Day #039 – Modified Contour Drawing of my Hand

So I tackled the closing exercise on modified contour drawing in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The steps were as follows:

  1. Use your perspex viewfinder to trace your hand in some chosen pose. There are examples of this in my day 37 post ‘Blind and Modified Contour Drawing‘.
  2. Use my viewfinder to draw a box of the same size on a standard piece of paper and then use a graphite stick to ‘tone’ the paper. I’d never toned paper before and it was immediately fun. A lot of good  drawings I’ve seen had a certain look about them and I never knew what it was. Now I can see that it was toning the paper they were doing all along.
  3. Lightly copy the drawing you’ve done on the perspex onto the equivalent (toned) plane on the paper. This is just a light sketch.
  4. Now put your hand into the original position and copy all the details in depth onto the rough outline you’ve already laid down.

I’m not happy with the result. I think the bottom of the palm looks completely wrong and the index finger isn’t very good either. The biggest problem, though, was in copying my hand. Perhaps I chose an awkward pose to hold but I’m sure my head position kept moving as did my hand which meant the creases in the palm and shadows on the fingers kept changing causing me to create a piece that overall looks wrong.

The book advised referring to your perspex drawing to remind yourself of where your hand should be but this is not easy at all as it must be in the exact same pose and your head must be in the same place too. This drawing one-step-removed I personally found harder than if I’d just started the whole drawing from scratch just looking at my hand. I think the exercise would have worked better if the book had suggested choosing a hand pose that is very easy to rest on a table as anything that requires tensing a muscle or holding up a finger is inevitably going to strain and start subtly moving as the hour progresses.

Another thing the book recommended is closing one eye so you get an accurate view of your hand as a 2D plane (so it’s more accurate copying to the 2D surface of a piece of paper. The trouble with this is that keeping an eye closed for half an hour is extremely difficult. Also, any benefits are only kept if you can keep your head and hand-pose very still. If they move at all you lose all benefits of keeping the eye closed.

It’s possible my setup at my desk is too cramped and awkward to properly copy also. I know that the more angled your drawing surface is the better and presumably that’s why artists often use easels when drawing from life.

On the positive side I did enjoy creating the drawing and one or two parts look okay. The thumb most notably. I also enjoyed using my eraser on the toned paper to create highlights. Definitely creates a punchy contrast that you don’t’ get if the paper around the drawing is white anyway.

The next chapter of the book is called “Perceiving the Shape of a Space: The Positive Aspects of Negative Space” which sounds really interesting and I’m looking forward to continuing with the exercises!

Modified Contour Drawing of my Hand


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