Drawing without a pencil, the Digital Blind Contour


To continue the fun we’ve had in class with blind contour, this time we decided to go digital from the start. Our previous blind contour project involved us drawing physically with a pencil or marker in our hands, and then we took pictures of the final product. This time though, we are literally drawing our blind contours on the computer and animating them almost instantly.

The power of technology my friends.

In order though to get one long continuous line on photoshop, one has to wonder what I’m using? Surely holding down the mouse button while drawing would become a pain and mouses don’t always move fluidly? You’re right about that, which is why we used fun technology called Wacom tablets!!

Wacom tablets are tablets designed with the idea of digital artist creation in mind. They have a pen what you simply drag across a smooth flat tablet surface to create lines, or shade in a shape, or fix a mistake. It’s a personal way to create and draw on the computer, you still feel connected to the marks you are manipulating because the power still rests in a pen in your hand. If only it could mimic the sound of charcoal scratching my paper, then I’d use it nonstop 🙂

The set-up still had other differences, in this situation, we were going to draw our faces, kinda hard to do with a mirror. Except, we were using Macs which conveniently have this application called photobooth, meaning that there was a built in mirror to my computer screen. We opened that application, layered it on top of the photoshop application in order to hide the drawing from view and set to work.

Blind contours and faces always yield the funniest results to me. The eyes almost never match up, I outline my whole nose and connect it to my eyebrows, and then there’s the challenge of trying to backtrack back down my face so I can add my lips that I forgot to include when I was down there drawing my nostrils. Don’t even get me started on hair, that usually just becomes a tangled knot of lines criss-crossing to create something that resembles hair, but really looks like a massive windstorm attacked my face. I love it! Even though I’m drawing the same subject, and it’s something that I’m super familiar with, the drawings still come out looking completely different each time. I know my face, I know it’s curves and proportions, yet when I take away the ability to see what I’m drawing, and the ability to lift my pen, then all bets are off on me being able to replicate what I know is right there in front of me on the screen. That’s were the personality, the character of my drawings come to life. Removing these abilities to make things”perfect” gives me a chance to play and create something of myself that people wouldn’t ordinarily see.

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While this method of blind contour created some masterful representations of my being, there were still some challenges I experienced that I normally don’t when I’m drawing independent of technology.

I’m a big drawer, meaning I tend to take up a lot of space when I’m not looking at my drawings, so the limitations of the size of my drawing surface proved to be a problem in multiple ways. Physically my hand would run off the tablet, meaning that I broke my line and would have to start over again. Then there was the problem of my canvas size on photoshop not being big enough as well. In most of my drawings, I actually did not get my whole face in there, most were missing my chin or lips, and I never had a neck. I made the canvas the same size as the tablet thinking that would help me to stay within my boundaries, but I really think that I just need to get one giant tablet surface because I can’t be contained! Freedom!

Next comes the problem of seeing. Even with the photobooth app opened on my screen on top of the photoshop canvas, and I minimized the screen so it was a sliver of canvas showing on the right of my screen, I still had the problem of seeing my marks being made. That is one of my big weaknesses to this exercise. Unless I completely remove my drawing from sight, then I am guaranteed to lose the mental game of resisting the urge to look at the drawing and manipulate my movements into what I want it to be instead of focusing on the subject in front of me. I tried my best but still didn’t resist, so the left sides look a bit more controlled than the right. In the class discussion we hd at the end of class that day, we talked about people combated this problem. One student had the brilliant idea of drawing in white on a white canvas so she literally couldn’t see the marks being made, genius! I will certainly employ this tactic next time I do this.


It was fun trying this method in a completely different format/medium, it created new challenges that are fun to work through. I enjoyed the photoshop aspects of being able to change the tools I was using to see what other kinds of marks I can get out of my contours. I changed the style, thickness/size, and even color of the lines to see what results I could get out of the image. This is definitely not something that you can get if I wasn’t using technology-I would have to change tools (pens, pencils, markers, etc.) and still wouldn’t be able to change one blind contour drawing into different styles.

I also really liked the idea of layering. It’s not as easy to layer when physically drawing on a piece of paper when compared to the magic that photoshop allows with the use of layers. I could draw and stack as I pleased on different layers, make layers more transparent to fade in and out between images, turn some off/delete them if I didn’t like the results or simply move the image across the canvas. This form of flexibility is amazing and so much fun to play with all the options.

The ability to use digital tools to create my work really was fun, I liked exploring my options and plan to explore even more about what photoshop can do to help me transform my works further.

That’s it for now! Cheers!


1 thought on “Drawing without a pencil, the Digital Blind Contour”

  • so interesting the differences between “real” and virtual–like if the wacom could reproduce the sound, sensitivity and smudginess of charcoal (like it would respond to your fingers on it the way charcoal does), then would we use it instead of charcoal? And if so, why? I mean, what’s the point of having a virtual charcoal? It’s cleaner? But is it “better”? It seems more removed, it seems inauthentic. But is it? (the age old question). I really admire the way you are using the virtual world, Bryn–you seem to really be investigating these questions, and making decisions about when to use what tool, and for specific reasons. These are great inquiries!

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