CLAM as a teaching method

CLAM explained

CLAM is an acronym forcontinuously looking at the model. It describes a teaching method, suggested by Kimon Nicolaїdes and popularised by Betty Edwards. However, these authors describe it as “contour drawing”.

Since 1941, when Nicolaїdes‘ book “The Natural Way to Draw” was published posthumously and started its life as the most influential book on drawing published in the twentieth century, his method has proved its value as a powerful teaching tool. However, in addition to its well established advantages, the way Nicolaїdes‘ and Edwards taught it has significant disadvantages. Chapter 6 in my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”  explains both the strengths and the limitations of the method.





Three example of drawings using CLAM


1: A pure CLAM drawing: Within the confusion, a great deal of useful information is to be found


2: Drawing by Rodin using a lot of CLAM, made long before Nicolaїdes used it as a teaching tool.


clam: Some important errors, but other qualties compensate.
3: One of my early drawings , using modified CLAM. I hope you will agree that, as with the Rodin drawing, the effect of the whole is not too much spoiled by a few serious inaccuracies.

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6 thoughts on “CLAM as a teaching method”

  1. You have delved deeply into the advantages and disadvantages of drawings made while continuously looking at the model. It is rare to find such thorough information about this interesting tool, even though it is used so heavily in many drawing classes. This post definitely makes me more aware of how to use CLAM to my advantage.

  2. It took me some time to get through the entire chapter because I have been really busy lately, but I am so glad I finally made it! Very very interesting once again, Francis!

  3. Today, prior to reading this chapter, I made a few CLAM drawings out of curiosity. Reading this chapter and then thinking about the exercise in relationship to the benchmark drawing, and also imagining the same view as part of a tracing exercise (which I didn’t do, but pondered) provided me with productive thought. One of the things I thought about was how differently and positively it felt to move my pencil continuously, rather than in little, hesitant short jabs. So, for this, and other reasons, I read your chapter with renewed interest.

  4. I have never read such a thorough and useful article about this exercise. It helps me to know when it can be most useful and when it loses its efficacy. Also, helpful to be reminded about the need for feedback in order to learn and develop skills, and how we can seek feedback on our own. Thank you!

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