Contour line ritual

I started several drawing projects during last month’s residency Artists @ Work. While most of these drawings involved charcoal, I had one daily ritual that required clean hands.

Every morning I began the work day with a blind contour line drawing. Using a fine point marker on square sheets of paper, I drew what I saw in front of me with a continuous line, moving around and across the surfaces of objects, architectural structures, and people.


-list from illustrator Tim Dose

What makes these drawings quirky (some would say ugly) is the “blind” part of this process. Here are the rules: Do not look at your paper, only at the objects you’re drawing. Start at the edge of the paper and move slowly along observed contours, with your hand and eyes working in tandem. Do not stop or lift the pen until you run off the edge of the paper.

My goal was to create a 2-D representation of the 3-D space and a record of our residency, by beginning and ending at the same point. Instead, I started with the piano in the southeastern corner of the building and ended with Hester at the computer, in the northeastern corner. I spent too much time hung up on the ceiling.

I’m now in the process of connecting the 19 sheets in an accordion format. Using a sewing machine with white thread, I’m having fun linking the pages together with sewn/drawn shapes that describe what I can remember of the space – windows, podiums, a ladder, etc.

Friends and fellow resident artists Gale and Julia joined me for a group blind sketch: 

Mike Bergen's drawing of Carol


4 thoughts on “Contour line ritual

  1. Greg Pfarr

    I like seeing the contour drawings and your dedication to the process. Have you thought of doing blind drawings with charcoal? I used to teach a course that had some exercises that used a more tonal approach, though it was mostly black, grey, and white.

    1. blackthumb Post author

      Thanks for the suggestion Greg- I haven’t tried charcoal but sometimes I use a 4B graphite pencil and vary the pressure for a calligraphic line.

      Elaine Green

  2. caroleeclark

    Hi Elaine,
    I love the contour drawing. I think that the lighter lines are your white thread connecting the space? Fantastic. That brings a finality and cohesiveness to your work. Love it.

    1. blackthumb Post author

      Thanks Carolee. Yes that’s white thread, a machine stitched line, that connects the pages. I’ll post more images when it’s bound.

      Elaine Green


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s