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Drawing and Writing Together

Blind Contour #1

Begin with a subject that is always available to you - your non-dominant hand. Hold your hand up and turn your body so you won’t be tempted to look back at the page.  Touch your pencil to the paper.

This is an exercise in drawing without a reference point. You will be blind to the page, no checking back to see how it’s going, your eye staying fully with the thing itself. It is virtually impossible to do an accurate drawing this way, yet something alive comes through. With no checking back there is nothing to judge, and therefore no tightening up. The drawing line can relax.

Imagine a tiny insect is slowly exploring the surface of your hand. Your eye follows its movements along the edges, into the wrinkles. The pencil moves on the paper, tied to your eye by an invisible thread, always in contact.

Stay with this as long as you can – then admire the quirky breathing lines you’ve made.

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Blind contour #2

Pick a different hand pose and work on a new sheet of paper. This time you can check back to the page at one point to get your bearings. Then head off again, into that unknown sensing place, following that invisible insect. Keep your hand touching the page, but not held to one spot. Let the hand slide as the pencil line moves. 

Stay with this drawing even longer than before. These extended periods of not checking back and not evaluating, can feel shaky, calming, confusing, settling or disorienting. The ability to stay with this uncertainty leads you through a doorway into new perceptions. This is the artist’s world.

When you have stayed with this exercise as long as you can, gaze on your lively lines.

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Blind Contour #3

Drawing is a practice of learning to see with fresh eyes and letting go of assumptions.

Choose another hand pose. Another piece of paper. This time check back twice to reorient, then head out again.  Get lost, keep looking, keep the pencil moving. Come back to the page, and go out again.  Residing in a place of not knowing, of being lost and alert and wide eyed, is what keeps our lines, and our minds, open.

Through the practice of blind contour we are strengthening the muscle of clear seeing – just looking, no judgment.

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Adding Words - The Poetic Voice

Drawing warms up our relationship to the world. Placing words in visual conversation with our drawings completes the experience.  Words can bring our inner world out into the daylight.

On a sheet of 11”x17” paper (or tape two pieces of 8.5 x 11 together) make three blind contour studies of a natural object – a leaf, a small branch, a flower, a pine cone – whatever interests you and can be held easily in the hand.

Then write three words on the page, placed in relation to the drawings.

The first word states what it is – a simple observation.

The second word describes its quality, its nature.

The third word describes the feeling.

Let the words emerge in their own time. Trust what shows up. Chogyam Trungpa always said,  

“First thought, best thought.”

When you have the first word, write it on the page near the first drawing.  Then wait for the second word to show up in your mind and write it near the second drawing, and then the third. Feel your way along. Let the words arise in sequence. Listen closely.

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Do another trio of blind contour studies.

This time write three phrases or sentences.

First line – what is it ?

Second line – what is its nature, its texture?

Third line – what is the smallest detail, the personal voice?

Add in a bit of color if you want.

Blind contour drawing along with three line writing brings us into the present moment. We let go of the struggle to get it right and just settle into what it is. Our tight lines relax. Perfection drops away. Life shows up.

Use this practice as a way to engage your expressive voice and find out where you are. The world is always ready to reflect.

One. Two. Three.

Outer. Inner. Secret.

Beginning. Middle. End.

Heaven. Earth. Human.

Three words. Three phrases. Three views.

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