This has been bugging me for a while, and I've never met anyone in the same boat as me.
To be short: I don't have a visual memory. As in, I can't visualize things with any kind of detail. The best that I can manage with my mind's eye is a vague blotting of color and form, sorta like someone with glaucoma or cataracts (I would assume). I mean, I can't even visualize what my own mom looks like in my head enough to draw her, though I could describe her to you no problem. If anything, I visualize things spatially (which makes me rather good at sculpture), but perceiving all 3 dimensions at once makes for poor 2D art - think Picasso-esque anatomy by default.
I have great regular eyesight and can draw from life quite well, but drawing from my imagination is like pulling teeth. I've been at it for years, but my from-memory anatomy is still terrible, I have no concept of how color works, and I'll be damned if I could draw the same thing more than once - even from different angles. I feel like it's really held me back in my development as an illustrator.
Does anyone else have this problem? How have you learned to work with it? It's damned frustrating and I'm curious to know if I'm the only fool who insists on pursuing art regardless of this hurdle.
i have always been able to draw stuff from my mind...as long as it is not ultra realistic stuff. i would not be able to draw my mother in full detail witheout a reference either and i think most artists cannot do that. portrait drawers usually draw from pictures or models as well.
when it comes down to making portraits or body art..there is no shame in using reference pictures to get things right i think.....
Another Vermonter here myself. As for your question on memory drawing and anatomy, I used to have that issue. Generally, it's not always easy to draw straight from the head because of the blank mental state. It's almost like 'unconscious writing' as you go along.
However, one trick is to close your eyes, relax and visualize and if the image comes up, it should. In most cases, visual reference is the best way to practice from and develop a visual vocabulary.
Sometimes being tense can cause the mind to freeze and not have any images to work from. As for color, don't try to master it overnight . Start with the simpler color wheel scheme and then build it to more complicated mixed colors. Once you get to that point, your mind will know what it's looking for or what it aims to see.
I mean, I can't even visualize what my own mom looks like in my head enough to draw her, though I could describe her to you no problem.
Just thought I'd mention that what you're describing there is really hard to do. I somewhat doubt a lot of the good artists around here could even tackle that one. Memorizing someone's unique facial proportions/angles is very difficult.
Hell, I've got a hard enough time getting a likeness with a model right in front of me.
Wow... I guess I hang around too many people with near-photographic memory. I also have really high standards for myself (unreasonably high), so that's probably a huge part of my perceived "problem."
That and the amazing illustrators of this community are damned intimidating (I often use their stuff as reference material, along with photo refs). I feel like a peasant when I lurk the Finished forum.
Yeah I think you're expecting too much of yourself! Even when I try to draw a self portrait- something I see every day- It's still usually a hit or a miss. Just try to really SEE things more often, don't just look at them. In the analogy of a vocabulary, just looking at some ones face is just like looking at a word, but analyzing is like opening the dictionary. haha that came out cornier than i expected.
"A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed [[Sketchbook]]
Yeah, what Chris is saying! To keep even a bit of the visual data in your head, you gotta keep seeing it, keep drawing it in your mind as you look at it. Oh, and since you mentioned intimidation and such, I learned that stresses can really hurt your memory. o_o They sure hurt mine!
Perhaps you need some strong visual cues to help you out, as well as refs. Just try not to rush yourself in remembering different things. That's another stress! Good luck!
Thanks, guys! Another thing I was wondering - how about kinesthetic memory? I think its really cool when my hand (on its own, sometimes) seems to just know where to go, like I could draw something with my eyes closed, when I'm practiced enough at something.
Illustration isn't about knowing every detail before the pencil touches down. It is about over time resolving problems and adding detail section by section. For portraiture you always need a reference. For realistic looking images from your head, it isn't about memorizing the whole puzzle at once, it is about understanding how each piece fits together and filling in the blanks between the ones you are making up sheerly via the solutions you have found in the past and utilizing them in the new work.
I could never draw my mother photo realistically from memory, however I could draw a photorealistic image given enough time. Each portion of the image is simply a problem to be solved, nothing more.
You are always drawing from memory or imagination. The only difference between drawing from something in front of you and 'from your imagination' is one of time:
The moment you take your eyes off the subject and onto the paper you are drawing from a memory seconds old.
When you draw 'from imagination' that memory is anything from a couple of seconds to many years old.
The fact is that if you do not draw from imagination you will not synthesise the various bits of formal information that each glance provides you with when drawing from the subject itself. It will merely be a collection of unrelated details.