Suggesting Form and Motion

Yesterday I posted about lines — an essential element of art. When we’re drawing with ink, we use lines in many different ways. One way is by making contour lines.

A contour line is basically the outline of an object, the overall shape we see. As children we used simple contour lines to draw trees, houses, and even the sun in the sky. The line drawings we see in children’s coloring books are usually good examples of contour lines.

This happy puppy, for example, is made of contour lines that create shapes — with only a minimal suggestion of form.

We can bring our line drawings to life, however, by using additional contour lines to suggest form and the idea of motion.

In this quick sketch of aspen bark, you’ll see — I hope — that in addition to the outlines, the interior contour lines I’ve drawn show a rounded form with bark wrapping around the trunk of the tree.

Artist Claudia Nice describes contour lines this way:

These smoothly drawn lines may be straight or curved, long or short, and are arranged side by side following the shape of the object. To create darker values, the lines are moved closer together. Change of direction is accomplished subtly, using several strokes.

I am not good at using contour lines, so I’ll be doing a lot of practice exercises between now and the first of October when Inktober 2020 begins. 

Contour Line CircleThe contour lines of a drawing are, however, only one of many different types of lines we use when we draw in ink. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a little information I’ve learned about another important type of line, so check back for more.

Until then, I’ll be copying this exercise using circles of varying sizes. Hopefully my contour line techniques will soon improve!


    1. Right now I’m seriously re-thinking my decision to do Inktober this year. We have so many things going on, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to keep up. I guess I’ll just do what I can! Even if it’s only a few drawings, it’s still good to do a little practice with ink. 🙂

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  1. I opt out of challenges because of the ‘every day’ nature of them. For me every day is different and even if it is only 5 minutes, these challenges just don’t fit me. But I hope you enjoy it. Repetition is a great way to improve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m seriously reconsidering Inktober this year. I’m just not coming up with a “theme” or idea to tie it all together for me. It might do it more sporadically. Every day challenges can definitely be problematic.


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