Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cat contours

These are contour drawings, where you look at the subject but not at your paper. It feels like you're drawing blind in a way, even though you're staring at your subject. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it (Nicolaides has a very good description of how to do it; I think it's one of his first lessons, maybe even the very first one; sorry, I don't own the book), if for nothing else than for the amazing revelation that lines drawn this way are somehow more alive. These four I've posted here were from a set of perhaps twenty that I did within half an hour or so. It was great, because the cats on my bed shifted slightly every five minutes or so. To me, there's something of the Chinese elegance of line that often happens with contour drawing, and especially with cats!

The Husband and I also got into the habit of doing quick contour drawings while waiting at restaurants, etc., for the sheer entertainment value of it (when a drawing comes out looking really funny, which is very often!). It takes a lot of willpower not to look until you decide you're done (which can be in 15 seconds or an hour or whatever), but when you see the fascinating results, you realize it's worth it. (In Nicolaides' method, you are allowed to look back at the paper when you're done drawing a given curve, etc., only in order to put the pencil back onto the page in a different spot, then it's back to looking only at the subject. It's also fun to do it without ever looking back at the paper until you're totally done; this leads to extremely weird but cool drawings. Read up on it in Nicolaides' book or another book or online for a better description.)

These are actually just very light, thin pencil sketches in a sketchbook done late one evening. For them to show up at all on the computer after I scanned them, I had to do a pretty extreme contrast adjustment. They're now nicely visible on the monitor, but you can see right through the page to sketches on the other side. It also makes it look like they were done in ink, which upon seeing them, I wish I had.  Oh well.

The photo is Cleo (all black) and Miss Lemon. They are two girls (ages 1 and 3) who are often caught in compromising positions around the house.

More art on my website:


Sheila Vaughan said...

I think I have tried this many years ago. Must give it another go. Yes, cats are a good subject for it I think - I love their "pear" shapes. Thanks Jala.

LSaeta said...

You know when you are at a restaurant and you see a couple sitting at a table ... and they aren't even talking to each other? Now I know what they are doing! Contour drawings!
Great idea. I will have to try it. Now those cats of yours ... hmmm.

r garriott said...

Sweet cats! (It makes me all mooshy when I see them cuddle up like that. Ours do too.) Marvelous contour drawings.

Anonymous said...

Love love love those yin/yang kitties.
And in that little bed-----ooh I'm such a sappy one for these things.

These contour drawings really show the essence. Let's you see how much can be extraneous in what we sketch.
The exercise you describe was one of the first things I learned back in the days at Parsons School of Design in NY.
You may get distortion but you really do get the feeling of the subject.
Thanks for recalling this technique again.

Those kitties...........!

Karen said...

Jala, these drawings are exquisite in their simplicity of line. Really nothing else is needed. I love doing these drawings too. I love your idea of doing it while you're waiting somewhere. cool!

Kim Denise said...

wonderfully feline curves! such a simple exercise, such an elegant effect.

Anonymous said...

Interesting exercise. It must tap into a more direct vision-to-hand link, leaving the brain a little more out of the loop, and the lines more alive.

Nice furry subjects, too... no mind-interference from them!

loriann said...

It's amazing that you did those w/o looking! Cats really are excellent models...and I love the positions1 I also like your idea of doing contours while waiting, which of course we do a lot of!

Jala Pfaff said...

Hi Sheila - I agree, I can't think of a better subject for contour drawing than the wonderful curves of a feline...

Leslie - Ha, funny. No, it's because they've been married too long and have nothing to say to each other anymore... Ooh, that's NOT funny. I like your version better. :)

R - "Mooshy," that's the perfect word for it.

Bonnie - See the proper word, "mooshy", above. Hahahaha. Seriously, though, I totally agree that nothing more is needed in these sketches. The few lines there say it all.

Karen - ditto Bonnie. :) Yeah, it's a great way to kill time in a creative manner.

Hi Kim, thanks!

Donald - Indeed, right on all counts.

Loriann - ditto Karen. :) I did use the Nicolaides style on these, though, so I only looked when it was time to put the pencil somewhere different on the paper.

L.Holm said...

Your cats are so sweet snuggled up. I miss my cat so much. Your contour drawings are wonderful. I used to do them of Angel when he was napping. They never came out this well!

Karen Bruson said...

Jala, Ooooo, I love these line drawings. They are awesome!

Jala Pfaff said...

Liz - I know...I cannot live without cats. Sigh...sooo wonderful. Sorry, I forget, do you have other cats?

Karen - Thank you, I was really happy with them too.

Laurel Daniel said...

I love these descriptive, edited marks... Just enough info!

L.Holm said...

Just one, Miss Milo, who's elderly and very sweet. I keep her separated from the dogs, who stress her out too much. :-)