Introduction: Blind Contour Light Drawing

About: Michael Koehle is the CNC shop assistant at Autodesk Pier 9. His background is in engineering and in art. He combines these to make work using drawing, painting, CNC, 3D printing, and laser cutting.

If you’ve ever taken a drawing class, you’ve probably done a blind contour drawing. This is an exercise where, without looking at your paper, you’re instructed to draw a subject with one continuous line. The way I like to describe it is as if your pencil is an ant tracing a path along the subject. This exercise is a study in proprioception – our sense of position in space. Can you keep track of where your hand is without looking?

This Instructable will describe a similar exercise in proprioception, but in the form of a light drawing. One hand will physically trace the contours of an object while the other hand, holding an LED light, will try to mimic that path as closely as possible, but a few feet over. This is harder than it seems (that first image is supposed to be a chair). The camera will record the LED light making a light drawing that shows just how difficult it is knowing what the body is doing in the absence of visual feedback.

Step 1: The Setup

Things you need are a digital camera capable of a long exposure photo, a tripod, an LED light (something small, like you might attach to a key chain), an object to trace, and a dark environment. The less background light the better.

My camera settings for a Canon 5D Mark II were f-stop 22 and ISO 320. I set the mode dial set to B (bulb exposure) so that I could manually start and stop the exposure, which ranged from 3 to 6 minutes. You may have to experiment with the ISO and f-stop, depending on the brightness of your LED light. I controlled the camera remotely from my laptop using the EOS utility, so I could start and stop the exposure without touching or moving the camera.

Step 2: The Blind Contour

Once you have your equipment setup, turn off the lights and start your exposure. With one hand trace the object. With your other hand, try to follow exactly what the first hand is doing, but a few feet transposed so you have enough space to recreate the object.

You might just let your hand wander, or you might think about how whatever path you trace will appear in the photo, and what features and lines are necessary to create an image of the object, just as if this was a 2d drawing. Just as with a blind contour drawing, don't be discouraged by how the image looks! This is a learning experience.