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Eye Gazing Portraits

Posted by Betsy McCall from Art Monastery Project


Group size

1 – 500

More infos to group size

As space allows

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed


Material Description

Lots of drawing paper, lots of colored pencils or markers or some kind of colorful drawing tools, a bell, a timer. Cushions (optional).

Create materials quick and dirty

5 min

Create materials with love and care

10 min



10 minutes – 2 hours

Experience level of the facilitator

taken part OR some facilitation experience

Number of facilitators


Location requirements

Space to walk around, space to draw on the floor


Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

2 Creating an Innovation-Friendly Culture
3 Fostering New Perspectives & Ways of Thinking

Method Category:

Appreciative / Community building
Awareness raising
Fun & Games


In groups of three, participants draw each other’s eyes without looking at the paper.



This is a fun exercise that forces people to look into each other's eyes, which is awkward at first but eventually becomes an icebreaker. It can also show people how beautiful EVERYone's eyes are, as well as demonstrating how there is so much more in people's eyes than you notice at first.



Eye-gazing meditation. Ask participants to walk around the space in random directions while practicing metta on themselves (see the entry in this database for "metta"). When the facilitator rings a bell, get in pairs with the first person you make eye contact with.
"Stand fairly near each other, looking into each other's eyes. As you gaze into this person's eyes, feel your feet on the floor. As you gaze into this person's eyes, relax your stomach muscles." Allow the people to maintain eye contact for around 2 minutes. You can vary the amount of time each round if you like. "The person you are looking at has experienced love, just like you. The person you are looking at has experienced fear, just like you. The person you are looking at has experienced rejection, just like you. The person you are looking at has experienced gratitude, just like you." Continue to name emotions, both positive and negative. "Silently wish this person well. Allow yourself to receive the well wishes of your partner." Ring the bell at the end of the time. Partners may hug or bow or smile to each other in acknowledgement and then begin circulating again, practicing metta on themselves.

PREPARATION (excluding materials)

First do a few rounds of eye-gazing meditation, then do enough rotations of the eye portraits such that everyone is a drawer at least once. Then do another round or two of eye-gazing meditation. If your group is really not into meditation, you can do the portraits on their own. Eye-gazing meditation is listed in the pre-exercise section.

1 Groups of three

Ask participants to get in group of three. There will be two drawers and one assistant. Each group should have at least three pieces of paper and a selection of colored pencils or other colorful drawing supplies.

2 Draw

When you ring the bell, the two drawers look into each other's eyes. Without breaking eye contact and without ever looking at the paper, they draw the eye they see. The drawings are going to be messy and abstract. That's fine. Drawers ask the assistant for whatever color they see and the assistant places the color in the drawer's hand. After about 5 minutes, or when most people are finished, ring the bell. Take a moment to look at your own and your partner's drawing.

3 Rotate

Rotate roles so that the assistant gets to draw.
If someone says they are finished drawing before 5 minutes, encourage them to keep looking. There is a lot to see in there!


After you have done as many rounds as you would like to (ideally everyone has done 2 drawings and been an assistant at least once), hang up the drawings on a wall or spread them out on the floor and walk around them in a circle.
Optional: Do another few rounds of standing eye-gazing meditation.
Invite participants to share reflections about the experience. What came up? What did they notice?



A variation is drawing the whole face (not quite so powerful than just with eyes, therefore a more low-threshold exercise).

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