Repost: Drawing and a Creative Practice

“Field Study, Agua Caliente Wash” pencil and watercolor
“Three Pots” blind contour drawing, pen on paper

I recently realized several of my earliest posts have disappeared. This article originally posted in late September 2020. It discusses some of my favorite creative practices: Drawing, and Blind Contour Drawing. It was written well into the pandemic, with no vaccines offering glimmers of hope, but the quick, fun exercises apply anytime you want to access your creative energy.

“Field Sketch, Chiricahua National Monument”

Like many creative people, I am reflecting on the challenge of remaining engaged with my creativity as social unrest, in all its forms, drags on. I am aware of an exaggerated ebb and flow of creative energy. 

“Waterfall, Canyon Ranch” pencil

Sometimes the extra time available for art motivates me for focused work, and drives me to the studio. There is time to experiment, work through themes, and explore new techniques and concepts. All of which feeds creativity (until it doesn’t).

Other times I struggle to get into the studio, feeling an almost physical irritation and anxiousness as I crave new stimulation, sights, and experiences. I feel a need to crawl out of “my own life” and connect with the external world for inspiration.  

I know that continuous engagement in creative practice is one of the best ways to “jump-start” flagging creativity. Luckily, I love drawing. It is a low pressure, quick and easy way to explore visual ideas, exercise eye-hand connections, and to maintain an art practice on even the busiest or least inspired days.

Drawing experiments, mixed media

Drawing and sketching transforms a brief break into a full creative experience. With the simple tools of a sketchbook, pen or pencil, maybe watercolors, it is possible to immerse yourself into the world differently, and quickly access that lovely sense of “Flow”. 

One of my favorite quick creative exercises is Contour drawing.  This is simply drawing your subject with one continuous line on a page, while not picking up your drawing tool. The goal is to examine the edges of your subject and describe them in one fluid line. BLIND Contour drawing adds the further challenge that you are not to look at your paper while making your drawing. It is fun, and makes you to engage with your subject, and your drawing, in a unique way.

“Potted Plants” blind contour drawing, ink on paper

Blind Contour drawing forces me to truly explore the subject matter in a quick, visual manner. I am primarily engaged with the act of really SEEING the subject, studying specific relationships of size, form, shape, line, etc. while making the one continuous line on a page. The goal is not an accurate representation of the subject, but to coordinate what my eyes see with the movements of my hand.  

The resulting drawings often have a unique freshness and lyrical line quality that I very much enjoy. Marks interact without the restrictions of tight representation. This is drawing for drawing’s sake, and is extremely freeing. 

“In My Garden” blind contour drawing, ink on paper

These quick drawings take very little time, from a minute to a couple of minutes each. When finished, I have had an “authentic” creative experience.  Sometimes they form the basis for a painting; sometimes the reward is just the drawing. Either way, I recommend you spend a few minutes a day drawing, whenever and wherever you have time. It is so enjoyable, and I think you will feel a boost of creative energy.

“My Brother’s Garden” pencil on paper

6 thoughts on “Repost: Drawing and a Creative Practice

  1. This is a great post to share with other artists. Nice directions and examples of blind contour drawing. I always loved watching Charles Reid demonstrate because he started every watercolor with a pure contour drawing, no erasures, and just painted over the drawing, drips and all.


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