What happens when you look at your subject? Maybe you’re looking at placements and orientations. Or you’re comparing shapes, values, or colors. And while all that may be true during any given glance, in reality you are recording mentally what you are going to draw or paint when you look over to your artwork.
All the Articles on the Site
Here is an ever-growing collection of articles related to memory drawing practice. Many of these articles expand on the lessons I teach my own students. Others are of more historical interest. And yes, many contain promotional content to my free guide, and books. You can learn how to make the most of every glance. Therefore, all of the content I produce is centered on helping you do that.
Persistence is paramount. Why? Because learning a skill takes time, sometimes a very long time. Memory drawing is no different. It takes time and concerted effort to succeed, especially when the evidence of progress is not often apparent. Therefore, don’t resist building a memory drawing habit. Instead, persist.
The aphorism, “Always draw the longest line you can remember,” is usually attributed to John Singer Sargent. But regardless of who said it first, it brings together two essential concepts that representational artists need to understand: relational seeing and visual memory.
Our perception of nature is relative. That line is only at an angle when compared to another. This shape is larger than that shape. Etc. And if you want your drawing of the shape you see to in fact look like the shape you see, then you need to begin seeing, remembering, and drawing both sides now.
Artists such as Leonardo, Ingres, and Degas suggested making use of your visual memory to help you draw and paint what you observe. But an attempt at formalizing the practice did not occur until the middle of the nineteenth-century. In 1848, Père Lecoq, as he was affectionately referred to by his students, published a book titled The Training of the Memory in Art.
Around 30,000 years ago someone walked into the depths of a cave in southern France and drew a horse. They drew many horses. They also drew and painted depictions of mammoths, bison, bears, and other animals. Similar depictions exist around the world. These artists relied first on direct observation and then on their visual memory.
The most basic elements of visual memory are length and angle. Would you like to see how good your visual memory is? Shall we play a game?
There are two kinds of seeing: passive seeing and active seeing. Drawing accurately, whether directly or from your visual memory, requires active seeing.
Success at memory drawing requires more than just the simple habit of regular practice. It requires deliberate practice. Deliberately practicing memory drawing means incorporating a systems approach to your efforts. And that means conquering each discrete problem before moving onto the next.