Anita Mills, one of my college professors, posted this marvelous New York Times article about blind contour drawing on Facebook.
I remember blind contour drawing well. The exercise has students, using charcoal and large pieces of newsprint paper, draw a subject without looking at the paper. The results are always laughable, but the exercise makes students see their subjects differently and frees them from trying to draw the “perfect” picture. This is what Sam Anderson, the author of the New York Times article, discovered when he was introduced to blind contour drawing.
There were other drawing exercises for students that were particularly effective in getting us to draw better. One was drawing the “white space” around an object, not the object itself. Another was to draw an image that had been flipped upside-down. Like blind contour drawing, these exercises force students to concentrate on what they are actually seeing, not what they think they are seeing.
Incidentally, the use of inexpensive newsprint was no accident for these exercises. The cheap paper signaled that we weren’t making a drawing that would be saved, so we could let go and draw without expectations.
I’m so thankful Anita posted this article and brought back memories of these useful drawing exercises.