Dusti Bongé contour drawings

This week’s artwork in partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS takes us into the practice of Dusti Bongé for insight into her skill and draftsmanship. We’ll also learn what contour drawings are. Insight, as always, comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, Strathmore Alexis Drawing, page 4 & 6, c. 1955, ink on paper, 10” x 8”

Dusti Bongé kept many sketchbooks over the years. Sketchbooks offer a rich source of information about an artist’s intuition, process and thinking. They may contain studies, doodles, experiments, random thoughts, poems, collages, etc. As such they don’t present us with a finished product, but give us insight into the imagination of the artist, with their random array of creative outbursts. Occasionally, if a sketch turns out to be particularly compelling or disappointing to the artist, they may cut or tear the page out of the sketchbook altogether. 

In the case of this spiral bound sketchbook, only seven pages survived. Where the remaining pages are will probably forever be a mystery. But the ones we still have show Dusti going from one creative outburst to another, from quick abstract color studies to these wonderful blind contour drawings.

Contour drawings, especially blind contour drawings, are an exercise in hand-eye coordination artists often practice, where the artist’s eyes follow the contour lines of the subject, while her hand follows the movement of her eyes, on paper. In this process, one is focusing one’s attention on what one is actually seeing, and not what one “knows” to be there. In other words, the artist is forced to see and portray her subject purely as a series of lines and shapes.

Likely sketches of the same person, Dusti, in these two contour drawings, completely captures the person’s posture and even attitude with very little detail. These drawings are observational snapshots rendering the essential aspects of the figure, not so much with objective accuracy, but with great intuition.

Dusti Bongé, Strathmore Alexis Drawing, page 4 & 6, c. 1955, ink on paper, 10” x 8”
Dusti Bongé, Strathmore Alexis Drawing, page 4 & 6, c. 1955, ink on paper, 10” x 8”

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