Begin here and here if this is new to you.


For this week’s exercise we will continue to use actual objects. However, rather than using one object, like we did for the last two weeks, this week we’ll use a number of objects. That’s why I’ve used a still life by Chardin as the example image.

Before we go on I should note that as a student, memory drawing work should never outpace direct observational drawing and painting. Although Degas and Corot might disagree, if all you have time to do is draw or paint from life, do it. This is especially true if you’re figure drawing or painting. Many former students have lamented the fact that they no longer have the opportunity to do regular figure work. Take advantage of it when you can.

Furthermore, try to take some time in the evening to draw from memory those things which you drew from life during the day. It will be time very well spent.

Those who have read my book, Memory Drawing: Perceptual Training and Recall, will no doubt understand that perception is at the heart of memory. As I’ve said in previous posts, we can perceive in a number of ways. We can use our knowledge of forms, anatomy, etc., to guide our perception which then guides our memory. Or, we can try to perceive the object(s) or scene in an un-biased way, shunning formula. Clearly I lean towards the latter but don’t mistake my leanings. Preference does not have to be dogmatic, and in my case it is not.

That said, this week we return to perfecting our abilities to gather sight-impressions. Take a look at the Chardin for a moment. Squint down to the point where you can no longer make out the knife on the edge of the table. Notice the larger patterns of light and shade. Get your sketchbook and try to directly sketch what you’re seeing, not from your memory but from the painting on the screen. Again, squint down to the point where most of the detail is gone. This kind of seeing and result is what we are after.

Next, set up a small group of objects, under a single light source. Try to position the objects in a way where they visually overlap. Perhaps have one object on its own. Stare and squint at the scene for five to ten minutes, paying attention to the main values and how those shapes interlock. Then try to draw it from memory. When drawing, feel free to outline the objects but remember that you are trying to recall the main masses of value, not individual objects.

All along I have required that you pursue accuracy of shape. This week, if something needs to slide, let it be shape rather than value. Of course, nailing both is the goal.

For the following day, and the next, and so on, rearrange the objects and do a new memory sketch. Once again, take a photo of each setup to keep as a record of your exercise source.