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Following the real shapes that we are seeing

How do I learn to draw the real shapes that I am seeing?

When we try and draw a picture there is a part of brain that is always telling us how things should be. It tells us what shape we should be drawing so that the drawing is identifiable to other people, it always thinks that it knows best. This part of our brain is great for other things such as identifying objects and recognising our friends faces, but when it comes to drawing it is nearly always wrong. It is exactly this part of our brain that misleads us when we are trying to draw an object. Instead of following what we are seeing, it will lead us astray with made up shapes that don’t follow reality.

How do we ignore it?

The secret of drawing is learning how to ignore that part of the brain that thinks it knows best and rely more on our real observation. One exercise to learn how to follow your observation is to draw a picture without looking at your page. I know it sounds weird, but it is a great start to retraining your mind.

Pick a simple object to start with. The idea is to look at a point on the outline of the object that you are trying to draw and slowly trace around the outline in your mind. Wherever your eyes move, your pencil should follow on the page…but don’t look down at your drawing, just keep focusing on the object. Slowly move your eyes around the outside of the object, when the outline changes direction, your pencil should also change direction to follow. Look for subtle changes in direction as well as sharp corners. When you get back to the starting point, you can look down at your drawing.

LOL!! OK, it might look like a Picasso drawing or something really weird (I’ve done some really cool looking abstracts doing this exercise). Chances are that your lines didn’t join up and proportions might be all wrong, but if you look carefully at the shape that you have drawn you might be able to see at least some kind of resemblance to the object.You are now starting to train your mind to follow your eyesight, rather than trying to make up the shape in your head. You are also starting to learn how to carefully study the shape of an object to be able to reproduce it on paper. Bonus!

This exercise is called a Blind Contour Drawing. Practice this exercise as often as you can, whenever you are bored, or talking on the phone, waiting for your computer screen to refresh…any opportunity that you can get, give this exercise a go to train your mind. Its heaps of fun and is a great way to start improving your skills.

Have Fun, and feel free to send me a photo of some of your drawings!


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4 replies
  1. Chris T.
    Chris T. says:

    Hello! I just would choose to give a huge thumbs upward for the great advice you have here for this post. I will be returning to your blog for more art lessons.

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  1. […] that I look at the object in front of me about 70% of the time and only 30% on my actual drawing. Blind contour drawing is a great, fun way to train your mind how to do that. You are forced into looking at the object […]

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