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A contour drawing shows the outlines, shapes and edges of a scene, but omits fine detail, surface texture, colour and tone (‘contour’ is French for ‘outline’). According to Wikipedia: The purpose of contour drawing is to emphasize the mass and volume of the subject rather than the detail; the focus is on the outlined shape of the subject and not the minor details.
This wire drawing exercise ‘using line to create space’ is completed by students within a 3D Art class, working over photographic portraits. Having a base image to work from (this could also be an earlier observational drawing) makes the process of transferring from two-dimensional to three-dimensional much easier.
Cross Contour Drawing Exercises: This is an excellent way to gain familiarity with the volumes and three-dimensional forms in your project, producing analytical cross contour drawings that are suitable for sketchbooks or early preparatory sheets.
The illusion of three-dimensional form, space and distance can be conveyed in a contour drawing through the use of varied line-weight (darker lines in the foreground / paler lines in the distance) and perspective.