How to Do a Blind Contour Drawing
Athletes stretch their muscles before they work out. Do you know how to stretch your drawing muscles?
No, I’m not talking about flexing your fingers and wrists so your hands don’t get sore when you draw. I’m talking about teaching your hand and eyes to work together.
One of the first exercises I give students in my drawing classes is called blind contour drawing, and it’s a great way to begin learning how to draw what you see.
In blind contour drawing, you will draw the outline of an object without looking at your paper.
(My students usually freak out the first time I ask them to do this!)
“It’ll look terrible!” they protest.
Yes, it probably will. But turning out a beautiful, finished drawing isn’t the purpose of this exercise. The goal of blind contour drawing is to train yourself to sketch exactly what you see. And the more you do this, the better you will get at it.
So how do you do a blind contour drawing? Here’s how, step by step:
1. Choose any object you’d like to draw. For your first few tries, I suggest drawing something simple, like a coffee mug, a piece of fruit, etc. You want a basic shape, nothing too complex.
2. If you’re right handed, position the object in front of you, but over to the left, so that you have to turn your head away from your paper to see it. If you’re left handed, put the object to the right and the paper on the left.
3. Now, put the tip of your pencil on the paper.
4. Look at the object and slowly draw the outline of the object without looking at the paper (don’t take your pencil tip off of the paper).
[TIP: Begin by focusing on a particular location on the object, then try to follow the outline of the object with your eyes as you draw.]
When you’re finished, look at your finished drawing. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t look anything like the object. Remember: the idea is to train your hand and eye to work together.
To give you an idea of what a blind contour drawing looks like, I just did a drawing of one of my favorite objects: a coffee mug. (It’s not that I particularly like drawing mugs; I just like coffee, so I always have one handy!)
Here’s my blind contour drawing of my coffee mug. (Note: I went back over the lines with a darker pencil, so it would show up better.)
Now it’s your turn. Blind contour drawing may be frustrating at first, but if you stick with it, your blind drawings will eventually look less like “chicken scratches” and more like the object you’re trying to draw. And the better you get, the more complicated images you can try drawing this way.
Challenge: Do at least one blind contour drawing each day for the next week.
Next time, I’ll show you how to refine the process so that your drawings look more realistic.
Keep drawing! – Jim Pence