Feb 01, 2022 Uncategorized

Contour Line Drawing of Paper Bags Project


This is the first assignment. You will submit this assignment for critique and can refine it after feedback. Once all assignments have been critiqued and completed, the finished drawings will be included in your Final Portfolio submitted at the end of the semester.

Introduction: Contour Line Drawing of Paper Bags

This assignment is meant to refine your skills at utilizing line only to depict an object. You will not use shading (i.e. soft blending, hatch marks, crosshatching, or dot patterns) to create the illusion of volume through light and dark value shifts. In a sense by using only contour lines (exterior/interior), you are abstracting the image down to its skeletal structure. The composition will include multiple/repeated images of bags overlapping, cropped at the edges of the format line, and viewed in varying positions shapes. The type/quality of lines used will be key to understanding how a combination of pencil lines that vary in weight and direction can effectively articulate nuances of shape.

Materials Needed


Student: Antonio Khanthasa, 02/19/2020


Student: Scott Ngo, 02/10/2020


  • Before reading the following, review the above examples of former student responses to the assignment. They’re also available in the pdf below. This will give you a sense of what is provided in the instructions. However, please do not copy any student responses. You create your own response.
  • Remove one sheet from your pad of white drawing paper.
    • Be careful not to tear the paper unevenly as you remove it from the pad.
    • The sheets are attached to the pads with an adhesive binding or spiral binder that can make it difficult to pull the sheets off cleanly. I suggest pulling the sheet slowly and carefully. If it is a spiral-bound pad, you will see that a small section at the top of the paper is perforated. Be sure to fold at the perforation and then tear/remove the extra strip of paper that was attached to the spiral. With some pads, if the paper is 18” x 24”, you may lose a small fraction making the overall paper size approximately 18” x 23 ¾”.
  • Attach the paper to your drawing board.
    • It is best to do a loose prep study first as a warm-up to get the feel of drawing the bag in correct scale and proportion as well as for deciding on a final composition. The prep study can be done as a small thumbnail sketch or as a loose sketch on 18” x 24” newsprint paper. You will not be required to submit your prep study, and it will not be graded. However, it is highly recommended that you do this before committing to the actual assignment.
    • The format size of the finished drawing on white paper should measure 17” x 23”. Draw a border line ½” inside the perimeter of the paper. The format line should be drawn lightly and will be darkened when the assignment is finished. 17” x 23” is the scale of compositional space.
    • Unfold and open one of the bags. Leave the other in its original flattened state.
    • You will eventually compose the drawing so that there is a minimum of 7 depictions of the bags. Some bags will be shown as flat and others will be shown in a variety of states, i.e. – opened, the top is partially down, crumpled, and wrinkled into different sizes/shapes. Draw the bags life-size, not overly large or small.
    • The bags are to be arranged into an Edge-To-Edge Composition. You should also show some of the bags overlapping each other and have some cropped at all four sides of the format border line. Try not to leave any large empty negative spaces. Draw more than the minimum 7 bags if you need to balance/fill out the composition.
    • It is important to vary the weight/type/quality lines to capture the subtleties in the bags’ exterior and interior contours. As the bags are crumpled/wrinkled you will see varying densities of dark heavily compressed lines and delicate faint lines. In other words, some lines will start out dark and distinct and gradually become light and faint before fading out.
    • Paper creases and wrinkles differently than fabric. It tends to compress into jagged, sharp, and angular shapes and edges.
    • The interior contour lines will result from the different shapes of shadows and highlights. They can be almost imperceptible so be sure to look closely at the surface structure of the bags. It is helpful to spotlight the bags with a small lamp or daylight coming in from a window.
    • Even though the bags, flat or unfolded/opened, are comprised of different size geometric shapes (rectangles, triangles, parallelograms, etc.), there are few perfectly straight lines. Also of note is most bags have serrated edges at the top opening. Do not trace the bag or use a straight edge/ruler to draw with. The emphasis of this course is “freehand” drawing.
    • Imagine you are looking at bags made of wire, where the skeletal structure is what is perceived and one can look through the bag. Hence when drawing the bags overlapping each other, it is as if you can see one through the other.

Submission Instructions

  • Take a photo of the drawing with an 18-inch ruler
    • The ruler should be next to the outside of any side of your painting with the numbers visible. Do not place the ruler within the artwork.
  • Upload and Submit the photo to the assignment
    • Click on Attach
    • Click on Choose File
    • Locate and Open your photo

Here is a pdf of the above instructions with former student responses to the assignment: Assignment01Bags.pdfPreview the document