Blind Contour Drawing

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Posted on April 5, 2014 by

Blind contour drawing is something fun for all ages. While it can often be considered abstract, blind contour drawing is a great technique for any artist, to train your brain and hand to sketch what you see, and not what you know. Too often, when we are looking at an object while drawing, we begin with short strokes as we take in the subject. However, as the drawing progresses, we can get sidetracked and so wrapped up in our work that we forget what we are meant to be looking at and just begin to draw what we know. For instance, you know what a classical guitar looks like. Perhaps your plan was to draw a classical guitar on a stand in front of you. Initially, you would look at the guitar as you begin to get an outline of the body on the page. Then, you may forget about the physical guitar in front of you, and start to add details, shadow, angles, etc. that may not even be there because you are drawing what your mind knows is a classical guitar. As this type of drawing may produce a decent sketch, it defeats the purpose of drawing the now neglected guitar on the stand with all of it’s lovely angles, shadows and grains in the wood, because you chose to draw from memory and not reality.

I suggest starting out by picking your object. For the sake of this example I chose my hand and will describe the next steps with this in mind. Take a look the hand for a few minutes to get an idea of the details you would like included in your sketch. This can include wrinkles in your fingers and knuckles, lines of your palm, outlines of fingernails, and of course the overall outline of your main subject, your hand and fingers. As you look at your subject, still no pencil to paper yet, pick a starting point (I chose the left side of my wrist) and trace an unbroken line to incorporate all these features with your eyes. Move slowly to ensure you are accurately seeing what you want to draw. Take notice of how you may need to go back over a certain line or adapt your plan to incorporate all of your features until you come to your end point (the right side of my wrist).

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Now, let’s pick up our pencils get a sketch underway! With blind contour drawing, the key is to not look at your work in progress. Remember, the purpose of this lesson is not to create an overtly detailed work of art, rather to train your hand. Therefore, your focus should be on the object you chose to draw, and not your hand or pencil on the page.

Think back about where you chose your starting point when you just traced the object with your eyes, this will be the same starting point for your pencil. As you work your way up the shape of your object ensure that you are trying to include the details you have decided you want in your drawing. Avoid lifting the pencil, as this will make it particularly difficult to restart once you lift it up; it will also cause you to break the rules and look at your work to see where your pencil needs to be set back down. If you have to retrace, back over certain lines to get back to where you need to be its ok. The important thing is that you move slowly and intentionally over the entire length of your object in one fluid line until you come to what you considered the end point.

Now let’s step back and take a look at your finished product!

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I have to admit, I was slightly horrified at the overall width of my hand which looked like it had been swollen due to a giant bee sting, and the fact that I didn’t actually join my pointer finger to the thumb as I did when I traced it with my eye. But not too shabby for a first try!

I gave it another go just to see if I could improve and changed the shape of my hand.

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In looking down to see my second blind contour, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few more details and the shape of my hand was pretty good.

To sum up, blind contour drawing can be abstract, tricky, and sometimes a bit challenging but it’s an exercise. The more blind contours you draw, the better they will get because you will train your brain and hand to work together. Not only will your blind contours improve, but also your overall sketches will be more accurate and detailed in the future because of this exercise.

Happy Blind Contour Drawing to you!!

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