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Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing is a really important activity that beginner artists need to engage in.

Blind contour drawing means you draw the edge of an object without looking at the paper.

At first, it is hard to understand what on earth you can gain from it but as with everything we learn, the more we understand, the more things fall into place in our minds.

The point of the exercise is to learn how to access and use the right side of your brain which helps you accurately observe and portray your subject.

The left side of our brain is too busy, it's the side we use all the time and it relies on stuff we already know - whether it is correct or not!

The most common exercise used to practice pure contour drawing is to draw your own hand.

Below you can see the results I achieved after doing the blind contour exercise, which proves it does work!

Drawing Of A Hand

A contour is an edge and edges combine to make a whole image.

An edge on your hand would be defined as:

  •  the outside
  •  the place where your fingers join
  •  space between your fingers
  •  the flesh around each fingernail, and
  •  where the skin meets to form a wrinkle

Before commencing this activity, make sure you are alone and that you are not likely to be disturbed.

If you are using a single sheet of paper, secure it by taping it down or use a clipboard.

Sit facing the direction away from your paper.

I sat side-on to the table, I turned my chair around so that I had back support. I rested my hand on my leg. I was wearing black pants and they provided an excellent background for my hand and I could identify the edges more easily.

Blind Contour Drawing

This is attempt number one and while I was shocked it was nothing like I envisaged, I can still conclude it is a hand.

Resist any urge you have to look at your drawing. If you peek, you defeat the purpose of this task.

To start, place your pencil on your paper.

Now, facing away from the paper, pick a spot on your hand where you'd like to start.

I started at the top of my wrist because I like to draw from left to right.

As you concentrate on the contour of your hand, start to draw what you are seeing. This is a simultaneous process - draw as your eyes move slowly over your hand.

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I found my eyes raced away and went too fast for my pencil so I had to really focus and concentrate on one quarter of an inch at a time.

Blind Contour Drawing Of A Hand

In my blind contour drawing (attempt number 2), you can actually see the little quarter-inch bits as I tried to keep my eyes in tune with my hand movements.

In hindsight, I should have drawn in the wrinkles on each finger, to give myself an added challenge.

Your pencil should move in perfect rhythm with your eyes. As I said, this was the hardest part for me but it may not be the same for you.

As you get into this exercise, the right side of your brain should have complete dominance over the interfering left side.

Once you are finished, think about how you have reacted during the exercise. Did you surrender to the process and feel completely quiet? Could you feel the inner struggle to give in to the need to look at your paper?

It doesn't matter if your blind contour drawing doesn't resemble your hand.

This blind contour drawing exercise achieves two purposes:

  1. Your attention is focused entirely on the subject.
  2. No attention is given to the drawing.

In other words, the left side of your brain is being completely ignored and that's what we want!

If you successfully drew your hand without looking, and you took your time, then you just used the right side of your brain - the artistic side.

I hope you gain a lot from this activity.

A Hand Drawing

After I finished, I immediately drew my hand again while looking at it, hoping for some magic to happen. I am in need of a lot more practice but that's fine with me, I'm not averse to practicing.

Drawing is the most enjoyable thing, I would be a lost soul without it!

If you do a quick blind contour drawing exercise prior to undertaking any kind of artwork, you have prepared your mind and you are ready to draw. It's like the warm up exercises we do for our fingers, only this is for your mind!

If you enjoy doing drawing exercises, you might also like to try the Observation Exercise.


I must give thanks to Betty Edwards for her wonderful book "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain."

I refer to it all the time and it contains more good information regarding blind contour drawing.

It really is a must-have for all would-be artists.

I own the very first version of this book by Betty Edwards and it really is an excellent guide for all beginner artists.

Click a link below to view a good variety of pencil tips:

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