For this lesson we are going back to some of the basics, sort of an advanced refresher.
One of the problems with creating your own source images is that randomness is very difficult to achieve. This is because our arms and hands, over time, naturally redound to certain motions.
Try this experiment:
Take a sheet of paper and a pencil.
Now, scribble on it, back and forth.
Use another sheet and do it again.
Unless you specifically tried to scribble differently from the first one, your second one likely looked quite similar to the first. Your mind knows this and, like I mentioned in my book, your mind also remembers what it has previously drawn.
That was a roundabout way to get to my point: to improve your visually memory you need to use images which you do not expect to see. For that, randomness is exactly what we need.*
Take a look at the post’s image, above. Notice that it is a natural silhouette. Nature, though not really random up close, at a distance can appear that way. That silhouette is an example of what in some schools is called the arabesque. This is defined as a sinuous line which runs through a picture. In a painting this is designed in, intentionally. In nature it is given to us, in part, by how we artificially crop the scene.
Using a ruler or a length of string, measure the height and width of the picture. Draw that rectangle on a sheet of paper.
Stare at the image for a few minutes. Try to take note of the placement of the trees, relative to each other and also to the ground. Look at the slope, as well as the larger negative spaces.
When the time is up, hide the browser and and try to draw the arabesque within the box you drew earlier. Do your best to draw the shape on a 1:1 scale. After your attempt, compare it with the photo. Take note of your mistakes and repeat one or two more times today.
Tomorrow, do the same with the image below. Feel free to ignore the smaller aspects of the abstract shapes. Rather, concentrate on the big look and the arabesque.
On the third day, go back to the first image and repeat the initial instructions.
On the fourth day, do the same with the image, below. This time, however, your task is more difficult. Although the reflection in the water is fuzzy, due to the reeds, do your best to memorize the shape of the large reflection as well as the shape of the trees in the skyline.
This is a great exercise to do every so often, preferably when directly in front of the scene itself.
Looking towards the sun, approaching sunrise or sunset, are the best times and place because things are naturally silhouetted. Even if you regularly have the time to do this on site, it would be good to build up a resource folder of photographic source images for yourself. One could easily use the camera on your cellphone, as I did for the bottom two photos. Having the photos allows you to check for accuracy and that is a critical aspect of this exercise.
*This brings up the subject of construction and memory, for which I may do a post at some point in the future. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a teaser. As important as having an understanding of construction, anatomy, and perspective is, approaching memory training by relying on those elements is limiting your potential. In fact, it may not be training your memory at all.