Eyes off the Page! How to Complete a Blind Contour Drawing

Have you ever created an entire drawing without looking at your paper? Perhaps not (just typing that sounds daunting) because if you aren’t seeing the marks you record, how can you accurately depict your subject? Maybe you can’t. But for some drawing exercises, realism isn’t the point. Today we’ll talk about blind contour drawing, which has different advantages to our normal way of drawing.

Learn what blind contour drawing is and tips on completing this fun exercise!

The first thing you should know about this type of drawing is that it’s not going to look pretty. But, that’s alright! The end result isn’t important — we’re trying to get better at really seeing our subjects. When we learn to observe closely, it will make our overall drawing skills improve.

What you need to get started

To complete a blind contour drawing, all you’ll need is paper and a pen or a pencil. I prefer a pen for these types of exercises because it will really force you to record slow, thoughtful marks. But, a pencil isn’t cheating. Be sure to tape down any loose paper.

You can draw anything you like. I’d recommend your hand, but you can see that I’ve completed three different drawings today. I started out easy, as a warm up, then gradually progressed to something more complicated (my feet).

My first attempt at blind contour on the left... and my second attempt on the right.

Two keys to blind contour drawing:

Remember these two fundamental things about blind contour drawing. First, no peeking! I can’t stress that enough. The whole point of this exercise is to follow the lines you see in real life and record them on your paper. Second, avoid lifting your pen/pencil from paper so that the line is as continuous as possible.

Directions:

Start with one corner of the object/face/whatever you’re drawing. Slowly make your way over every bump, nook and cranny that you see. You probably won’t go straight from one end to the other. Instead, you’ll encounter short paths and details. Don’t be afraid to double over on lines when you make your way back to the main contour of your subject. Concentrate on keen observation. It always helped me to imagine that a tiny ant is traveling around all of the lines of my object.

When your eyes have traveled all around your subject, you can finally look at the results. It was probably killing you in anticipation, right? Like I mentioned before, this exercise is not going to be pretty — it’ll probably look more amusing! Large areas might be out of proportion to each other, but you’ll notice some things are drawn with amazing accuracy. I bet parts of it are better than if you drew it looking at the paper.

The great thing about blind contour drawing is that while tough, you can do it nearly anytime and anywhere. All you need is a pen and pencil. I’d recommend doing more of these exercises. If you want a big challenge (and a good laugh), try drawing one of your friends or family members without looking.

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Once you can really see your subject, move on to learning techniques to render what you see on paper! Find out how to draw the human form with realistic and expressive energy in the free Bluprint class Figure Drawing: An Essential Guide , taught by renowned artist Patricia Watwood. She'll walk you through all the simple steps to create a striking figure study--ALL in the convenience of your own home.

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So, what are you going to draw?

July 24, 2014
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Eyes off the Page! How to Complete a Blind Contour Drawing