My favorite drawing exercise from my (glory) days as an art major (one of my many majors on the 6-years-and-counting college plan) is the blind contour. For this exercise, you take your pencil (or pen or whatever) pick a starting point on your subject and draw using one continuous line looking only at the subject, NOT at your paper. It is a difficult exercise but the idea is to train yourself to draw what you see, not what you think you see. In general, I have a very hard time drawing what I see (my mind is always messing me up!) so I love to draw this way. Sometimes the drawings turn out hilarious (like when I did a portrait of my son with a 6 inch chin and he looked just like Jay Leno), sometimes the drawings turn out amazingly well (especially when you cheat) and then sometimes, they are totally unrecognizable and go straight to the recycling bin.
I started thinking a few months ago that this style of drawing would lend itself really well to embroidery so I set about to figure out how best to do it. In the process I found one of the coolest products ever (and I think the only product I own that does what it's packaging says it will do...) I can now draw a picture on regular ol' paper, trace it with this pen and then iron it on to the fabric and it transfers just like a real embroidery transfer! I know I am easily amused but this pen is seriously cool.
So this photo is my first attempt at embroidering a blind contour. It is a portrait of Cherry Sue, my sweet puppy dog, done in a stem stitch (for the most part). Cherry Sue is always sleeping so she makes an excellent subject. I get the impression that it annoys her when I sit in front of her with my sketchbook (see how she is looking at me?) but no one else in this house will hold still long enough. Well, except me but it's too hard to do a self-portrait when I'm napping.