Contour and Gesture (Sketchbook Ideas #8)

Contour and Gesture (Sketchbook Ideas #8)
Contour and Gesture, sketchbook ideas Contour drawing of bleeding heart leaves (charcoal pencil) by Polly Castor

As discussed before, I’m trying to up my sketchbook game, and hope you join me. Here I am exploring contour drawings and gesture drawings.

A contour drawing focuses on going slowly and getting edges right. In my last sketchbook ideas post, I talked about the blind contour and peeking a bit. In the ones here, my eyes were pretty much back and forth between the paper and the object, pausing during the switch, without lifting the pencil much.

Gesture, however is more about feel and movement, approximating your response to the object. Gesture has the benefits of concentrating on relationships between objects, and your implement moves more quickly. The outcome of working this way is that the drawing has more soul, and is fresher and less labored.

I liked both approaches, and in the last sketch below, in ink, I combined the two. I’m gaining some steam here, actually starting to enjoy this more.

I’m learning that my drawings don’t have to be good or right, but that it is a win for me to just show up to whatever little assignment I give myself, and be open to trying it without judgement. Like playing a musical instrument, by practicing, I’ll only get better.

I’m also starting to see that a perfect drawing is lifeless and without individuality of spirit. It is not what I’m after! This is a relief to acknowledge. I’m embracing my unique voice here, instead of trying to have my sketches be “good.” This is freeing, and makes me more willing to attempt the next one, and the next one after that.

I’m realizing that I’m not so much making a drawing, as having an experience, and I like having those.

How about you? Are you doing this along with me?

Contour drawing of a chair, focusing on the spaces in between the parts (graphite) by Polly Castor


Gestural drawing of a our viburnum (graphite) by Polly Castor


Combining contour and gesture; Our front yard hose (pen and ink) by Polly Castor
I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. John+gregory 10 months ago

    Thank you

  2. Sue+Krevitt 10 months ago

    Takin’ a “Mindful Drawing” Class from Robert Dvorak,
    here in California. His website is and/or

    Art is smart.



  1. […] Yesterday we were talking about contour drawings, and I thought I’d share Rick Barton’s drawings, because he is a master of this. These photos were taken from an excellent retrospective book of his, Writing a Chrysanthemum, which I give 5 stars. […]

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