Sharpening the Mind's Eye
By Barbara Weeks
Let’s face it almost all drawing is, in a way, memory drawing. Whether it’s a past vacation vista or the second it takes to look from your subject to your paper, it’s your mind’s eye holding the image for you to draw.
Develop that eye to keep the image true while you transfer it to the paper.
Do memory exercises – the sharpen your memory the better your drawing.
Here are a few games to get you started
1. The Photo Flip
You can use a photograph or an image from a magazine or newspaper. Choose something in the photo that attracts you. Study and simplify your chosen image carefully but quickly, twenty seconds tops. Now, flip the photo over and draw what you remember. Try it again with the same photo, this time study it for ten seconds. How much more did you remember?
One of my favorite books on drawing is The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides (1891-1938) and one of my favorite quotes from the book is:
“Try not to remember merely the position of the model, just as when you memorize a poem you are not just trying to memorize just the shapes of the letters.”
2. Quick Sips
Go to a cafe, a sporting event, or really anywhere people gather. Choose someone to draw. Observe them carefully. You won’t be able to control the amount of time you have since they will move. You can count on that! Now draw what you remember. Wait a bit and you’ll find they’ll return to the same pose again and again. Draw them again. And again. How do your sketches compare? While you're waiting for them to return to the same pose choose another subject and use the same techniques.
3. Red Light Green Light
When you’re a passenger in a car and the car stops for a red light observe what you see out the window. When the light turns green sketch what you saw. (Sometimes as a variation I may just see how long I can hold the afterimage in my mind.)
|Bison, Yellowstone National Park|
4. No Erasers Allowed
Rather than do a new sketch for each observation in these exercises try them by drawing over/correcting your original sketch.
Another quote from Nicolaides
“Memory drawing is a little like touch typing. If you try consciously to think of where the letters are you are likely to become confused, but if you rely on your sense of touch you can become very accurate.”
Powerful observational skills and a strong visual memory are a tremendous skills for an Urban Sketcher who shares a view of a fast moving world. Practicing observation and memory skills will improve your on location sketching.
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