Wire Contouring


Posted on April 5, 2014 by

As this site explores various different aspects of drawing, I find it very important to understand some of the basic concepts of drawing whether you are just starting out or if you use this is a refresher as a more developed artist.

I found a beginner technique online (from Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner by Claire Watson) to understand the importance of lines in space.  After all, that is what our sketches become, a series of lines in space that convey an object, emotion, scene, or person.  In addition to understanding lines, it also is a good exercise for hand-eye coordination in order to begin to focus on what you see and not what you know (more on that topic in blog post “Blind Contouring”).

So what is this handy little exercise?  Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with pencils, or paper. This exercise is done with the standard tools that ever sketch artist needs (or not :-)); a piece of firm wire or an old wire coat hanger and a pair of pliers!

You will take your piece of wire (or in my case an old coat hanger) and a pair of pliers, and bend the wire into a shape or design. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and it doesn’t have to make sense.  Remember, this is just an exercise.  That being said…I personally found this as a great stress release or anger management exercise and rather enjoyed taking out some frustration on the hanger in the name of art.   Check out my handy work below:

BEFORE: Poor hanger doesn’t even know what’s coming…

image 1

AFTER: Ta Da!! Art is born!

image 2

Okay, so you can judge if you like, but I had fun bending and mangling my wire hanger to turn it into the twisted art you see above!

Seriously though, while the exercise was fun, it was hard for me to understand how it tied into drawing until the next step.  Put your wire formation on a table or hard surface, move it around to an angle that is pleasing to you, and then come the tools you will use much more frequently: your sketchbook, and a pencil.  Proceed with drawing your wire design but try to use fluid lines, without lifting your pencil.  At this stage, the sketch does not have to be perfect, it’s more about training your mind. You will quickly see, as I did, that you won’t really look down at your paper so much.  Your eyes will be much more focused on the subject you are trying to draw.  This is key to developing your drawing skills now and in the future.

I wanted to share my first few sketches so you can get an idea of what to expect.  Again, keep in mind I too am growing my art skills and this was an exercise, I don’t declare myself an artist at all.  You may also notice the images appear different; I moved my shape around several times to get different angles.

image 3

image 4

In the end, I found the technique very useful!  Not only is it something that you can use regardless of what stage you are at in your drawing, it was fun, unique, and made me realize something about my own drawing techniques that I didn’t know.

Give it a try and see if you find out anything new about the way you draw too!


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