Drawing & Painting Lessons
with Edward Burke
Blind Contour Drawing 1 - An Exercise in Seeing
Drawing Assignment: Feeling your way around the form.
Materials: 2B pencil, no eraser, and a piece of 9 x 12 drawing paper.
Exercise 1: 10 minute drawing of your hand as the model
Exercise 2: 15 minute drawing of your hand as the model
Exercise 3: 20 minute drawing of your hand as the model
Contour drawing is creating precise line drawings by drawing the individual consecutive parts of the form to arrive at the whole form. Blind contour drawing means that, without looking at your paper, you draw with total concentration on the subject you are drawing. This problem is designed to improve your visual concentration.
In this problem, you will begin to understand the importance of being able to concentrate on what you are seeing. This exercise will require a great deal of concentration, but it is one of the most rewarding exercises in that even the beginner can have a good degree of success. Learning to see through your sense of touch is what contour drawing is all about. Most drawing techniques deal with the overall form and pare down to the details. Contour drawing is quite the opposite; you develop the drawing line-by-line, detail-by-detail, until you have created the whole form. What is the difference between an outline drawing and a contour drawing? An outline drawing defines only two dimensions, length and width, whereas a contour drawing suggests three dimensions: length, width, and depth. Below you will see examples of students' blind contour drawings.
You will be drawing a blind contour drawing of your hand. Keep in mind that you must draw with a confident line and not a sketchy one. Your line must flow with the contours of your hand. You are starting with one of the most difficult forms to draw: the hand. You will start the drawing by placing or posing the hand you are not drawing with on the table in an interesting but comfortable position in front of you. Look at a point on your hand where you are going to start the drawing, look at your paper and place your pencil on the paper in that position. Now look back at the hand you are drawing, and begin to move your eyes along the contour as you move your pencil on the paper. Do not look at your paper. Move the pencil on the paper imagining that the pencil point is actually touching the hand you are drawing. Trace this first contour of your hand in every detail, feel it as you draw. Don’t look at your paper after placing your pencil in its initial position. Look constantly looking at what you are drawing.
When you have finished the line, look at your paper and start the second line by placing the pencil in position to draw the second line. After placing the pencil at the starting point of the second line, look only at the hand you are drawing and again imagine your pencil following all the details of that line. Draw each succeeding contour with this technique (drawing blind while you feel the form). Keep repeating this process until you complete the contour drawing of your hand. Do not worry about good drawing, distortion, or mistakes in your drawing. This exercise will take a great deal of concentration, and it is almost impossible to do a perfect drawing in this technique. The exercise is to help you begin to see what is actually in front of you and not what you think you see. It takes so much concentration to do the exercise that you will find you will be very tired or you may have a headache after you have completed it.
Examples of Students' Work