Bodies are Landscapes.
And a landscape is a place of infinite discovery, from the smallest detail to the larger picture.
We can stand in amazement in front of vast plains of trees and mountains or marvel at the perfection of the structure of a small flower or insect.
Our feet can walk the ground in search of something undiscovered or we can climb high and try to encompass the magnitude of the earth.
In the same way my eyes wander over the bodies in front of me. When a model is posing, their nakedness is like the sun over a plain: it just makes it easier to follow the roads and pathways.
Every body, every kind of body has infinite stories to tell, and I feel like the discipline needed to actually LOOK at the the model – instead of perceiving the general pose and then mechanically drawing a stylization of the body in that position – to be there, present and seeing them, is a form of respect and recognition.
That’s why I think that Blind Contour Drawing is the most important exercise for everyone who wants to draw from life.
Stripping us from the possibility of making a “nice pretty drawing”, what we’re left with is only the act of watching, seeing, looking at what’s in front of us.
A deep experience of presence, in which our only goal is to teach our eyes to connect deeply with our hands, through our brain but without any kind of judgement or rationalization of reality.
All what’s left are our eyes, treading the landscape of a body.
How to practice Blind Contour Drawing:
- What you need: 3B sharp pencil, white paper, 5 minutes for a hand or a foot, as long as 30 minutes for a full figure.
- You can start by drawing your own hand. Or your feet. The important thing is that the subject is real, tridimensional, not a picture.
- At first, to help fight your instinct to look at the paper, it’s best to position the paper/hand/pencil on the table and then turn your head to the other side (where your subject will be, like your other hand)
- Put your pencil on the paper. Look at one point on the contour of the subject. Keep looking at that point until you FEEL that your brain thinks that the tip of your pencil is actually touching that point.
- Then you SLOWLY start moving your eyes following the contour of the subject and AT THE SAME TIME you move your pencil on the paper, without looking at it. The connection must be between the eye movement and the tip of the pencil. If the contour line curves so the tip of the pencil will curve, at the same time, as we were touching and tracing the contours with our pencil on the figure.
- You never look at your paper. It’s better to never look at the paper and NEVER STOP THE LINE OR LIFT THE PENCIL FROM THE PAPER. A long contour line moving around the figure, maybe going inside and outside to add details.
- It’s called blind drawing because you can’t look at the paper, you can’t control the outcome in any way. The final drawing will be deformed and weird but it doesn’t matter.
The goal is not the drawing, but the experience of truly seeing.