Procedural memory drawing
I was watching a show that talked about Henry Gustav Molaison having part of his brain removed for epilepsy, led scientist to discover implicit memory. This quote found about halfway down the page of this site barely explains Explicit and implicit memories. (Also this mirror tracing activity )
So Implicit memories, also called Procedural memory is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, particularly the use of objects or movements of the body, such as playing a guitar or riding a bike.
Explicit and implicit memories
Brenda Milner did a famous experiment in which H.M. learned to trace a five-pointed star reflected in a mirror. So this man who couldn't form long-term memories seemed to learn something. What were the implications?
That was a groundbreaking finding, really, because it showed that memory—what we call declarative or explicit memory, where you're consciously remembering something—was supported by this little area in the middle part of the temporal lobes that Scoville removed. But because Henry could do mirror tracing and a lot of other motor-skill learning tasks, the message was, there are other brain areas that are doing this work.
This fostered a huge amount of research to discover what areas support motor-skill learning and other kinds of learning without awareness. It turns out that very different parts of the brain support different kinds of learning.
Then, looking at Greg Manchess' post about tracing he said he really had to focus and it helped his memorization skills. It seems almost the same type of memory as H.M. was learning?
I was thinking this same approach could be done to drawing. Is there ever any exercises where your tracing some sort of stock character, such as this Loomis drawing over and over with this idea in mind? I see sketchbooks on here where the student is copying the same Loomis drawing a "few" times, but never the same drawing 50 or 100 times. Wouldn't it make sense that slow focused tracing of the same drawings would prove BIG results? Has there ever been any theories about this, experiments or individuals that have tried this? Any information relevant to this?
Last edited by Bowlin; September 30th, 2012 at 06:38 AM.
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I don't think Loomis' materials would the best for this sort of thing. Teachers like Loomis and Bridgman are all about construction ideas and methods that are meant to be applied, flexibly, to reality. Take for instance Loomis' ball and plane head construction-- re the "ball," at one point he tells us to "add a little" to the back of the ball to make it look more like a cranium.
How would you slavishly "add a little" in a way that was productive via tracing? The techniques are ideas that are meant to break down complex data and make life drawing and memory drawing simpler and more efficient.
Now, drawing Loomis balls and other construction ideas on newspaper photos, either directly or through tracing paper, is a productive exercise in relating the system to reality. But, I'm not sure how much "vain repetition" would be useful in doing this!
This would be an exercise that would be separate and on top of Loomis's construction ideas. You don't have to use Loomis, but someone else's stylized stock characters if you want. You could create your own simplified stock figures from photographs or from life you've observed yourself and trace them. The point is using this exercise to help develop your drawing skills more precisely, accurately from memory in addition to other drawing exercises. Like Greg Manchess pointed out in no. 8...
But I've never seen or read exercises where you repetitively draw the same figure, many times, then another angle and so on. Much like learning cursive in the third grade. Tracing and copying the letters over and over, till your trying to figure out what to write instead of thinking how to draw the letters. Trying to convert it to procedural memory.
As I trained with tracing, I used it less and less. It instantly improved my drawing skills, especially drawing from my head. It improved my memorization skills, but I had to focus on it. The next time you draw from life, you’ll understand what you learned from tracing. The next time you trace, you’ll understand more from your life drawing. Back and forth, back and forth. --What? Did you think there was a straight line to skill? C’mon.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying but I would think looking at a Loomis head, to take that example, and drawing it until you understand it would come a great deal quicker, and be much more relevant and beneficial, than tracing the head repeatedly and expecting (or hoping for) some sort of subconscious learning to take place (and one that not only memorizes it exactly but somehow makes you understand how to apply it intelligently...). Plus, it's not like memorizing a particular Loomis head (or any similar thing) is some wildly evasive achievement. If you are at a point where you're comfortable drawing, where you can look at a line drawing and copy it from sight, I don't see how one could be searching for an answer like the one mentioned in the article. At that comfortable point I feel like it's not difficult to memorize things. If you're having trouble memorizing something like a particular Loomis head at that point I feel the issue can't be one of limited memory, it can't be that you're struggling to hold it in mind, but rather a problem of not actually understanding what you're trying to hold in mind.
