The Art of the Gaze

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time — like to have a friend takes time.
— Georgia O’Keefe
Carolyn Ellis

Blind contour is the practice of drawing while never turning one’s gaze to the page...It is my creative jam.

'Seeing' is primary, not the 'product.' And yet, surprisingly, the resulting marks can be quite powerful, sometimes creating a visual work more evocative than that of a more literal drawing.

To begin, I soften my gaze and visually linger and notice, moving my hand and pencil as I do. How does the arc of the brow actually meet the bridge of the nose? What is the shape of this particular nostril? Ignoring my drawing surface completely, no judgment runs interference. I lose myself in wonder at the shape, shadow, color, and texture before me. When the flow of my gaze syncs with the flow of my hand, a peace enters that rivals that of the deepest meditation.

Emotional connection develops, creating unexpected intimacy, especially with portraits. How often do we really take one another in? It is sublime. Every line carries the totality of the experience in that exact moment…like a memory tattooed on my psyche.

To ‘grok’ another in this way, especially ourselves, can be both unsettlingly new and deeply nourishing.

I invite you to stop, literally 'stop.'

Look and feel where you are. Find something, anything, around you and drink it in. Then, for a few moments at least, love it with everything that you are.

May we feed each other courage to allow ourselves to see and be seen.

Carolyn EllisComment