The magic contours of art

PUBLISHED June 26, 2022


How many of you remember the artistic period in school? Did you enjoy the course? Was it just an excuse to waste time with your friends or did it help you tap into a passion you didn’t know you had? Have the results ever been so colossally bad that they made you want to throw in the towel on your future as an artist? If so, there’s one thing that could have saved you from leaving or developed an interest in art: the blind outline.

When someone thinks of becoming an artist at an early age or at an older age, one thing always comes to mind, will I be able to draw a good painting, or will others laugh at my artistic skills. Well, blind contour drawing is the thing you should start with because it’s a great activity to train the eye to draw what it sees rather than what the mind thinks.

The typical drawing is made from short-term memory. You look at the subject, then look down at the paper to draw it, not from what you see right now in front of you but from the fleeting memory you have of just looking at it.

The blind contour drawing exercise is a fundamental tool that can help beginning artists create their first drawings, and experience allows artists to reacquaint themselves with the power of observation. It is an art form where the artist, without looking at the canvas or the paper, draws what he sees. The final drawing is made up of one continuous line because the pencil or pen is not lifted from the surface so the artist can continue drawing without looking down to see where it is.

The blind contour drawing process was first used in the 1920s and 1930s, and the masses learned of it from the art world in the book Kimon Nicolaïdes 1941; The natural way to draw: a work plan for the study of art. The word contour comes from the French contour, which means outline or shape, and is used to describe the lines that make up the outer edge of a design. Blind contouring involves drawing an outline of the subject without looking at it.

It’s a great technique for beginning artists to use when focusing on observational skills, and it provides a perfect foundation for more complex artistic adventures later on. Your final drawing is usually not very realistic and may look a bit messy, but that’s precisely what it’s meant to be!

The idea is to do a drawing exercise without looking at the surface until it is finished; it is practiced to hone observation skills. The process involves carefully observing the subject in front while drawing its outlines. It also helps artists train hand-eye coordination. It requires a lot of attention, and the artist must stay focused on the subject without distractions.

The first drawing may look beautiful or funny. However, with practice the artist finds that they can accurately record an image on paper without looking at your hand as it draws! This practice is not only practiced by beginners, but well-known developed artists also use it to improve their skills.

Professional artists and blind contour drawing

One artist, Sarah Mir from Karachi, had no idea that she would one day become an artist and art educator, but her passion for trying new paths made her famous in her final year of study, and the blind outline played an important role.

“Being enrolled in the Fine Arts department of the IVS, studying painting, sculpture and new media, I had no intention of becoming an artist. Confessing on several occasions that I had neither the courage nor even the confidence to stand next to a work of art that I have produced and explain it to viewers,” said Sarah, who started painting in 2015. “It was the opening of our exhibition of thesis which turned out to be magical for me. The whole thing was very surreal. Later it was opened to the public after the result was announced. Passing with flying colors and getting recognition boosted my confidence. My show was sold out What more could a twenty-three year old ask for?

“I started painting in high school while studying at Foundation Public School, and got a ‘D’ from a very renowned teacher. So you can imagine what I would think. There’s no bloody story because I finished with an ‘A’ grade later. Hard work pays off,” says Sarah, a former fine arts student at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. .

She continued to admit that the blind contour is one of the essential things that played a big role in her success. “Blind contour drawing plays a huge role in my paintings. It’s a practice that I enjoy immensely. I draw contours while observing visual reference,” she added.

“Making a ‘perfect’ visual is not the goal of my practice; therefore, every other blind outline drawing comes as a surprise to me too. For me, it releases stupidity. This distorted visual is then painted , mainly with acrylic paints because my process is based on several layers and often thick pieces of paint are applied on top of each other.”

In a struggle to make paintings more precise and perfect, artists are moving towards blind outline drawing to improve hand-eye coordination, but Sarah has reintroduced the blind outline exercise into her works. “Being an art student in the beginning and practicing painting academically is a whole different chore. Initially I was a very controlled and careful painter and wanted to get away from it. So instead of drawing or painting mechanically subject, I reinstated the blind contour exercise. It added fuel as my work is very intuitive and spontaneous,” said Sarah, who did her Masters in Fine Arts at the National College of Arts, Lahore.

Sarah, an art teacher at the Textile Institute of Pakistan, draws her inspiration from shared stories, memories and varied notions of home. She uses blind contour in her works to create narratives of belonging while illuminating lived pasts and a shared present. “I create dynamic family portraits using a unique aesthetic language taking into account religious and cultural constraints, portraying notions of family life and propriety by juxtaposing family portraits with culturally accepted images,” she said. declared.

“Family members experience comic and exaggerated distortion and, though they remain figurative, may just barely manage to escape the pervasive surveillance set in place by societal norms. Time, nostalgically preserved in family photographs , clashes with the playful contemporary tone of the work,” she added.

Despite the imperfection of the borders of the drawing she makes, people can connect with the work that motivates her. She says knowing that viewers can resonate with your work is the most fantastic feeling in the world. “Even distorted or stylized, they are able to make connections to themselves and their lived experiences,” she said.

How to make a blind outline

To make a blind outline, you need paper and a pencil. It’s different from outline drawing, where you look at the subject and try to reproduce it on paper using the lines, usually without lifting the pencil. The rules for drawing blind contours are elementary; focus on the area of ​​your starting point, once your pencil or pen touches your paper, you should not lift it again until you have finished your drawing, and you should not look down at any time on your paper until your image is complete.

To complete the drawing, there are two ways: to join the edges of the subject and then to enter in detail or more information as you go.

Whatever the starting point, remember that once the pen or pencil touches the paper, it cannot be lifted until the drawing is complete. Be sure to leave plenty of space to complete the drawing, so starting in the middle or at one edge and working towards the inside of the page is a good technique.

Although there is no time limit for working on your outline line art, artists usually set a timer if they are using it as a warm-up exercise or if they are new to this technique. The eyes will probably be tired and the artist will lose concentration if they work much longer.

Not practiced in schools

Another artist Asad Latif, who learned the art about 20 years ago, says that if this technique is taught in schools, it can make many good artists. “Most creative minds stop painting because they get demotivated by the first painting they create. Students are uninformed about this technique and instead are forced to focus on making the drawing perfect,” he said. declared.

He explained that in most colleges, art classes are one of the least interesting for students at a younger age. “At that time, they take art classes as a compulsory subject and not as something that interests them. Finding attractive art classes can be difficult in our current world of art education. blind where they don’t have to worry about the outcome of the painting and which tends to look silly, funny or goofy, students will develop interest. That’s when you can identify creative minds and those with the competent skills,” Latif said, adding that taking away your student’s ability to look at their drawing opens up a whole world of challenge, openness, and play.

While explaining the activity, he said that a paper plate can be placed on top of the pencil so that students cannot see what they are drawing. “Any of the students or the teacher himself can become the model for the students. Believe me, the students will definitely laugh when revealing their blind outline drawing. There is something so stupid, innocent and simple in a blind contour line to love.”

For Latif, blind contour drawing is an opportunity to be more focused and slow down the process of drawing and looking. “I think of the tip of the pencil as an ant. It crawls around the outline of someone’s shoulder, then falls on the table, then on the side of the saucer. Something that moves slowly and focused makes your brain empty of any other.”

Christopher S. Washington