

blind line of hand

blind line of face

They are instructed to feel the form and to pretend as though the pencil is touching the surface of the object they are drawing. They are instructed to include cross countours and move their pencils in arcs where the form bulges out and would change the form of their line.  All of this is done while studying the form and not looking at the paper. This allows us to turn off that left brain that wants to tell us how ugly our drawing is and allows our right brain to “see” more intimately and encourage our hand to discover the true shape of things.

Next we draw continuous line drawings while studying an object, in the same manner but we are allowed to look back and forth from object to the paper.

continous line of the hand

continous line of a bottle.

We note where we moved into a form and crossed over it and included indications of cross contours in the forms we created like wrinkles around the joints of the fingers and highlights in a clear glass bottle.

We, then, begin breaking our lines and draw, in contour line, the ghost of an object or objects without values of light, midtone and darks.

contour line self portrait

contour line of hands

Note that the green hand is an image of my right hand. I drew it with my non-dominant hand (left).  I have found I can draw as well with my left hand. It just takes me LONGER.

Next, we studied the negative space surrounding something and learned we could come up with the image, itself. ….and we could always use negative space to bring our positive object into a more proportionate drawing.

negative space of a slide

negative space child on a swing

Now on to value and perspective  Yay!


  1. I love your drawings. I also love best to draw this way. As you say… allows a truth to your drawings.

    • Thank you, Gretchen. I think your beautiful loose watercolors reflect that you do like this form of drawing. They are very creative.

  2. You make it very simple and easy to learn Leslie.. enjoyed the movement of all the lines that yielded lovely results!

    • Thank you, Padmaja. I think it was through learning to draw this way that actually taught me about movement in art.

  3. I remember these exact exercises back in college when I took a drawing course. Funnily enough, I still don’t feel like I can draw. But I sure love what you’ve done with these, Leslie.

    • Drawing is merely placing imagery to paper. I do believe that the idea you have of not being able to draw might stem from the judgement you place on your finished drawings. I know. I know. There’s always the factor of wanting them to look better than they come out. I suffer from that, also, so I keep drawing and painting. It is the only way I know to improve my skills. Someday? Maybe we will both accomplish the “end all” drawing, Sherry.

  4. Lovely! It’s always great to be reminded to slow down just a little and really see things. I love the father and daughter at the top! So sweet. And the hands are great! I could really, really do with some hand (and feet!) practice. Although I think I decided at some point that if I’m drawing a lot just to keep at it because just doing any at all is half the battle. Maybe two-thirds of the battle!

    • I believe, like you, you can not get better without practice, Cindy. Thank you!

  5. This is really interesting, Leslie! It is easier to draw with the left side of the brain muted. Most of my drawing is just shapes and not the actual object. When it all comes out in the end, I am so pleased. Perspective even comes easier when I just draw shapes. I wish I could take classes from you. Thanks for sharing these!

    • Aaah, a true shape artist! That is what I must like about your being able to divide out your acrylic canvases with that bold black line. I love those. You have a talent for knowing where best to put those lines and that must come from the way you visualise. I had a student who took this beginning course a couple of years back who saw in shapes. He could actually do a fantastic job of continuous line drawings but his cross contours went across the form so as to connect the outer lines in shapes that he saw in the form, like you describe. By the second week I asked him what he was seeing and he said he saw shapes. I told him to go for it. His drawings were so very interesting and the whole class looked forward to what he brought in each week. It was a wonderful example for others to “let go” and allow their creations to reflect their own hand and vision. Oh, he was exceptional with negative space.

  6. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you Leslie, for this beautiful and inspiring post (and the right hand 🙂 ).

  8. Not the hands are drawing but the brains. Hands are only instruments. YOU are the manager, painter.

    • I believe the same, Opa. “…allows our right brain to “see” more intimately and encourage our hand to discover the shape of things.” I meant nothing more than our hands touch and feel things.

  9. Hi Leslie, thanks for your visit. I love the blind line of face. I still use these techniques to warm up with sketches. I think it’s a great ‘way in’ to a time limited workshop and stops you trying to jump to the end . I often end up staying with the left hand too.

  10. Blind contour drawing is still among the best ways to learn how to “see”. I’m usually amazed by the results. It’s a good way to show the difference between drawing what you see and what you think you know.

    • I agree with you, Al. I am constantly reminded of how much we take for granted, just through our vision. I believe your blog is devoted to increasing the awareness of people. Thank you!

  11. I always learn something when I visit your blog and this time is no exception. I really enjoy your blind contour drawings and I love negative space drawing. Great job. Another bunch of lucky students!

    • I like those blind contour drawings, too. Somehow, when you know the artist has not looked at the paper; it seems to give the viewer the option to OK the distortions and embrace them. I learn from my blind drawings. Thank you, Carol!

  12. Powerful reminder….one of the best drawings I ever did is a blind contour drawing of Ken taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon. It captured him so well.

    • Line contour, for me, is like the skeleton of everything else that comes after. What you experienced is what I hope for with my students. Thank you, Linda.

  13. Thanks for the reminder: I should practice blind drawing on a regular basis. I love what you posted here, very interesting, and very artistic . Many times, I like this kind of drawings much more than a precise accurate one.

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