Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Tips & Tricks: Sketching Blindly in the Dark

How many times did you have to attend a boring event? Yep, me too. Often it is a fancy party or a benefit for some very noble cause you get to attend with your spouse. It is their cause, and you are just along for solidarity and support. Yawn! 
But don't fret! We got you covered! All you need is this:

A little book and a pen will fit in your evening clutch or sport coat pocket. Get them out when they will begin speeches. Keep your eyes on the speaker. It is too dark to see anything on your paper anyway. Have the pen touch the paper and go. Trace the shape of his head with your eyes and let your fingers follow with the pen. Then his neck and shoulders. What is he wearing? Trace those lapels. Is there any hair? Add it, if applicable. If you want, you can glance down at your paper every so often - this is not a test.

When you have the basic outline down add some darks. Just scribble in any way you like to create dark masses. Add facial features without being too specific. Put in some details, if you have time: a tie, a necklace if any. You are done. Turn the page and find another victim attendee.

You may find that your heads are sometimes detached from shoulders. Facial features may land outside the heads, a tie may be pinned to a shoulder like a tail on a donkey. This all is fine and even great, you don't have to show your drawings to anyone. You will also find these sketches oddly expressive and free. And you will realize that you are no longer bored. In fact you may not even notice that they finished with speeches, and it is time for the rubber chicken. Good. You can sketch that woman sitting across from you.

What you are doing is practicing blind contour drawing.  Blind contour drawing is a method of drawing where an artist draws the contour of a subject without looking at the paper. This artistic technique was introduced by Kimon Nicolaïdes in The Natural Way to Draw, and then made popular in Betty Edwards The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Nicolaïdes instructed his students to imagine that the pencil point is actually touching the contour of the subject. He suggested that the technique improves students' drawings because it causes students to use both senses of sight and touch. Blind contour drawing trains the eye and hand to work as a team, and it helps to really see all of the details of the object. 
The drawings above I sketched blindly in the dark at a benefit for Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis I attended with my husband. The speeches were coma inducing and the chicken awful… I had fun!


  1. Thank you Alex for solving a big dilemma I have with boring movies. On the on e hand I get credit for going to the movie but on the other hand I fall asleep during it. Now I can bring along my sketchbook and make it through those "chick flicks" and still be engaged with the movie (more points in my favor).

  2. Great post! Sketching in the dark is even fun when you're totally engaged in what's going on around you. I sketched at the symphony and theatre, usually on the program!.


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