Observing Form – Blind Contour

Posted on 2011/12/15 at 23:08 by daarken 25 Comments

Being able to draw accurately from life requires you to be able to correctly observe whatever it is you are looking at. Are you really seeing the object, or are you just looking at it? Daarken shows you a technique that will force you to really see what you are looking at. You may think you know what an object looks like, but do you really know all of the intricacies?

The purpose of blind contour drawing is not to produce a nice drawing, but to really look and observe what the form is doing. Let the wobbly drawing begin!

25 Comments on "Observing Form – Blind Contour"

  1. motion · 2011/12/16 at 00:09 · Reply


  2. Eduardo Matías · 2011/12/16 at 00:37 · Reply

    Wow man! at first sight the only thing i thought was what???! i dont saw the meaning of doing this like you say looks like a pain in the ass and bored BUT! it’s actually helping a lot to really see what I drawing or painting ! thanks a lot Darkeen! :D
    P.D: xD sorry for my crappy english :3
    Best regards! (:

  3. Judy · 2011/12/16 at 01:03 · Reply

    haha it was funny because today I wanted to ask you 2 questions and one of then was if you could explain what is blind contour and the question was answer :) Now that I know what it is, I will practice that too. Thanks a lot for this wonderful tutorial one more time. The other question is that I hear artist, including you, saying that the drawing is too much n the centre, even sometimes I see people using the crop tool to divide the canvas into 3 by 3 so they can find the centre and move the drawing to one side. I do that when i am drawing but i have no idea what that means and how we should avoid the middle. I was think that if I want people to focus on some part of my drawing, this part should be in the middle. And sorry because for many people it maybe a silly question :( Again thanks for this turotial, you are for sure covering very important topic that will be really useful for us.

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 01:22 · Reply

      Putting things in the dead center is usually not very good compositionally. Yes there are some instances when you want something in the middle, but typically it is something you want to avoid. There are other ways to make something the focus without having to put it in the middle. You can draw attention through value contrast, color contrast, edges, etc.

      • Lukas · 2011/12/16 at 05:38 · Reply

        I would also say that the reason for this is the golden ratio, which has been invented thousands of years ago. Still, artists follow these aspects (e.g. 20th century artist Caspar David Friedrichs) and this is for good reason of aesthetics.

        For me, placing a single object in the center of a painting can lead to strong symmetry which might end up creating very static effect and absorbing it’s dynamics.
        Though, this is not always the case. Frazetta placed a lot of his characters in a central position and…Wow!…they’re awesome!

        I think it was Loomis who talked about this in his book ‘Creative Illustration’. Check it out.

        Thanks daarken for your tutorials, this site is great!

        • Judy · 2011/12/18 at 03:56 · Reply

          Ah I forgot I will take a look at the book “Creative llustration”

      • Judy · 2011/12/18 at 03:46 · Reply

        Thanks so much for the tips!!

      • Judy · 2011/12/18 at 04:01 · Reply

        Daarken thanks a lot again. I have been practicing blind contour with the idea to post the result. But the result was a disaster lol, and I changed my mind hahaha. Anyway, everyday I will take one object in my house I do blind contour. I think that will help in the future :D Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Eludor · 2011/12/16 at 01:55 · Reply

      I would like to give my 2 cents of you don’t mind :)

      Just as Daarken said, its not good for your composition.
      Theres more life in the picture if it isn’t centered.
      Give your picture more flow to it.
      Most of the pictures which are dead centered are some kind of stock photos, just to show what a object is.
      Daarken said also contrasts can pull your eye. Yes it’s true, cause contrasts and high detail tends to pull your eye towards it. But you can also use “leading lines” for your composition.
      What I mean by that is a strick/branch/blade of grass/trees or whatever point in the direction your viewer should look. And not only your focal point, with those lines you can direct the eye of the viewer through your picture, and make a nice circle so the viewer ends at your focal point.
      Before I forget to mention it, those leading lines don’t have to be an pointy object, they could also be in forms and the contrast between to forms.

      Heres a picture I googled to show you what I mean.


      Daarken you’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong :).

      Oh, and dead center is a map in left 4 dead :)

      • Judy · 2011/12/18 at 03:54 · Reply

        Hi Eludor, thanks so much for the information and for the image. Yes I took a look and I remember when I was watching a tutorial that i bought from Daarken, I think was the “The Last Charge”, he was drawing those red lines and I remember he was talking about how to direct the viwer’s eyes when changing some lines he was drawing. Thanks so much that helps a lot!!!

  4. Carlos Arthur · 2011/12/16 at 03:00 · Reply

    this is quite annoying when you look at the paper, it looks like you drew colored unicorns jumping over a rainbow, and not the object you want to do the outline XD

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 09:58 · Reply

      Lol yeah the results can be pretty funny sometimes.

