Saturday, 16 June 2012

Drawing Exercise to Improve Visual Memory

Drawing what is perceived rather than what is seen in front is the enemy of the artist striving for realism. To combat this perceptual imbalance, students may practice drawing an object from life by the use of recall after a short time-lapse.

Art Lesson Activity: Drawing a Picture from Memory

Drawing an object involves looking at the object and then looking down upon the paper in order to record what is seen. Of course, whilst the artist is looking down, the subject matter in front is not longer being looked at. Drawing accurately means retaining what has been seen and transferring this information down onto the paper. But in many cases, a short term visual memory can interfere with the accuracy of the drawing.

How to Get Better at Drawing from Memory

In some cases, the artist forgets to keep looking up at the object, with the result the drawing is sourced more from memory (or what is perceived) than what the eyes see. Inaccuracies in the drawing only become apparent when the drawing is viewed as whole once the drawing has been completed. With this in mind, how can this drawing problem be combated?

Exercise into Drawing Accuracy

Exercising visual memory during the drawing stage can help. This exercise ‘reminds’ students to look at the subject matter in order to retain the visual information whilst looking down onto paper. A simple object or photograph depicting contours may be used initially. The subject matter might be a cup, a glove or even a life model. A photograph might be used instead, which may depict a landscape, an abstract form or something else of interest.

Simple Drawing Exercise

Practicing visual memory entails the following method:
  • Place the visual reference/photo or subject matter in a room.
  • Place the drawing paper outside the room. It might be pinned onto an easel or placed on a table.
  • Instruct students to go into the room where the subject matter is located. Observe a chosen aspect of the object which is to be recorded as the drawing’s first line.
  • Walk out of the room and draw the line observed.
  • Go back into the aforementioned room and observe the next feature of the subject matter.
  • Walk out and draw the next line.
  • Repeat until the drawing is completed.
If accuracy is in question, take another look at the subject matter and correct as necessary. The subject matter may be referred to as many times as necessary but the drawing paper and the subject matter must never be in the same room.

Exercising Visual Memory for Art Schools
Retaining visual memory of contours and features of the subject matter during transit from the room is the point of the exercise. With practice visual retention of what is seen will improve. This means the time lapse between ‘looking’ and laying it down in pencil. Challenge can be provided with more complex subject matter and with increased time lapse –a longer distance to travel between the drawing paper and the subject matter. Of course, never be too ambitious in the first instance.

Articles on Drawing Methods
Exercise on how to draw a sphere
Simple art demo on drawing buildings
How can I erase a mistake from my painting?


  1. That is magnificent how you managed to fully expose the subject which you have chosen for this particular blog entry of yours. BTW did you turn to some alike blog articles as a source of information to fulfill the whole situation that you have published in this blog article?

  2. Hello thanks for the question.
    It was a lesson I remember from years ago. It was so unusual, I decided to adapt it to my own lesson plan and share here.

  3. Do you normally write only for your site or maybe for some other online or offline networks?

    1. Hi
      I used to write for Suite101. Now I write for myself and publish art books on amazon. You can find them easily via links on my sites.