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Blind Contour Self Portraits

In Advanced Drawing, art teacher Lucy Nelson started off the year by having her students create blind contour self-portraits. A blind contour is a drawing done without looking at the paper at all.  It is an exercise in critical observation where you have to really look at your subject matter, which helps to develop hand/eye coordination. "What I love about a blind contour is how delicate and beautiful the line quality can be," said Nelson.

She went on to explain that when your eye slows down and takes in every nuance and detail, especially in something as complicated as a face, you quickly realize that there are no straight lines anywhere. The curve of a lip, the angle of the jaw, and the riot of curly hair, all get acknowledged in the drawing. She quipped, "the final product can look like a plate of spaghetti." But, said Nelson, when students can let go of their expectations of making a perfectly proportioned portrait, that is when the drawing gets exciting. 

After they finish the blind contour drawing, students were invited to go back into it with Prismacolor colored pencils and micron pens. She encouraged them to play with color—adding accents, being descriptive, opting for bold and colorful or even nonsensical. Students were instructed to consider the principles of design by asking themselves questions. Which lines should be emphasized? What shapes do you want to draw our attention to? Do you want the composition to be balanced or asymmetrical?

At the end of class, the drawings were hung on the corridor wall and the class participated in a group critique (with homemade cookies!). Students shared what their process was and they got both praise and constructive criticism from their classmates. 
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