  5. Ricardo Arganza · 2011/12/16 at 06:13 · Reply

    Hy, everyone.
    Thank´s for the video.
    It´s a good sugestion to practice but as you say is booooring. I haven´t done anything like that in at least 15 years (in fact i think i haven´t made any line drawing for several months) but it´s essential for beginners. The dead center matter is a very interesting topic. Sometimes composition is forgotten and many art pieces loose all the magic even if they are technically perfect. That´s when someone says “yeah, it´s great but… i don´t know…”.
    There´s an interesting art theory about composition, the divine proportion, that many artist has been using since Renaissance that works great as composition rule. Here in Europe is still teached in some traditional art schools and it´s included in some drawing software like Painter.

    Daarken, if you don´t mind to answer, i´ve noticed many artist are publishing their videos in Vimeo and forgetting Youtube. Is that just a coincidence or is there any remarcable difference between those two sites?

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 09:58 · Reply

      I have a YouTube account too, but I like Vimeo a lot more. I like their UI better, they have better options for customizing videos, and I just find the site to be much more aesthetically pleasing (cleaner, more streamlined design).

  6. johnny · 2011/12/16 at 09:23 · Reply

    so how many times would they make you do this in art school on a weekly basis, like if you were to assign me homework

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 10:02 · Reply

      Yeah, well it depends on the school and how many sessions they have per week. If you had two classes a week, you would start the beginning of the class doing blind contour. You wouldn’t do it for the whole class, but mainly as a warm-up type exercise. I used to go to figure drawing workshops and there was this one workshop that a lot of the fashion students went to (because it was required by their teacher). The fashion students always had to do blind contour drawings because it was part of their homework. I would also like to add that blind contour drawings were usually restricted to the entry level classes. You wouldn’t be doing it in Clothed Figure 4 class, probably only Intro to Figure Drawing.

  7. Kelly · 2011/12/16 at 11:15 · Reply

    Hi Daarken!

    First of all I want to thank you for posting all of these tutorials :) They really help and I’m learning a lot from them.

    If you’re not looking at your paper, how do you get the line to line up correctly? Or does this not matter for blind contour?

    Also, do you use expresskeys on your intuos? If so, by any chance have you programmed the “undo” button for photoshop? I’ve tried to program [shift][ctrl]z but it always ends up being [ctrl][shift]z for some reason :/ …which doesn’t undo. Any idea how to fix this?

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 11:43 · Reply

      Getting the drawing to line up is not a concern with blind contour. Like I said in the video, the end product is not something that should look nice and will not be anything you will want to show to other people. The point of the exercise is to slow down and really see what you are looking at.

      In order to get undo and redo to work correctly (by correctly I mean undoing multiple times and redoing multiple times) with shortcuts you have to go to edit – keyboard shortcuts and instead of mapping “undo/redo” you have to map “step backward” and “step forward.” For step backward I have command+z and for step forward I have command+shift+z. I hope that helps.

  8. Trace007 · 2011/12/16 at 11:46 · Reply

    Ah, blind contour, the bane of my existence, haha!

    My friends and I used to have to do these for an old high school drawing class. We would take our scribbles (which never looked like the objects :P ) and turn them into different things. I made my hand into a chicken at one point.

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 11:50 · Reply

      Lol yeah they always look horrible. I had a friend do some and he described his drawings of cups as weird pac-man things. My wife actually had to do blind contour drawings left-handed while in school because she injured her right hand.

  9. Skyline.Khoa · 2011/12/16 at 14:34 · Reply

    lol yup, they made me do this for the first 3-4 weeks xD

  10. Tizbi · 2011/12/16 at 16:04 · Reply

    oh man… no matter how many times I practice
    it looks nothing like it and the beginning point never matches my ending one
    is it possible to get better at this…?

    alsoo would this(lack of blind contour practice) be the reason that every time I try to draw a portrait, although it definitely look like a person, it doesn’t look exactly like the person on the photo, the anatomy won’t be much off, but it never gives off the OH it’s that person vibe :/

    • daarken
      daarken · 2011/12/16 at 16:31 · Reply

      If you practice enough, you can always get better at anything, blind contour included. I think the key to getting a likeness is by getting the main shapes correct and knowing how to push certain elements that make that person who they are. Caricature artists like Jason Seiler are great at being able to pick out certain elements that make that person recognizable.

  11. Raphael Bernal · 2011/12/18 at 09:56 · Reply

    Oh I hated It so much :D

    but cool that you get into the annoying but important things as well. If you want to draw a kickass Warrior you need to learn this stuff too :)

  12. Fester · 2011/12/31 at 21:45 · Reply

    This is an interesting technique… I was never told that I couldn’t look at my paper. We focused more on perfectly accurate drawings of our subject. Still challenging, though, to think about how that object would look if you flattened it into a 2D image and then drew just the outline.

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