Blind Drawing

October 10, 2019

Blind Drawing

Drawings of blind showing vantage points

As a special event of the 2019 Big Draw Festival - Dr. John Kennedy from the University of Toronto gave the Nova Scotian Institute of Science (NSIS) Public Lecture on October 7, 2019. Dr. Kennedy spoke about “Drawing of the Blind and Sighted”, summarizing his research on a theory of drawing and development.

The Museum of Natural History is currently hosting two exhibits as part of the Big Draw Festival. The NSIS lecture was held within the gallery space that includes an art exhibit called Seeing the Patient by Dr. Mark Gilbert. Visitors also had an opportunity to explore the Drawn To Life: Understanding the World Through Drawing exhibit that features specimens and historical drawings related to the value of drawing to support creativity and wellness. Both exhibits are on display until December 1.

Prior to the start of the talk visitors gathered into the seats or chatted and explored the exhibits on display. Dr. Kennedy mixed among the visitors as they arrived, introduced himself and demonstrated the “raised line drawing” tools and technique that he uses to study drawing among the blind.

Dr. John Kennedy showing raised line drawings to audience

The raised line drawing boards and paper are of great interest for quickly producing a raised line with a normal ball point pen. These drawing tools and techniques will be of great interest to museums interested in encouraging drawing among the blind and visually challenged.

Examples of Drawings of the Blind and Sighted

During his talk, Dr. Kennedy provided an overview of his research, specifically focussing on some ongoing research he is doing with Selene Carboni from Bergamo, Italy. Through these studies Dr Kennedy has been able to demonstrate that the blind can draw, that lines stand for surfaces (available to see and touch), that the blind understand and can draw perspective, as well as draw metaphor and emotion.

While in Halifax, John Kennedy was also visiting researchers at the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie University. Dr. Raymond Klein hosted Kennedy for the departmental lecture the day after the NSIS public lecture. Drs. Ray Klein and John Christie (Dalhousie) are members of the NSCAD Drawing Lab, a research group based in Halifax that conducts research on the psychology of drawing and learning.

Blind drawing metaphor example - John Kennedy

The special NSIS talk by Dr. Kennedy was an excellent and inspiring contribution to The Big Draw Festival events in Nova Scotia. Through the examples provided by drawing of the blind and sighted, Dr. Kennedy and his colleagues provide new ways for us all to think about our world and the benefits of drawing for learning, creativity, and wellness.

Summary by Tim Fedak, Curator of Geology, NSM


The Big Draw is a visual literacy charity that promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention. The charity leads a diverse programme of advocacy, empowerment and engagement, and is the founder and driving force behind The Big Draw Festival – the world’s biggest celebration of drawing. The Nova Scotia Museum is excited to be a Sponsor partner for the Big Draw Festival 2019. A series of events and programs will focus on the power of drawing to improve learning and wellness.

The Nova Scotian Institute of Science (NSIS) is a membership organization which represents and promotes science to Nova Scotians since 1862.