What is Drawing From Memory?

Drawing From Memory is an exercise where you frist study a reference, then put it away and draw what you saw from memory. Then you use the reference to fix the mistakes in your drawing. The next time you draw the same thing, you will notice you retained more of the subject.

It is a great way to practice drawing: you get to learn how things are really constructed, you memorize details about a subject, you improve yourinstincts in getting proportions right, you learn what mistakes you personally typically make, so that you are aware of it, and you can do this exercise even without drawing materials. I have found this exercise to be a Swiss army knife for learnign how to draw subjects, and it is my hope that you enjoy doing this exercise as much as I do.

How does it relate to drawing from observation?

Being able to draw from observation is a big prerequisite skill you need to master first.

Your eyes are bombarded with information, and your brain is constantly simplifying that stream of information into symbols. For example, when you encounter a lion, your brain will tell you that lion will eat you, and to run. It won't stop to carefully study how the light reflects in the fur, the relative proportions of the legs, the overall shape of the body as an abstract shape, et cetera. You'd be eaten registered that detail!

What people usually mean when they say, "I can not draw", is that when they draw, they draw the stereotypical cliche symbols their brain reduced subjects to.

So when you learn to draw, you need to force yourself to start seeing all that detail, and to record all the detail that is really there and which your brain usually filters out. "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards still is the best book on this subject, but we have some exercises in the Beginner Section to help you with that too.

How to do these exercises

The exercises allow you to draw on a tablet, but you can also do most exercises with just a normal pencil and kneaded eraser.

Pick a subject you like to be able to draw, and that you instinctively feel is not too difficult for you, or maybe one that looks slightly too difficult, and then study the image, then draw it from memory, then fix it by looking at the original reference image.

If you think the exercise is too intimidating, try focusing on one aspect of a subject: a detail, the gesture of a pose, or break it up into primitive solids (cubes, spheres, cones or cylinders), or draw the subject first while looking at it in order to get to know it better.

Alternatively, you can also make the exercise more difficult by trying to draw the subject from another angle, imagining what it might look like when seen from a different point. Also, you may try to use a standard 'mannikin' from different angles, and dress the mannikin according to clothes you see on a photo.

You can also select your own image to practice on. And you can also of course go outside and do this exercise by looking at real life subjects!

After each exercise, you can download an image.

How to use the drawing tool

The drawing toolis very basic, because you only need to be able to sketch. You can choose three colors: red, blue and black. White acts like an eraser.

If you click on "whiten", the whole drawing is knocked back (erased) a little. This is useful if you want to refine a drawing, drawing an improved version over the existing drawing.

You can do the same with a simple pencil and use a kneaded erasert0 erase, or to knock back a drawing.


  1. Imagine the thing you're drawing built up from primitive solids like cubes, spheres, cylinders and cones. Consider the encapsulating cubes, and perspective.
  2. Draw through: draw the lines that are occluded, so that you can place elements correctly in space.
  3. Draw confident lines. Try to draw from the shoulder, or the elbow at least. Construct things from straight lines, C-shaped and S-shaped lines.
  4. Knock back the drawing regularly (by pressing 'whiten' few times), and then redraw a refined version of the sketch over that.
  5. Draw the same thing often so that you copy knowledge from your short-term to your long-term memory and so you keep up your hand dexterity.

I started doong Drawing From Memory exercises when I discovered some of my favorite artists had done this in order to become better at drawing. When I started, it immediately blew my mind that I could remember the details I had to draw, even after doing the exercise once.

I created these exercises for my own practice, but it is my hope that you will find it useful too and that i twill help you grow as an artist too.

It is my belief that you can only become good at something if you enjoy doing it, so I would. encourage you to choose exercises that strike your fancy. You can do them in any order. Don't be discouraged if a subject looks difficult to draw. Try it, and surprise yourself!