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Blind Contour Drawings

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This is a tactic against two common brain-bugs: “I can’t draw” and “I don’t know what to draw.” It’s also quite effective against the less common brain-bug, “I hate my drawings, they all look so lifeless and stupid and it’s pissing me off.”

It’s a nice practice to try if you’re just starting to add drawings to your notebooks, or if you already draw but are feeling inhibited/cranky about it.

Get your pen or pencil and your paper, look at anything, and while not looking at the paper or lifting your pen, slowly and carefully draw around the edges (contours) of the object. It feels like you are touching the object with your gaze, which is directly translated to your hand as it moves across the paper.

“The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being. It forces us to study the world as it actually is.”

Sam Anderson, “Letter of Recommendation: Blind Contour Drawing”

blind contour drawings

Once you get the technique down, try experimenting with drawing several objects in the same/overlapping space, drawing the same object multiple times, using different color pens, lifting your pen off the paper as you move to a different part of the object, drawing textures or details (not just contours), mixing in other kinds of drawing, etc. If you sit in one spot and do blind contour drawings of as many objects in the space around you as you can, all together on one page–you’ve created a record of what that particular place & time looked like from your eyes as you really got to know it carefully. And since you’re not looking at the paper, you could even do blind contour drawing while walking around…

Blind contour drawing


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