brenda swenson

Drawing Tip: Blind Contour Drawing Warmup

Want to improve your drawing? Don't know when to draw or what to draw? How about taking on the 75 Day Drawing Challenge? Started by watercolor artist and sketchbook keeper Brenda Swenson it has grown and developed into a popular artistic challenge for many people to customize. The only rules that stay constant are the 75 day length and using ink or another permanent line. I made the challenge my own with ink and doing blind contour drawings. A blind contour drawing is a drawing where you focus mostly on the outline, don't lift your pen as you draw and don't look away from your subject (so you don't look at your paper) while you are drawing. Do this for 75 days in a row (more or less) at a fairly consistent time for maximum effectiveness. I find the morning while I drink my coffee to be a good time for this activity. It can take as little as 5 minutes, but some people go all out and spend twenty minutes or longer on their drawings. I am content treating this as a warmup activity and spending rarely more than ten minutes on my drawing. I have also started journaling in the pages and including the date and weather forecast in the margins. Sometimes I fill in the drawings with details and sometimes I add bits of color. But they all start with a blind contour line that I mark the start with dot and an S and the finish with a dot and an F to keep me honest.

It was a hard challenge for me to start but once I got going I noticed a change in my drawing and easily continued. Until around day 35 when I realized I had been doing this challenge for over a month and wasn't even halfway done. I am not used to drawing challenges that last longer than a month. But I made it through that bumpy period and now here I am almost at day sixty and with well over 100 blind contour drawings under my belt and I am looking at ways to keep this habit going after 75 days and after my sketchbook is full. I'll probably just start a new sketchbook with simple graph paper and save the next Moleskine from my clearance stockpile for something else.

I want to stop, but why?

The 75 day blind contour challenge has been easy and rewarding. The original challenge is to draw in ink for 75 days or 75 drawings. But I already draw in ink in my sketchbook and a lot more than one drawing a day. But I am not super familiar or confident with blind contours so I decided that 75 days of blind contour drawings in a single sketchbook would be my theme. My drawing has clearly improved from this exercise and I still enjoy doing them yet I realize that 75 days is a long time and I am not even halfway done. That fact is discouraging and tempts me to stop, but I am not going to stop. I can see myself looking through this themed sketchbook in the future when it is complete and that makes me keep going. What makes you keep going?

a few days and journaling in the 75 day sketchbook. I use bits of washi tape to brighten up the pages since I am drawing in black ink throughout every page. 

a few days and journaling in the 75 day sketchbook. I use bits of washi tape to brighten up the pages since I am drawing in black ink throughout every page.