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Kim Jung Gi is a rarity.
Twinkle, twinkle little star
I don't wonder what you are
For by spectroscopic ken
I know that you are hydrogen - Ian D.
Last I checked, Kim Jung Ji does a shit-ton of drawings every day and has done for years and years. THAT'S why he can do what he does. Not because he came out of the womb with a magic pencil in his hand.
And I HATE it when people say "oh you're so talented!" or worse "you must be gifted!" As though there was no work involved. Never assume people haven't worked to get to the point where drawing seems effortless, because they almost certainly have.
I've had quite a few students showing exceptional drawing ability at a young age, and I absolutely agree with the OP that their "secret" is an unusually strong visual memory. That doesn't mean that this visual memory is an innate ability, it probably just means that they started training it early. Australian artist Norman Lindsay recalled how as a child he would go out into the farmyard and see what "manner of beast" was about, and then go inside and draw them from memory. Late in life he still considered that this was the best way to learn to draw.
Fortunately adults can still improve their visual memory, and such study has been a recurrent theme in the training of artists (see the Stapleton Kearns blog post that the OP linked to). Degas' idea that in an art school the beginning students should paint at easels on the first floor from a model on the fourth floor was repeated almost verbatim by both Harold Speed and Robert Henri. Kimon Nicolaides stresses memory drawing in The Natural Way to Draw, with valuable exercises on drawing one and then multiple gestures from memory, and drawing a "daily composition" of figures in an environment from memory. He even has a gentle variation on Degas' idea, in which you draw with your easel facing away from the model.
Ultimately though the best way to strengthen your visual memory is to try to use it a bit more in every drawing you do. Whenever you catch yourself just "looking and putting", stop and make the effort to memorize a larger array of information. Know what you are drawing.
However, if we consider for a moment Burne Hogarth's figures in Dynamic Figure Drawing, re which Hogarth boasts(?) were NOT drawn from life or from any "morgue." I think we begin to see the outer extremes of memory drawing.
Frankly, I find the Hogarth drawings to be stiff, bulbous and weird-- pneumatic looking things that appear to be covered with soot! And, history, from the interwebs, has it that Hogarth inherited the Tarzan gig from Hal Foster by. . . wait for it. . . submitting samples that. . . looked a helluva lot like Foster's work! (Which, one would assume, he produced by slavishly reffing from Foster rather than trusting to memory!)
Fine, but I'm talking about memorizing your subject, not about applying memorized schema to your subject.
My own view is that talent at drawing (and thereby painting) is not proportional to aptitude of visual memory.
It is to do with the ability to synthesise optical phenomena into pattern. This is precisely what a camera does not do.
I'm not talking about 'posterizing' either. I'm talking about deep gestalt pattern synthesis. The ability to invent and write in a graphic code simultaneously.
One has to accept that certain minds 'are wired up' to do this more fluently than others - these are the people who show talent at a very early age. I didn't practice drawing more than other kids when I was 5 or 15 - I could just 'do it' and couldn't understand why the entire rest of the class couldn't.
What happens when you are daft enough to take it up as a career, is that your ideas about how to apply this talent become sophisticated. And to make your talent a faithful, truthful and obedient servant of that... requires WORK! (beit visual memory, structure, art history... and above all, figuring out what you want to say and marshalling a visual vocabulary and a grammer to execute it)
Last edited by Chris Bennett; October 25th, 2012 at 04:31 AM.
This is exactly what I was looking for. Couldn't have said it better.
Thanks for that briggsy
I believe strengthening your visual memory will help in many aspects of drawing, and fortunately, you can improve it. And by drawing you are already improving your visual memory. There are, however, specific ways to try to improve.
I wish I could express my thoughts through words like that. My english is a mess, so this doesn't help either.
So why one improves visual memory just by drawing? One of the aspects is because it becomes easier to remember things as you improve more.
Harold Speed said it better:
The ease, therefore, with which a painter will be able to remember an impression in a form from which he can work, will depend upon his power to analyse vision in this technical sense. The more one knows about what may be called the anatomy of picture-making—how certain forms produce certain effects, certain colours or arrangements other effects, &c.—the easier will it be for him to carry away a visual memory of his subject that will stand by him during the long hours of his labours at the picture. The more he knows of the expressive powers of lines and tones, the more easily will he be able to observe the vital things in nature that convey the impression he wishes to memorise.The faculty of doing this is not to be acquired all at once, but it is amazing of how much development it is capable. Just as the faculty of committing to memory long poems or plays can be developed, so can the faculty of remembering visual things.This subject has received little attention in art schools until just recently.
