The “blind contour” artist with a cult following

Ian Sklarsky’s off-beat technique of drawing without looking creates portraits that are brimming with life – and slightly surreal

Ian Sklarsky never breaks his line and draws without looking at whatever surface he is marking
Ian Sklarsky never breaks his line and draws without looking at whatever surface he is marking

Brooklyn-based illustrator Ian Sklarsky has produced works for an impressive roster of commercial clients, from portraits at New York Fashion Week for Samsung to illustrations at a launch event for Beats by Dr Dre. But the really remarkable aspect of his work is his method: he never breaks his line and he draws without actually looking at whatever surface he is marking.

Sklarsky has carved a niche for himself as one of the most unusual and interesting portrait artists in New York
Sklarsky has carved a niche for himself as one of the most unusual and interesting portrait artists in New York

The technique of blind contour drawing is instinctual, elegant and energetic. “I want my work to be filled with movement and joy,” he says. “When my brain takes over and connects my eye to my hand, I zone out and become centred in a single moment.” The results are both fascinating and beautiful. 

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Sklarsky’s inspirations are diverse: he cites Japanese director, animator and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki, American author Henry Darger and the singer and downtown NY performance artist Klaus Nomi. “The delicacy of Miyazaki’s line, the repeating images and constant copy of Darger, and Nomi for being someone out of this world – they are all close to me in terms of what I want to create.”

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Alongside his commercial projects, Sklarsky has carved a niche for himself as one of the most unusual and interesting portrait artists in New York. For $125, he produces one of his blind contour drawings in a 5in by 7in format, based on a photograph supplied by the client and delivered with a stamp and seal for provenance, in a wooden or metal frame.

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