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.”
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!