Less control more flow
“A contour drawing is like climbing a mountain rather than flying over it in an airplane”
I remember my first long hall flight over Europe and America many years back. It was an amazing feeling to be looking down at the mountain peaks covered in snow. When I read the quote above by Kimon Nicolaides it took me back to that first flight. It was truly a fantastic experience which I repeated several times more to America and to Asia. Each time it was very special. But how it compares to climbing the mountain? Climbing the slopes in the freezing winds sweating and breathing heavily. Feeling the cold air on your skin. The mountains keep revealing new views as you keep going. You can touch the stones, leaves, and trees, perhaps you hold on some to prevent you from falling. All your senses are engaged and alive.
I think that in a similar way looking at art and artefacts can be an amazing experience. But to take a step into creativity is a much more intense experience. It is an experience that I love the most.
What is blind contour drawing?
The French word ‘contour’ means “outline”. So in contour drawing, you are drawing an outline of the object. And when we add ‘blind’ to the contour drawing we are drawing the outline of the object without looking at the paper, looking only at the object. “Contour drawing is a way of looking as much as it is a way of drawing”, as it says in a book Learning by Heart, by Corita Kent and Jan Stewart.
What is it good for?
The main benefit I think is that since you are looking at the object and not at your drawing you focus much more on the object and much less on yourself. You will not be judging your drawing while you are working on it. Your inner critique will not be able to criticise you. Your hand will be moving slowly across the page and your eye will be following the object’s outline only. Less control more flow. That’s what it is good for.
Blind contour drawing simple tutorial
- Find an object that you want to draw. I would recommend using an object from real life. But you can also choose a picture or a photo from a book or on your iPad for example. I love doing both!
- Locate a point on your paper where you want to start and determine where this point is on your object.
- Place your pen or pencil on that point on your paper.
- Start moving your pen or pencil very slowly following the same slow movement of your eyes. As your eyes follow the object’s outline keep moving your hand. Do not draw faster than your eyes move along the object’s outline.
- Keep going with your eyes and your hand very slowly. Focus on the object.
- You can draw your object several times to see how differently the drawing comes out
- The drawing is not about perfection, it is about vitality and life. Your drawing will be exactly that. Do not judge it. Embrace it.
- Try the same technique with a different object.
- You can also do a variety of the percentage of ‘blind’. For example, you can do 80% blind, looking only at the object, and 20% looking at your drawing. Feel free to experiment with this.
Less control more flow – can help unblock and overcome fear
Blind contour drawing is about freeing your creativity, about enabling yourself to create without controlling, without immediate autocorrect. It is about focusing on seeing. It can be about overcoming fear and different kinds of creative blocks. I believe it is a good practice on our path to creativity. 🙂