Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A Lion and a Fish from Memory


Seen on our morning walk.
For a while, I had been practicing drawing from memory during life-drawing sessions by studying the model intently for half the pose duration and then covering up the screen while I drew. Since then I’ve been practicing in another way: Studying something with the intention of drawing it several hours later.

Shown here is an example that began on a morning walk. We spotted an inflatable lion in someone’s yard. I didn’t spend as much time looking at it as I should have. When I sketched it in my scribble journal that evening, I realized I had only a vague notion of its shape; the lion’s expression was mostly from my imagination because I couldn’t recall details with clarity (below).

12/3/20 Attempt 1 from memory: Not enough observation.

12/5/20 Attempt 2: Better, but still missing prominent details.

12/9/20 Sketched from direct observation.
A couple of days later, I looked at the lion again, this time by observing it more closely and at length (above). I must have spent a couple of minutes studying its details. I did so by describing characteristics to myself with words: “The red Santa hat with white brim and pom-pom is hanging to the right.” That evening I made a larger sketch than I had previously so that I could work on more details. Even with additional observation time, I didn’t get the shape of the lion’s face or mane – and I totally missed the fact that the mane was brown.

Several days later, I finally sketched the lion from direct observation (at left). (I didnt color the mane brown, but that was a conscious choice  not because I didnt observe it.)

Another example was the Seattle Fish Guys logo (below). Since it’s one of the primary places we have been getting takeout foods during the pandemic, I see the Fish Guys logo frequently – at the store, on packaging, on their website and on social media. I would recognize it even from a distance, and yet, when I tried to visualize it, the image was vague.

Seattle Fish Guys logo

12/30/20 Logo sketched from memory.

One day I had a long wait outside the store while my order was being prepared. Prominently displayed above their door, the logo was easy to study for several minutes. Again, I tried to help myself recall details by describing them with words in my mind: “The colors are blue and turquoise. The fish’s body is made of cursive letters spelling ‘fish.’ The fish is facing right. ‘Seattle’ is in block letters above the fish, and ‘Guys’ is below.” I recalled most of the general details when I drew the logo that evening, but I couldn’t recall if it was in a circle or an oval.

Like most things, drawing from memory should become easier and more accurate with regular practice. Let’s see if that’s true.


  1. I think sketching from memory is harder than it sounds. I'm lucky I can sketch what I'm actually seeing. I sometimes miss a prominent part of something I'm sketching. Looking at the object and visualizing it with words is a good idea.

    1. I've always thought that drawing from memory would be challenging, but until I actively started practicing it, I didn't realize how hard it would be!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...