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August 6, 2020

A trick to find time to practice (blind contour) drawing

Finding time to practice is a challenge. Whether it is an instrument, writing, or baking, there’s never enough hours in a day.

I haven’t had time to draw much lately, and I’m trying to fix this by stealing time. Where from? Zoom meetings.

For those of us who are fortunate to work from home, time spent video conferencing has increased exponentially. Maybe it’s because people miss human contact, but I feel that I am invited to more meetings these days.

What does this have to do with drawing? When I don’t have a lot to contribute to a meeting, I get an 8.5×5.5 index card and draw the people I see in the tiny boxes on my screen (Zoom makes it easy to pin a specific attendee and make them larger on your screen).

“But people are going to notice this?!” I hear you say. Well, here’s the trick: I only make blind contour drawings.

What is blind contour drawing?

Blind contour drawings are drawings that you make by not looking at your page, and just focusing on your subject. You can decide to lift your pen, or draw with only one continuous line.

From a Zoom attendee’s perspective, I’m just extremely focused, my eyes on the screen. And I am: blind contour drawing is really about observing.

When I decide that I have done enough, or when I need to insert myself in the conversation, I stop and look at my drawing.

And this is the magical moment. You get to see what you’ve been drawing. If you’re really good, it looks like your subject. If you still need to practice, the eyes will overlap the nostrils, hair will be detached from the heads, etc. Can you recognize the person? It’s exciting and hilarious.

Here are a few blind contour portraits that I’ve made this week. They all took less than a minute.

If you are curious, MoMA released a short video, last month, that describes this technique in under 2 minutes:

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Thomas Deneuville lives in Upstate NY with his wife and two sons, where he writes about creativity, draws, codes, and plays the bagpipe.

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