30 Day drawing challenge Day 3- Blind Contour Onion

The drawings that interest me most are made with closed eyes. With eyes closed, I feel my hand slide down on the paper. I have an image in mind, but the results always surprise me. 
Willem de Kooning

Day 3 of our journey will challenge us to draw without watching our paper.  What?!  I can hear you already…”you want me to draw without looking at my paper?!”  As it turns out, in order to truly see and improve our drawing, this technique has proven results.   For now, just trust me when I say that it is worth your time to try it.

What is Blind contour?  It’s a way to sensitize the coordination of our brain, our eyes and our hand.  It’s amazing how quickly we gloss over visual information. We short-circuit what we see in order to process and respond quickly.  Our brains are masterful at this, but as artists we need to reverse this tendency and take in the details.  We are essentially training our Brain to take in data that it would normally skip.  Training our eyes to work in coordination with our hand by way of our brain is the ticket to drawing.  No wonder modern science is showing that adults who engage in regular art groups have better cognitive functioning than non-artists.  Yay for us!

What will we be drawing?  The lowly onion will be our subject for today.  Blind Contour will be our approach.  Relax…you won’t need a blindfold.

An Onion, Sketch paper, a pencil,  and eraser (yes you can use one today!).  I’m drawing my images in my Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook and I’d suggest you do your series of drawings in a sketchbook.  It will provide a great record of this 30 day adventure once we are finished. =)

Step 1:
Take a look at your onion.  I’d like you to draw from life if possible, so try to find an onion and place it in front of you.

Turn your paper to landscape orientation.  We will begin along the left side of the paper.  Very important:  Turn your body away from your paper.  Look at the onion, but try not to see the paper you are drawing on.

Step 2:  Beginning on the left side of the paper: Find an edge on the left of the onion, and begin moving your eyes and hand together to draw the edge of the shapes you see.  Be sure to turn away so you can’t see the paper.  Peeking is allowed, but only to replace your pencil if it goes astray.

Follow those edges slowly with your eyes.  Your pencil should move with your eyes.  This is a slow process, so don’t move your eyes ahead of your pencil.  Feel your pencil move.  Do not erase.  If your line is crazy, simply pick up your pencil, replace it along the edge where it “went wrong”  and draw it correctly.  The secret is to look at your subject 90% of the time and at your paper less than 10% if at all possibly.  The onion may have lots of edges…the skin may be torn, the top may be gnarled, and the bottom may have root tendrils.  All these edges are meant to be explored and followed with your eyes and your pencil.

What does this accomplish?  It makes a confident line.  It will reveal nuances of detail which you would not see otherwise.  Your drawing may end up looking something like this:

Though far from perfect, this drawing has captured the torn quality of the edges on the papery outer shell of the onion.

If that’s all the time you have for today, then Congratulations!  You’ve completed another drawing.
If you’re a glutton for punishment or hungry to learn as much as possible, then follow along to Step 3. It’s time to do it again!

Step 3- Reposition your onion and draw it again. Use the same Blind contour technique and beginning in the central portion of your paper, draw the onion again.  Remember, SLOW is key.  Fight the urge to speed up and make something up.  When my eyes get ahead of my hand, that’s what happens. More often than not, when I make things up, they often are wrong!

Since we are drawing more than one onion, shapes may overlap. Your pencil may go off the paper.  Don’t worry! Enjoy the process and if you’re like me, you will find more and more detail becoming apparent to you as you slow down to take it in.

When the second drawing is done, you again have permission to stop.  However, if you want to complete the entire lesson, then one more onion drawing is required.

Step 4:  Reposition your onion again.  Beginning on the right side of the paper, find a good edge and draw your object slowly with your eyes and hand moving in concert.  When you’re done you may have a drawing that looks like this:

Confusing lines make it unclear who is in front and who is behind. 
Step 5:  Now it’s time to get our your eraser. I hear you cheering…it’s about time right?!    
When multiple shapes are next to one another, often one is in front of the other.  It’s time to make a decision.  With 3 shapes, you need to decide who is in front and who is behind.  Erase the lines that are confusing.  
I decided to let the central onion be in front, and erased the overlapping lines from the right sided onion.  Now it looks as if the right sided onion is behind the central onion.
Step 6- After erasing, you can think about adding some finishing touches to your drawing.  Details you might have missed can be added now.  In the end, you may end up with something like this.  I added the little tag on the onion, and a few of the lines that flow vertically around the onion.  I tried to continue to not look at the paper, looking long enough only to place my pencil, then turning my gaze back to the onion.  
Voila! You are done for the day…your drawing is complete.  

If you’re enjoying this drawing challenge, be sure to subscribe to my blog.  The place to do so is along the right edge of my website’s home page.  You can also share it with your Facebook friends if you want to encourage others to join us.  I’ll see you here tomorrow with another drawing idea for you! 

Let me hear from you! I read every comment and it means a lot to know you are out there reading.  Post your photos on my Facebook or instagram page with the #30daydrawingchallenge, #learntodraw and we can follow one another’s progress…

Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

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Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at ArtMyrtleBeach.com.

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