Portraits of other people

The image of this work by Alexander Calder may look like a two-dimensional drawing in reproduction, but it is made of wire, like a three-dimensional contour drawing in space. The word “contour” means outline in French. A contour drawing is a drawing that depicts a subject or object only in lines. A blind contour drawing is a drawing exercise in which an artist makes a line drawing of a subject without looking down at the paper.

a. Have your students find a partner and decide who will pose and who will draw. Let the sitter choose a facial expression based on what their mood is at that particular moment. Have the other partner make a blind contour drawing of the sitter’s head—draw by keeping their pencil on the paper and their eyes on the sitter. Don’t look down at the paper until the drawing is complete.

b. Display and discuss students’ drawings. Which of their classmates can students recognize? How do they recognize their classmates? Is it because of details? Expressions? Mood? Anything else?

Sketch of a face by Alexander Calder.

Alexander Calder, Varèse, c. 1930. Wire, 13 3/4 × 11 5/8 × 14 1/2 in. (34.9 × 29.5 × 36.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Mrs. Louise Varèse in honor of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  80.25  

© 2009 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York