This Dusti Bongé contour drawing helps us understand the training and practice artists undertake to sharpen their skills. Analysis of the work, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.
Dusti Bongé, Untitled Chair from Series (A-Q) Seventeen Drawings – Drawing Q, 1945-50, ink on paper, approx. 12” x 10”
The essential drawing exercises most artists receive early on in art class are free-hand drawing exercises such as gesture drawing and contour drawing. In gesture drawing one is presented with a life model to learn to do studies capturing the pose and movement of the figure. In contour drawing, the aim is to outline the shape and volume of the subject matter, which can be a figure or an object, and to train your hand to copy your eye’s movement.
In blind contour drawings specifically, the idea is not to look at the paper at all but rather focus completely on the subject matter. The intent is to place your pen/pencil on the paper and begin to follow the contours of the subject with your eyes while your hand follows the same movement on the paper. all this without you taking your eyes off the subject. The beauty of contour drawings is that they can be done of virtually anyone or anything around, they do not require a studio setting. They also afford the artist a drawing experience that relies more on sensation than perception.
Dusti Bongé, who never received formal training in an academic setting, and didn’t take studio classes until well into her career as an artist, nonetheless knew (of course) what exercises to do to continually hone her skills.
Here we have a nice blind contour studies Dusti did of a chair. You can see that she is following an almost continuous trajectory on the paper with her pen. She is tracing every nook and cranny in the frame and upholstery of the chair thereby giving us a real sense of the chair without offering some kind of exact depiction.
It is clear that Dusti is drawing what she senses, instead of what she might think the subject is supposed to look like. And that is exactly the objective of contour drawing.