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Blind Contours & Better Practices

Over recent months an artist and writer I admire, Austin Kleon, has been posting blind contour drawings on his Instagram page. It is a fascinating study of mental freedom to draw without the pressure of visualizing the final product. Like an act of free-writing where the words lead themselves to the next space, blind contour drawing is driven by the freedom of movement. 

Ironically, at this time, we have restricted movement to some degree, thanks to this pandemic across the world. So I decided to try my hand at some blind contour drawings myself. But before I did, I wanted to learn more about the process. As many of you know, I am an avid learner. I like to understand not just what something is, but why and how it becomes such.

In my limited research, I read an article called "The Blind Contour Exercise || Good Drawings Start Here." The article included some background on the development of blind contour drawings.

Popularized by Kimon Nicolaïdes in his 1941 book The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study, the blind contour method involves carefully observing the outline and shapes of a subject while slowly drawing its contours in a continuous line without looking at the paper. By doing so, artists are forced to draw what they actually see instead of what they think they see.


To draw what they actually see instead of what they think they see.

How many times have I struggled with the perception of an image while creating? Too many to count, I am sure. It is, in large part, why I so often feel like the image does not turn out the way I desire compared to the landscape, photo reference, or mental image I've set inside my mind. By creating blind contours, one could find themselves completely out of control of the result they are curating. But the intuitive nature to let the lines lead themselves through the image positions the artist to practice actual visual cognitive recognition, instead of assumptions in visual cognitive recognition. 

I am no expert. I am not a professional with accolades or prominent work. But as a student of life, I strive to find the unique ways creative expression connects with the internal drive of improvement. What I mean is, how does practice improve my practical work?

In becoming a musician, one would need to practice the chords, notes, and everything in between to become well versed in the practical performance of their respective instrument. In becoming a doctor, experience in the practice of medicine is necessary to quickly and effectively diagnose a patient. 

The same is true of anything you can imagine. For most, it takes practice, adaptation, and experience to build the ever-developing body of work. 

So it was natural to study the ways blind contour drawing can impact and affect the future outcomes of my creative development. And like with any practice, it can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and wildly rewarding when we see the slow progression begin to pay off.

What practice in life have you been avoiding? What do you need to press on with to see the results you want? How are you continuing to learn in the middle of this pandemic? 

I hope that we continue to pursue the passions that inspire us to share love and creativity with the world. And that we speak the truth in grace and allow our work to be an outpouring expression of what we believe.

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