Close Your Eyes… And Draw

In learning art, we hear over and over again about how important it is that we LOOK at what we’re drawing, not necessarily at the marks we’re making, but definitely at our subject. In fact, in Keys to Drawing, Bert Dodson says that “your drawing skills will improve dramatically if you focus on your subject, only glancing at your paper to keep your lines on track.”

Illustration from “Keys to Drawing” by Bert Dodson

Soon after we’ve learned the most basic elements of drawing we’re usually introduced to the concept of “blind contour drawing.” I remember when I first heard of this method. Do what? Don’t look at the paper? How in the world am I supposed to do that?

At the time, blind contour drawing made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I was still new to the whole idea of drawing, and I had so many things to learn! I was at a point where I still had this crazy, misguided notion that I was supposed to create a finished drawing every time I sat down with a pencil and sketchbook. I now know that nothing could be further from the truth, but at the time I was totally befuddled by the whole idea of drawing without looking at my drawing.

I didn’t understand that blind contour drawing is a teaching technique, that there’s much we can learn from the process. I still focused on end result — which looked like a lot of scribbles — and wondered why I was supposed to waste my time doing something so… well, I think stupid is the word that crossed my mind.

I’ve now come to understand and appreciate blind contour drawing. I’ve learned that it is useful in so many ways. Drawing involves hand-eye coordination, and blind contour drawing helps us develop this skill.

Blind contour drawing also helps us develop our confidence, although it took me a while to realize that. Once I understood that my blind contour drawings weren’t supposed to look like drawings, and that it was the process that mattered and not the results, I gradually started to see the purpose. You might say that my eyes were opened.

And now, along comes Lily Sol and her directive to “close your eyes… and draw.” Huh? What in the world? I’m supposed to do what?

Close your eyes… and draw.

This comes from the second day of her “Daily Practice” class at Creative Bug. The day’s session is titled “Abstract Face Doodles”. And you know something… once I got over the surprise of it all, I absolutely loved drawing with my eyes closed.

With my eyes closed, I absolutely can’t create anything realistic, so it doesn’t matter what my face looks like. It doesn’t matter how wonky it is, how misshapen it might be, how ridiculous it looks. I’m drawing with my eyes closed, for heaven’s sake! I can’t be expected to create a work of art. 

And just like that, all anxiety and apprehension disappeared. I truly could do no wrong. So I relaxed, I laughed a bit at the thought of drawing with my eyes closed, and I laughed again when I opened my eyes and saw my abstract face doodles.

I liked what I saw. I especially liked the “two-faced” quality of the third drawing. Most of all, though, I liked the process, the complete sense of relaxation I had, the ease with which I was able to draw these “funny faces”.

Ease is a word I have never before associated with drawing. I’m always tense, always doubtful, always thinking about all the things that I might do wrong. Drawing with my eyes closed removed all of those concerns. It was the most liberating moment of art that I’ve experienced since I began this journey almost 7 years ago.

Time after time I’ve wished that drawing could feel easier. I’ve envied those natural artists who can sit down and effortlessly create beautiful drawings and paintings. Oh, what would it feel like if drawing were so simple?

And here, for a few precious moments, I had that experience. I closed my eyes. I drew. I loved it. And the crazy thing is that ever since this two-minute art exercise, I’ve felt much more comfortable drawing — even when my eyes are open.

I’ve noticed that my contour drawings are getting more accurate now, even though I’m not looking so much at my page. I’m focusing more on my subject and not on the marks I’m making. It’s working, and I think one reason it’s working is because drawing with my eyes closed gave me a new level of trust in my ability to create art.

It was so much fun! It sounded so crazy. I thought it was ridiculous! But it turned out to be one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had with a pencil in my hand.

Today I’ll encourage everyone to give this a try. Just grab a pencil and a sketchbook. Then, close your eyes… and draw.

UPDATE: After publishing this post, I was delighted to find a series of “eyes closed” drawings done by fellow blogger Friedrich Zettl. He was kind enough to allow me to share a link here to a series of “Blind Paintings” he did. I was fascinated by both the process and the resulting drawings.

Please visit “Blind Paintings” and see for yourself the awesome work Friedrich created! He has inspired me, and now I want to do a similar series… maybe not nude bodies, maybe just faces, or maybe flowers. I am absolutely awed by his work!

