Contour Portraits



The artist of this recreation is unknown, but the original artist is Ary de VoisHe was born in the 1630s and died in the 1680s in Leiden, Netherlands.  

Things to Think About

  • What details are important in this painting? 
  • How do paintings change when they are copied or recreated? 
  • After trying the studio activity, what did you notice about this painting that you didn’t notice before?  


Make a contour line study of a portrait from The Multiple Lives of Paintings. A contour line is an outline that defines a form or shape.


  • Chalk Pencils, charcoal or conté 
  • Pencils and erasers 
  • Sharpeners 
  • Paper (cut in similar size as the portrait) 
  • Markers  
  • Printouts of paintings or images from the website 


  1. Select a portrait from the exhibition webpage of The Multiple Lives of PaintingsTake some time to observe your selected portrait. Use your eyes to trace the contours (or outlines of) the artwork. 
  2. Using pencil, try to draw the contours you saw in the portrait. While drawing, try to look at the painting most of the time. For example, try looking at the portrait 90% of the time and looking at your own paper 10% of the time. 
  3. Try your hardest to make the entire drawing one continuous line. In other words, don’t lift your pencil off the paper. 
  4. Draw slowly and enjoy the process! How does your contour line drawing reflect the story in the painting? 


You could use different writing tools such as markers if they are easier for you to hold.  

If you are not able to see the painting, ask someone to describe the contours (outlines) in the portrait to you. Try your best to draw the outlines they are describing.