Your Mind’s Eye

Article by Darren Rousar.


Does your mind’s eye see? If I asked you to close your eyes and visualize your kitchen, would you see anything in your mind’s eye? Although most people do, some may not. And if you who do, what you are ‘seeing’ is not actually a sensation on your retina. Rather, what you’re visualizing is more akin to guided imagination.

That guide is a combination of your visual memory with your foreknowledge of how the visual world is constructed. Memory drawing seeks to improve the former so that you have to rely less on the latter. That is important because construction knowledge is all about generalities. You want your visual memory to be specific.


When your eyes are open light reflects off of surfaces and into your retinas. That’s how you see, and when they are closed that is impossible. But might it be possible that the result in the brain when seeing with your mind’s eye is somewhat similar?

A definitive answer may elude us. When our eyes are closed we ‘see’ different things and although we might both agree to be objective, neither can scientifically prove that in the other.

What occurs with memory drawing images is a little different. When our sources are identical, our resulting drawing should be nearly identical. This fact strongly suggests that each of us are capable of ‘seeing’ the same thing in our mind’s eye.

The question then becomes, what form do the images in your mind’s eye take?


Those who have little memory drawing experience subconsciously resort to calculations and/or construction when making their attempts. Calculating and constructive foreknowledge may seem similar but they are radically different.

Let’s begin with construction. One version involves mentally reducing everything to basic forms such as cubes, spheres, etc. That’s not memory drawing. Having said that, unlike when practicing, during real-world situations you’ll make use of every tool you have – including construction if necessary.

On the other hand, calculation involves mentally rehearsing what you actually saw. A glass of water might be reduced to a cylinder, but what about the specific glass you saw. What were the angles of its sides? How about the difference between the top and bottom? Were those two ellipsis identical? And on it goes.

Calculating is not only allowed, it’s expected.


Those who have more experience with memory drawing often succeed in imaging the scene they memorized. Of course their retina’s are not registering the image. Nevertheless, the experience is quite similar.

That’s actually what you’re working towards when memory drawing. And although we say ‘see’, having an ‘experience’ might be the more accurate description. That’s what happens when your mind’s eye is trained. You end up visualizing the image and then comparing the visualization that is in your mind’s eye with your attempt at drawing it.

In my case, I often notice errors in my drawing from memory in a way that’s difficult to explain. Those areas just don’t feel correct. Do I literally see the difference between the two? Mostly no. Instead, I usually have a strong sense that one or another area of the drawing is wrong.

If you act on those feelings or senses enough times when practicing you’ll end up trusting them. That’s assuming you have feedback that proves the impression.

A Blind Mind’s Eye

Earlier I asked you to imagine your kitchen. If you’re one of the few who cannot do that, you might have something called Aphantasia, which is the inability to visualize. It rare and one that is also difficult for researchers to prove.

If you have Aphantasia, or believe that you do, don’t fret. You can still take advantage of the calculation aspects of your memory. Furthermore, here’s a site dedicated to the affliction.

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