To me, to memorize anything precisely seems to be a simple matter of first understanding what I'm seeing (and in the case of line drawings that's usually clear) and then just making a few copies from sight, constructing it like you would any drawing. Then you hide it all away, draw from memory, then you compare and see where it differs, see what you've understood and what you haven't understood. Then with those differences in mind you draw again from sight and then again from memory. Then you repeat a few times and soon enough you have what you want. And this doesn't require 50 - 100 drawings, nor does it require weeks, it can often be achieved in less than a day and can probably be done in as little as 5 - 10 drawings. But then after that, after the weeks go by, you of course have to use that information, you have to keep it in mind, make use of it in your drawing and make it meaningful to you, or otherwise it goes away. That seems to me a great deal simpler than what you're proposing, or do you disagree? And unless I in fact have some rare/magical brain, this is basically all it takes anyone once they reach a certain level of comfort with drawing.
I really cannot think of anything where it's going to make more sense or be quicker to trace 50 - 100 times instead of just drawing from sight and understanding through actual drawing. Even if you're an beginner I don't think it'll be useful, you'll just be learning the order of series of lines - you wont understand the construction or how it exists in space, etc, etc.
H.M. was unable to make new memories. Every day he believed he just woke up from surgery and you had to reintroduce yourself to him. They had him trace a star which seemed like a new exercise to him every day. But he learned how to draw it better every day. This is where they figured out you can learn motor skills and other kinds of learning without awareness. This is implicit memory.
Originally Posted by Grosby
I agree with what your saying and getting at. That's why I was using cursive writing as an example. When you were in the third grade you would trace the shapes of the letters and then down below it draw it free hand and repeat the exercise over and over. Eventually it became implicit memory.
Originally Posted by Grosby
So here's the thing...we know what it takes to develop strong drawing skills...it has been pretty well understood for 600 years or so, since breakthroughs in understanding perspective and the development of the European academies. If there was a better way, or a particular method of study that produced results it would have developed and come into practice. Don't make it harder or more complicated than necessary.
Bowlin--the only thing you learn from tracing is how to ape the contours of what it is you’re tracing--nothing more. Drawing is not as superficial a skill as your method would make it out to be.
Prepare for the tracing thread and everyone to bring up Neil Adams.
Er... excuse me .... as Elwell would say .... "Neil Fucking Adams"
You use every tool that you can to learn, and if tracing helps, use it. I've found it useful in the past. There is no wrong or right way to learn if it gets you results.
Currently doing the Level Up course, so my SB is going to be lonely
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I've never traced or thought of using it to help learn either. I had the same idea, but this Greg Manchess post:
Originally Posted by bill618
...made me think about it differently.
Tracing helps people with line drawings and accurate proportions, tracing doesn't help with shading and coloring and rendering.So trace all you want but if what you do with the traced line drawing doesn't match the ability you have when you render, it won't help you, it just makes your other inabilities more obvious. The reason guys like Manchess and Adams can do it is it doesn't improve their work it allows it to be made faster.
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Yeah, I agree with what your saying, but Manchess did say in that post, "I used it to train my drawing skills and improve them."
I understand and totally agree with where your coming from. Like Rockwell understood how to draw from observation but used a projector to help speed up his process. How else could he have made a billion detailed paintings.
The ways to use tracing to help learn does seem bizarre.
Although I don’t find tracing to be a particularly useful learning aid for drawing, I find the practice in reverse can be an eye opener for a lot of people. Draw a figure from a photo ref as accurately as possible and then, if drawn digitally, bring the ref into the drawing file and size it to the drawing to see how accurately the drawing conforms to the reference image. That’s a learning experience that exposes the idiosyncrasies that lead you astray in your observational assessment of a subject.
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