Sunday, April 10, 2011

If You Don’t Begin Blind Contour Drawing Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.

Blind contour drawing is the second focus in Schedule One of Kimon Nicolaides ‘The Natural Way to Draw’. The time spent on this exercise will amount to almost nine hours for this schedule. The use of a live model is highly recommended in the book, but you can make some clever substitutions for each exercise. Once again it is important that you draw for the total time as instructed for each session.

Blind contour is the practice of drawing a model or object without looking at the paper. The exercise will develop your observational skills and improve your hand-eye coordination. Blind contour drawing trains your eye to draw what it really sees (right brain process) rather than what it thinks it sees (left brain process). It will force the artistic side of your brain, the right side, to take control of the pencil as you draw on the paper.

Kimon Nicolaides recommends that you follow a few guidelines to get the most benefits from the exercise. The first guideline is keep your eyes on the outline of the model or object at all times. You may glance at the paper to place an internal feature, but once you begin to draw it, do not look down, but follow the same procedure as for the outline. The second guideline is draw the contour very slowly in a steady, continuous line without lifting the pencil or looking at the paper. The last guideline is that you should imagine the pencil is really touching the model. Feel your pencil move along the contour of the model at all times. Stop drawing if you lose that feeling and don’t continue until the feeling returns to you.

The exercise should be completed using a model or object from real life. The human body is a perfect model for blind contour drawing. Plants, trees, and sleeping animals would also be a good choice for this exercise. I have successfully used various toys and figurines in a still life for blind contour drawing. Look around your environment and you will be surprised to find that a model is always available for you.

I am nearing the end of Schedule One and I have noticed some things about myself. I am finally learning to have patience during the blind contour exercises. I felt, in the beginning, that this exercise was dreadfully boring for me. I was trying to draw to fast and I was not benefiting from the exercise. I decided to switch to my non dominant hand for drawing every other session. Switching hands has really helped me slow down and feel my way around the contour of the model. I highly recommend you try drawing with your non dominant hand next time.

I have also learned that it is possible to really feel like the pencil is touching the surface of the model. I can tell when I have lost that feeling, too. I notice my drawing contains many more curves and bumps when I feel like the pencil is touching the model. It is almost like I have a heightened awareness of the model’s surface. I feel like I am starting to accurately see the model during each session. I have posted a couple of drawings below for you to see as an example. Do you notice the difference between the first session image and the latest session image?

Thank you for stopping by the blog and reading up on my progress. I hope you are learning something useful from my experience. I will be posting about Cross Contour drawing in the next article. See you next time!


  1. Jason, how long did it take you to start feeling that your pencil is touching the surface? I try hard, but the most I get is a vague sense of touch in my eye as it traces the surface. It also feels like I control my eye movement with my hand movement, but I guess it should be the other way around.

  2. Alexey, I would say it took about seven sessions before I could "feel" the subject through the pencil. You say it feels like you control your eye movement with your hand movement instead of the other way around. The good news is that both methods are correct. Your hand and eye only needs to move at the same pace during the exercise. It sounds like you are getting it right, so keep drawing!

    I would not worry about how long it takes you to develop compared to anyone else. We are all individuals that learn at our own pace. I still struggle terribly with the gesture drawing exercise. I realize I just need to work a little harder on my gesture drawing than other artists.

    You gave me an idea to write an article on blind contour drawing tips. I will try to have it posted soon. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  3. Kimon Nicolaides was my great grandfather, that is how I ended up on this blog. Best of luck.

    1. I just looked up Kimon Nicolaides on wiki and was surprised at how little was written. He sounds like a fascinating person, and certainly has contributed much to his country and also to the field of art education. I'd love to learn more!

  4. Has anybody here every finished the book or persisted throught it for a very long time? I see a lot of people starting it but no opinions from people who have stuck with it, and I would like to know if it actually works.

  5. I just found your blog and so wish you can pick it back up. I am about to try to go through Nicolaides book myself.