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chelseabl2  blind continuous line

In a recent post, I stated that I had drawn an image using continuous line. I often study objects from life using a continuous line and, many times, draw the object blind, first. The above drawing was done from life in my figure drawing class a year ago spring. It took 4 minutes tops to draw. What the artist does is places his pencil or pen at a starting point on the paper and imagines that he is touching the contours of the object he is rendering. He is like a blind person feeling the contours of an object with his hands. This includes the contours along the outside edges and the cross contours that run across the object. In this case, the object is a figure. I began this drawing at the point on the head where you see a line ending in space and finished it where you see another line ending halfway up the right side of the paper. You can see hands, arms, hair, feet, folds in the clothing and the general pose of the model. Blind line is almost always distorted, but rich with information that our left brain wants to convince us we don’t need to include. If our analytical brain had it’s way, a head would always be an oval and our arms and legs would look like everybody else’s arms and legs and on and on. I tell my students that this type of drawing is invaluable as a warm-up exercise before setting to work on a drawing. It is also an excellent lead-up skill to gesturing an object because it teaches the artist to keep his pencil on the paper and flow with the form. It is surprising, if practiced daily, how quickly students improve in their drawing skills. It’s similar to pianists learning to feel their way around the keys of a piano. Many times, my students are disturbed by the distortion in their images and don’t look for the actual bend and flow of the object they have created. Blind line is not meant to be a perfectly proportioned drawing, but as the artist begins to look at the paper as he makes a study in continuous line, the drawing begins to gain in proportion. I find that my drawing enlarges in those areas where I slow down on difficult areas. In this drawing, it is evident in the hands. If you look carefully at some classic artists’ works, you may be able to identify with this type of distortion. Perhaps, they too, worked blind from time to time.

I took this drawing one step furthur for my students and traced this blind drawing off on to a piece of bristol vellum and colored penciled a finished composition out of it. I wanted them to understand that art can be created in many ways and that our creations are but steps on a journey to seeing.  The resulting composition is below.

chelseacp     Chelsea

This post has generated some interest of fellow bloggers wanting to try some line drawings. If you would like to view more drawings that have this feel rendered by other artists, two that I follow are drawing diary and antsketch.


  1. I like what you said about “steps on a journey.” We can so easily get hung up on the “finished” product as the goal.

    • Thanks, David. I agree with you. I think if I pre-judged what the finished product had to look like, I would have quit a long time ago. There seems to be a delicate balance to learning and performance. Hope my viewers are taking advantage of viewing your charcoal drawings you’ve just posted.

  2. The coloured result reminds me of an incredibly famous British artist who painted distorted figures.. his name is in my memory but I can’t access it (frustrating) – painted a version of Velasquez’ Portrait of the Pope (whose name I also cannot remember)

    • Thanks, Sarah. If you remember his name, you can always add it later. Hope my viewers have taken advantage of viewing your line drawings.

    • It sounds like Francis Bacon.

  3. I like it. The colored one is fantastic! Reminds me of Kimon Nicolaides.

    • Thank-you, Shiraz. He is the one that wrote “The Natural Way to Draw” and I feel honored to receive a comment like that.

        • shirazale
        • Posted August 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm
        • Permalink


  4. I love the top one…all these wonderful curved lines.. they don’t have to make sense..they are simply wonderful.

    • Thank-you for the comment, Isabelle. I feel like you. There’s a movement and description in a line that can’t be another way. Sometimes they are beautiful in and of themselves.

  5. I learn so much from you, Leslie! Now I have to try this. I’ll let you know how it turns out! **grin**

    • Having viewed your art for awhile, Beth, I don’t think you’ll have any problem discovering the beauty of blind drawing. Be patient with yourself. It took awhile for me to appreciate my own line making. I read a recent article about an artist who draws in continuous line, only, and he goes over and over his subjects with all different color lines, choosing his colors according to his values. With your love of color, you may want to experiment with that, too.

    • severnyproductions
    • Posted August 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    another really good idea i can try, cheers

    • Kokot, I think you’d have fun trying this to see what you’d come up with. You are always experimenting!

  6. Do you actually look only at your subject and not at the drawing, when you’re doing it?

    • Hi Beth. Yes. I only look at my paper to place the pencil where I start. I make sure I touch the space of the paper available to me so I have enough room to complete the drawing. These take minutes to draw. Most are completed in under two minutes, depending on the difficulty of the subject. I have my students start with their hand as the subject. The more you practice blind drawing the better you will get. After I do that, I follow with a continuous line drawing, allowing myself to look, and the proportions begin to come together better. Remember to never lift your drawing medium from the surface. That forces you to begin to see and feel the cross contours. Have fun and I hope you begin to get images that are filled with possibility!

  7. Thanks Leslie! I am really going to do this! How fun, to get a new feeling of confidence in my drawing, from a wonderful little line of ink. **grin**

    • I added those two links that I e-mailed to you to the bottom of this post in case other artists would like to view some other artists’ linework.

  8. Hello.

    I just want to say that I like your blog, and – of course – your images.

    • Hi Deva. Thankyou for your kind comment! I’m going to check out your blog!

  9. That’s really cool. I like the fact that you took it beyond the line drawing. It’s very engaging and interesting.

    • Thanks Ant Sketch! It’s because I’ve viewed Bacon, Schiele, Picasso and others that I began to really see the value of visions and creations like this. It is why I am so drawn to following your drawings of people. Hope you don’t mind me referring viewers to you.

  10. I need to frequent your blog more too! I admit I rarely do blind contour drawings. It’s not so much as nothing looks “perfect” that is difficult for me, it’s losing patience too quickly, and rushing. It probably does not help that I don’t make interesting subject matters to keep me in focus.

    • Thank-you jlibra. I don’t always do them but I sure use them if I’m not seeing the image well enough to render something believable. Do you have a blog?

  11. Hi Leslie,
    I’ve never done a blind contour drawing but may have to give it a try. Sounds so interesting and I love what you’ve produced.

    Oy, so much to learn. So little time.

    • It is fun, Carol. Just remember that you don’t place judgement on it. Your images will come together very quickly with practice. It only takes a few minutes and I guess a person could keep a little journal of continuous line drawings going.

  12. Thanks for a fascinating post. I wonder if the results of blind contour drawing can only be appreciated by the right brain, making this difficult for people who operate in left.

    • I think that any abstraction in art is difficult to appreciate if the analytical left brain is over-riding any positive vibes about spontaneity, color and shape. Thanks for the comment, Stephen!

  13. Fantastic, clearly written post Leslie – one I’ll be referring to over and over and will undoubtedly link to eventually.

    This will be a huge (enjoyable) challenge to completely alter my approach and I can’t wait to get time to try it, once the school holidays are over.

    • I was totally glad to see you back, today, June. I think your linework is already incredible. I wonder if continuous line might help you see other forms since you have such a creative approach and really design a lot of your subject material yourself. Don’tknow…try and see.

  14. Wow.. I came across your blog while looking for examples of blind continuous drawing.
    I’ve just started a design course and one of the modules focuses very heavily on this style of drawing, I’ve been really despondent as I am struggling a huge amount, however seeing your work and the way you explain things has given me hope!!
    Thank you so much 🙂

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By blind drawing | jkartstudio on 12 Dec 2011 at 11:56 pm

    […] I drew this self portrait using the blind continuous line technique. […]

  2. By Beginning Drawing Fall 2015 | Leslie White on 10 Oct 2015 at 1:02 pm

    […] worked on blind continuous line and looking continuous line drawings. The students were asked to feel the form of what they were […]

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