Deliberate Practice

Article by Darren Rousar.

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.

The Wrong Way to Practice

Before we get to deliberately practicing memory drawing, we should look at the wrong way to practice.

Imagine wanting to be a classical musician, having never played an instrument nor learned how to read music. You wouldn’t even think of beginning the process of learning by going straight to Beethoven’s Fifth!

But that’s how some people approach drawing (as well as memory drawing): as a performance. They immediately attempt a portrait or figure from a live model or photograph without first learning each skill that goes into effectively doing it.

Practice is Not Performance

Back to that piano analogy. Instead of beginning at the end (which again is more appropriately called performance), you would begin with simple scales on a piano, perfect your skill with that, and then move onto the next skill. Eventually all those skills would be tied together and you would learn simple pieces of music, and so on. All of that is called practice, and practice is what the habit of memory drawing is.

Deliberate Practice

For practice to be the most beneficial it needs to be deliberate. Deliberate practice of any intended skill requires five things:

  1. You must be motivated.
  2. You must build on the foundations you already possess.
  3. You must practice one thing at a time.
  4. You must get feedback during and after practice.
  5. You must be persistent.

Let’s unpack those.


That you are reading this article implies that you are at least somewhat motivated. How deep that motivation runs within you will affect your success with memory drawing.

Pre-Existing Foundation

Relative to our subject, you can see (more or less accurately) and you already posses some form of visual memory. It is those skills that you will begin with.

One Thing at a Time

One does not succeed at the practice of memory drawing by beginning with something like a scene of a rainbow over a mountain gorge, or a full figure nude. Rather, improving your visual memory will occur much faster if you separate the various aspects of seeing into individual areas of study. That’s why memory drawing practice often begins with simple line segments and shapes.


Feedback is the process of comparing what you’ve done to a predetermined standard. Relative to memory drawing, the standard is whatever source you’re trying to draw from memory. To be effective, however, the source needs to be static and available so that you can compare your efforts to it.

Are You Present?

As mentioned, to succeed with memory drawing it needs to become a habit and you need to be present at each lesson. I mean this in two ways:

  1. You must physically show up (that’s the habit issue again).
  2. You must mentally show up (which means actively seeing).

Supplementary Information

Making the Most of Every Glance - An Introduction to Memory Drawing - Cover

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