Memory Drawing Prompt 1

Article by Darren Rousar.

mdp-001-pairOn the left, the memory drawing Prompt (Corot’s Shepherd Under the Trees). On the right, the memory drawing of it.

There is no doubt that having a trained visual memory is a great benefit for representational artists. This website exists to reinforce that statement. Proof, however, is best experienced personally and so this article begins an extended series of memory drawing Prompts. If you choose to participate you’ll discover not only how important your visual memory is, you will also see why training it is necessary.

What are Memory Drawing Prompts?

Memory drawing Prompts are images that you’ll attempt to memorize and then draw from that memory. The point is to regularly exercise your visual memory. It is not to retain the images in your memory indefinitely.

The images used are mostly landscape and still life paintings, and simple photographs. Using landscapes will help you to avoid reliance on previous knowledge of the subject and/or a formula for drawing it.

Each Prompt contains two round buttons. One is labeled ‘Look’ and the other ‘Show’. Beneath the buttons is the week’s Prompt image, though you’ll not see it until you click one of the buttons. The ‘Look’ button reveals the week’s Prompt image for a set period of time (usually 40 seconds). Once that duration completes, the image disappears. The ‘Show’ button reveals the image without a timer.

This article is week 1 of 52 weeks of Prompts. Originally, a new Prompt was posted every Monday and those who had subscribed were emailed a link to the new Prompt each Monday morning. Since the sequence of Prompts has now completed, so have the Prompt emails. As such, you’ll need to be proactive and choose your own Prompt from the list here each Monday.


Furthering my intention to avoid making this a course is that beyond this initial article there will be no specific instruction given. That said, in case someone stumbles upon one of the Prompts and misses this one I will provide directions at the start of each.

To make use of the Prompts you’ll need some paper, ideally cut or ruled into 3″ x 4 3/4″ rectangles (one rectangle per prompt). You’ll also need charcoal or pencil, and an eraser.

The directions are as follows.

  1. Have your rectangle, drawing instrument, and eraser ready.
  2. Click the ‘Look’ button.
  3. While the image is on screen, stare at it.
    • Initially think about the simple shapes that define the image.
    • Squint, and try to see two to five main values.
    • As you’re doing both, pay special attention to how the shapes, and values relate to each other.
  4. Once the timer’s duration ends, begin your memory drawing.
    • Keep your drawing simple.
    • Lightly draw the main shapes first.
    • Then flatly mass-in the main values.
  5. After you think your memory drawing is complete, click the ‘Show’ button so that you can compare your attempt to the source image.

Whether you do the Prompt only once in a given week or more often is up to you. Again, the intent is to exercise your visual memory rather than to memorize an image for the long term.

At the top of this article you can see an example of what you’re attempting. It represents what a memory drawing from a novice might look like. Notice how I’ve simplified the values into a single light and a single dark. Notice too what I’ve left out. As you progress you’ll be better able to observe and remember more.

If you’re ready, let’s begin.

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

Making the Most of Every Glance

A FREE Introduction to Memory Drawing!

You can begin making the most of every glance today!

Submitting the form also subscribes you to the Memory Drawing mailing list.Your privacy is as important to me as is my own.
I'll never give out your information and you can unsubscribe anytime. See the site's privacy policy.