 

 

44 Comments

    1. It really was fun. I know nothing about doing link-ups but if someone knows… let’s do it! I think we could have a lot of fun with this. And as weird as it seems, this was one of the most beneficial drawing exercises I’ve ever done. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, please! That sounds like a great experience… any music, or just the sound of silence? I’d probably put on a nature CD (the sound of the rain, perhaps) and burn a stick of incense. 🙂 I have to do this!

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      2. I love these! I really like the idea of taking the raw energy of the line drawings and reworking them with color. These are awesome! I might take some of my old gesture drawings and do something similar. You have really inspired me this morning! I am completely captivated by your series. Thank you so much for sharing both the experience and the drawings!

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      3. You are very kind! But yes, it opens a new world. Look at your own drawings and you will see that the lines are very strong. With our eyes closed we concentrate on something else and that does a favour to our lines.

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      4. I’ve updated the post now. Thank you so much for letting me share your work! I can’t wait to try something similar, and yes, I think you’ve explained it well there. Not “seeing” what we’re drawing does open up some new area of our brains and the results are so surprising. I laughed so much at the thought of drawing with my eyes closed, but it’s turned out to be a truly mind-altering experience.

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      5. Yes, sure! Many thanks! As fro your question regarding music: that was years ago and I can’t say for sure but I think I did that series without music. I did some 30-40 but some maybe are too explicit to put online.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It was very interesting. I used a collection of photos, looked at them, and then closed my eyes and started drawing. It was so different… and so liberating! It truly didn’t matter what my faces looked like. It was just a way to really get into the “drawing process”. I absolutely loved making these “funny faces”.

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    1. Actually, you can find a PDF copy of “Keys to Drawing” online. I bought a used copy of the book, but now I also have it on my computer. It makes it easy to find!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I must say that I learned to draw by drawing my subjects upside down and blind as well. It is important to exercise drawing skills and not to focus on a finished “work of art”. What is importan is the search for an expression. I love drawing, much more than painting and I’ve many more drawings than paintings. While I draw I meditate, I improvise and I develop the talent to be able to finish a work of art. For me the black line says it all and it is much more expressive in drawings than in paintings where there are other dynamics at play that may distract from the power of the black line. While practising, searching, experimenting, exercising, the final idea is not important, what is important…in my opinion…is the search. All the best Judith, and an interesting post indeed you’ve offered us. Cheers.

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    1. Thank you. Learning to draw has been quite an interesting experience for me, as you can surely guess, since I had absolutely NO experience with art. I had a lot of ideas that were way off track, and I’m only now really beginning to shed all those misconceptions are begin truly “learning to draw”. I appreciate all your helpful comments and suggestions.

      Sometimes in nature — if I’m drawing a tree, a stick, a bird, a flower — I can get into that “zone” where I lose myself as though in meditation. I hope that experience will happen more often now that I’m learning to stop focusing so much on “results” and simply learn to enjoy the process itself.

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  2. To let go of my expectations and anxieties, I draw with my non-dominant hand. Drawing with eyes closed is, I guess, the next level? Love the crazy and inspiring results from your session!

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    1. Doing the “non-dominant hand” drawing really messes me up because of my upbringing (a lefty forced to switch as a young child). My brain just can’t handle the mixed emotions, I guess. But I loved the “eyes closed” exercise. It surprised me. It just gave me such a sense of freedom and it turned out to be a real confidence builder!

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      1. Ah… In that case, it’s awesome that you now have this technique in your arsenal to liberate your mind! I’m definitely looking forward to trying it in my next drawing session. 🙂

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      2. Let me know how it goes, and please take a moment to visit the post again. I’ve updated it to include a link to a fellow blogger’s “closed eyes” drawings. His work is fabulous! He was kind enough to let me share it, so do take a look!

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  3. Update on the link party idea. The best way to go is inklinkz, but they require your email when you submit your link to the linkup. I would rather test the idea by doing a less formal blog hop, asking readers to give me a link to their blind drawing post in a response to my announcement post, and then I will blog a post on the specified date with links to everyone who wants to participate. Participants are then encouraged to visit and comment on as many of each other’s posts as they can, and that way we all get a bump in traffic, and maybe a few followers, without giving anyone’s email to inlinkz. Will this work?

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    1. Sounds interesting! It’s all over my head, so just keep me posted on what I’ll need to do to join in. This could really be fun. 🙂

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