Monday, July 16, 2012

Blind Contour Drawing

Kristen reminded me that blind contour drawing is really the best exercise for training your brain to see! She actually recommended negative space blind contour drawing, but that is a little bit like more than my brain can actually deal with, so for now I'm talking about blind contour drawing. Here's how you do it: set up some object to draw, then position yourself so that you have to turn your head away from your drawing pad to see the object. Here's my object.

Look at your pad and decide where you will begin drawing, then put the tip of your pencil or pen on the paper there, then do not look at your drawing again until you finish! Turn your eyes toward what you are drawing. Let your eyes move slowly around the object, and following your eyes with your pen on the paper, carefully drawing dips, curves, corner, details as you go. But remember, you are not looking at the paper—not even a little peek!

Now look at your drawing.

I guarantee it will be an odd-looking drawing. But the point of this is not to make a perfect drawing. The point is to train your eye and hand to work together. To shift into your right brain where you are seeing all the little dips and curves and translating the mass as it really looks, not as your short-cut brain thinks it looks. And then really look at your funny drawing. I think there is always something very truthful in these blind contour drawings. You get the proportions wrong for sure, but there is a spirit of the object that comes through and a nice sensitivity to the line.

Kristen has spent the past month moving from Hawaii to the East Coast, but sent me several drawings I posted earlier. Today I got this.

"Tada! My favorite mug is unpacked and in use. I see that I drew it less flared than in reality, and I remembered the text differently. Fun exercise though."


  1. I can't take credit for the blind contour drawing of negative spaces -- that was the suggestion of a life drawing teacher when I told her I was pretty rusty when it came to drawing the figure from a live model. But, it sounded like a good idea for all the reasons you write -- to stop drawing what you think you see and to focus on what you really do see. I have yet to start going to teh life drawing sessions, but once I do I will definitely send you some photos of my drawings. Expect gesture warm-ups too. I love those!

  2. thank you for the blog, I have been following the sketchbook challenge, but your blog is simpler for a beginner. I never worried about drawing, it just sort of evolved, as I created my art quilting, I've always sketched patterns, quilting designs, etc... but to copy a picture or object just for the practice at drawing, wasn't on my agenda. Now it is, I want to improve my drawing and add color to it. Thanks for the inspiration, I think I'll go draw my shoe or teapot.