A contour is the line which defines a form, edge or outline. Contour drawing is the place where most beginning artists start. So basically a contour line drawing is an "outline drawing," that uses no shading. You are following the visible edges of a shape.
A contour drawing is done when the artist looks intently at the EDGES of an object, but rarely looks at the paper while the pencil moves. The goal of a contour drawing is to make a line that is authentic and true to what you are actually seeing, and to train your hand to copy your eye's movement. Each contour drawing will be individual and unique.
There are several different types of contour line drawings and I will show my favorite examples of each!
This is one of my favorites by February James.
'Blind contour drawing' is when contour drawing is done without looking at the paper AT ALL.
This helps train you to look more often at your subject than look at your paper. Staring down at your paper while drawing can be a hard habit to break~
Each drawing is one of a kind!
Here are some by February James
CONTINUOUS CONTOUR LINE
"Continuous line contour drawing' is a contour drawing done without picking your pencil off of the paper. It is essentially done with one long line. Continuous line contour drawings can be done 100% "blind" or not. Here are some rad examples by Belgium Artist Kris Trappeniers
MODIFIED CONTOUR LINE
A "modified contour line drawing" allows you to look at your paper and pick up your pen, using multiple lines instead of one.
Although not completely blind, the artist should only look at the paper 10% of the time, and at the object 90% of the time. The artist only looks at the paper to place their pencil when they start a new line.
Contour drawings use no shading, but lighter and darker tonal areas can be "suggested" by varying line width and pressure. Darker, thicker lines can be used in shadow areas, and lighter, thinner lines in lighter areas.
Examples from pinterest
Cross contour lines are drawn lines which travel, as the name suggests, across the form. Cross contours follow the form of the surface area- using curved lines over curving or spherical planes, straight lines across flat surfaces, etc.
WHY DO CONTOUR DRAWING?
So you can develop good hand-eye coordination which is KEY when learning to draw. With regular practice, contour drawing exercises will help train your hand to follow your eye's movements and develop the right brain (creative side!) muscles. This help it become more assertive and aware of the observable balance the left brain's tendency to standardize, generalize, and simplify everything, which creates stereotypical ways of seeing and drawing.
HOW TO DO IT
While you draw, look at the object 90% of the time (100% of the time if doing a BLIND contour).
Look only at your paper when you are ready to make a new line on your paper and you are checking where to place it.
Concentrate on practicing your hand-eye coordination instead of worrying about the look of your drawing.
Go as slowly as a Sloth.
Close one eye while you draw.
Detail, detail, detail!
Capture edges only, but capture as much information as you can! Capture every nook and cranny on paper. Each and every edge, crack, line, wrinkly, etc. that is possible to SEE.
SOME HELPFUL VIDEOS I LIKE TO SHOW MY STUDENTS IF THEY WERE ABSENT DURING INSTRUCTION OR JUST NEED AN EXTRA BOOST TO GET STARTED. (One day I will record myself teaching...but until then...)