Fear No Art: Trust & Blind Contour Drawing

From Fred Babb, one of my favorites!

From Fred Babb, one of my favorites!

Many times, it is plain, old-fashioned fear that keeps survivors from signing up for our offerings – not the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis, but the terror associated with the words creativity and art:

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. I do not have a single creative bone in my body.”

We believe that everyone has creative bones; you just have to discover them.

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. I can’t even draw a straight line.”

Good – we don’t like straight lines. They are way overrated.

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly.  My elementary school art teacher said, ‘You have no talent.  Try music.’”

Talent has nothing to do imaginative creativity. We will show you.

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. Over the years, my friends that have dabbled in art classes, but I have never had the time.”

Dabbling is good for the soul.  Trust us.

See. Hear. Feel.  Art. Fred Babb Rocks!

See. Hear. Feel. Art.
Fred Babb rocks!

The Art of Survival

“What art offers is space –  a certain breathing room for the spirit.” – John Updike

Our culture is about working and product and income and productivity. Many perceive art-making as a luxury that can only be taken advantage of if you have extra time in your day, as if it’s an activity that takes us away from the “real work” of life.

Living with a cancer diagnosis causes many to evaluate priorities and examine what really matters.

As the pressures from the “real work” of life mount, and the anxiety along with the stress of living with cancer grow, many begin the search for meaningful ways to make sense of what is happening in their lives. We want to see our lives and ourselves differently.

Inner vision is the Physician, Art is the Prescription

I remember the day I discovered Fred Babb – his bright, vibrant messages of Fear No Art and Time Becomes Meaningless in the Face of Creativity, along with other messages about how art heals. My all-time favorite is this tee-shirt (right) that I have had for around 25 years. It has served as my lighthouse throughout my career as an artist; when I lose my way, this message reminds me of why I do what I do. It helps me see through the fog of my creative doubt.

My security blanket

My security blanket

Art is the light that exposes new ideas, hopes and dreams by drawing the light of day into the deeply hidden, dark places inside of us.

It is where possibility, creativity and power lie. Art helps us understand and discover, time and time again, who we really are. It is a powerful revelatory language that every human has the right to experience.  We need to learn to trust the process of creating.

Intention of Creating

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle

When someone finds their lives turned upside down, I suggest drawing. Understandably, there is huge fear around this word, but blind contour drawing is a different animal. A couple of weeks ago, New York Times Magazine featured a wonderful article on this exact subject by Sam Anderson, who concluded:

Every object (book, pencil, glove, banana) is in fact a bewildering universe of lines. Blind drawing allows us to explore those universes, to lose ourselves in them for long stretches of time, to feel their essential strangeness. It is joyful and meditative, one of the fastest escape routes from the prison of consciousness that I have ever found. You can do it anywhere, anytime, with any subject. It will flip you, like a switch, from absence to presence.

I am more introspective and am learning to trust my intuition.

I am more introspective and am learning to trust my intuition.

Blind contour drawing. What do these words mean?


Without looking at your paper – yes, really, you never look at the paper.  You look exclusively at what you are drawing.


The lines that form a shape, the outline of the object you are drawing


Your pencil and eye become one as your eye slowly followings the outline, the contour of the chosen object, your pencil confidently follows the same linear path. Try not to lift your pen or pencil. You are actually drawing one continuous line.

It requires only simple materials:

A mirror
A piece of paper taped down so that it will not move
A pencil or a pen
5 minutes

I like to use a drawing journal and a black fine tipped sharpie marker, but it doesn’t matter what you use, just trust the process, let go of your fear and draw.

Trust me, when feeling dull, numb, filled with fear or unknowing, this practice will offer some seriously fun, honestly fierce nudges and insights into seeing ourselves anew.

This is a slow, meditative practice in Seeing, kind of like focused concentrated doodling. You can’t mess up. When we are feeling out-of-sorts, what better subject to draw than our own image? This summer, gather your friends, caretakers, and family. It is a blast to do in a group!

After you finish your drawing, sit back and introduce yourselves to each other:

What does your drawing have to say to you?
What do you have to say to your drawing?

You are welcome to share your discoveries with us in the comments below.


  1. Christy on July 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    There is something so enlivening about facing our fears in small safe ways. Doing so builds the strength and courage to live and heal to our fullest. Blind Contour drawing in a journal that only you will see is a gentle risk that gives the mind a break from all the worry and thinking too much.Thank you Healing Icons for being our teachers and support on this courageous journey for survivors, caregivers, and really, everyone!

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on July 8, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Christy, I really like the idea of taking gentle, private steps towards facing our fears. Messing around in my journal is that safe place for me. My messy crazy journal is one of my best friends and play with her often. Writing down my nighttime dreams, doodling, drawing, cut and pasting things of interest, helps me get out of my head and into my heart. One of my summertime rituals is to pause and look through my journals. This is usually when I discover marvelous insights. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Deana Rennick on July 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I absolutely love blind contour drawing. Everything is exactly like you’ve written…you just feel suddenly more focused, and I always feel completely free, because there is no expectation that it is going to look exactly realistic…so however it turns out is fun and exactly how it’s meant to look. I also love the fragile, wire look of the pen never having left the paper.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on July 8, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks Deana. Here’s to having more freedom in our lives – inside and out.

  3. Selena on July 9, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Sometimes, fear is not identified. In other words it is felt but hidden. I love the “Blind Contouring” because it just happens, it’s like a puzzle. I am adding it to my healing therapy.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on July 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Selena. It is amazing how our bodies hold a wealth of information that can guide us, nudge us toward what we might be hiding from ourselves. Blind contour drawing paired with being aware of what we are feeling in our bodies is powerful medicine!

  4. Linda DeLeonardis on July 15, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    When I first did a blind contour drawing with Heidi I was sure that the picture would not even look like a person. However, it did, only it was the picture of a man. As I did more and became more focused I expected the drawing to look a little more like a woman. But it didn’t. But I did learn that many of the character traits of these men corresponded with me and my life. This is extremely relaxing and fun!

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on July 16, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      It is an interesting thought to reflect on the associations we have with “masculine” qualities and how we might need to add a bit of that in our lives from time to time. Actually, a balance of both – masculine and feminine – is what we all need. It would be fun to create a list of the qualities for both and see which ones we might need less or more of.

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