Last edited by pegasi; October 25th, 2012 at 06:09 AM.
People that have an aptitude for math have to work hard to learn, but they process the information and analize it faster than others. Same goes on with every theme.
I see we're about to get into the usual conversation on "talent", aren't we... We've BEEN through this. What it comes down to in any talent is that some people naturally enjoy a thing, so they focus on it from an early age, so yeah, they get good at it early on. Regardless of how so-called "talent" operates, it is a TOTAL WASTE OF TIME to obsess over one's own or others apparent "talent" or lack thereof. Moving on...
Back on topic. Visual memory can be learned, though as with most skills related to drawing, I doubt there's any one "correct" way to learn it. I picked it up partly from necessity - being in situations where I wanted to draw something but didn't have time, so I learned how to "capture" things - and partly through years of classes with Dave Passalacqua, who was big on fast gestures and drawing people in motion.
For me, I find that heavy reliance on memory is pretty much the only way to really draw fast-moving subjects. In order to draw something in motion, I have to be looking at it with my full concentration - it's hard to describe, but it's like focusing all my attention on a thing and grabbing a mental snapshot, and then either jotting it down while it's fresh in my memory (this has the best results,) or continuing to visualize it for a few seconds in order to "fix" it into memory, and then actively recalling it periodically until I get a chance to sketch it out. If I don't take the time to "fix" it, and if I don't re-visualize it periodically, the memory can fade pretty fast.
And yes, this sort of "active looking" can be strenuous. But once you get going, it's also pretty exhilarating. I could do it for hours on a good day. Also, it does require regular practice to stay in shape. I've been doing it for years, but on some occasions I've slacked off and done less of it, and if I slack, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick it up again.
Interestingly, this process is very similar to remembering dreams, which also takes practice - as soon as you start to drift awake, you grab the ghost of a dream, focus on it, and fix it in memory; then you bring it back and review it at intervals until you can set it down. That's something I've been doing for decades. I'd recommend it for general memory exercise.
HOWEVER - memory - any memory - is subject to change and internal editing. There was a study recently suggesting that every time you recall something in memory, it gets changed just a tiny bit, and over time memories can end up being completely different from what they were originally. Hence why people can have ridiculous arguments with their family about who did what on that crazy trip they took ten years ago... SO. Thats where it helps to reinforce memory with fresh direct observation on a regular basis.
I suspect the best way to learn to draw is by combining both memory and direct observation. Work from memory sometimes, work directly from observation sometimes, mix it up sometimes. The memorization helps strengthen your ability to observe, and the direct observation helps correct any tendency to drift toward schematic ideals and also strengthens your ability to observe accurately. At least, that's been my experience so far.
And yes, I'm still learning.
Last edited by QueenGwenevere; October 25th, 2012 at 09:05 AM.
Yes, but there's a point where your OP comes off as excuses.
The point is you were talking about how you were frustrated because you couldn't copy the other drawing exactly. My point is yes it's there but at a certain point and as Chris (and others have said) it's about practice. You wanted to blame youth. You should be looking at experience. A young brain has other concerns going on than just visual memory. That's why it's false to assume "youth" gives you a head start.
There are some things people do better than others...but to offer a counterpoint about "visual memory"
I'm not looking for a easy way, a shortcut..whatever. I'm looking to discuss this topic with more experienced people.
The fact is I believe anyone who has a good visual memory, being young or old, having trained their visual memory or not, if they have it, they can copy any photo or image with accuracy. That's about it.
We've got so many interesting points of view already..please continue on topic.
Yes, good read. Totally agree.I suspect the best way to learn to draw is by combining both memory and direct observation. Work from memory sometimes, work directly from observation sometimes, mix it up sometimes. The memorization helps strengthen your ability to observe, and the direct observation helps correct any tendency to drift toward schematic ideals and also strengthens your ability to observe accurately. At least, that's been my experience so far.
Drawing is not the same as observing.
Example: My friend I go into a room and look at a table with various objects for a certain period of time. We both walk out and are told to draw it.
I can remember more objects on a table than my friend. He may draw a table more accurately than me because he's drawing much more. He is better at mark making because of how much he's done it. He understands perspective better.
Memorizing what is in front of you is not the same as "learning to see" As I posted in that video - there's a part where you have to remove yourself from "argument from ignorance" and symbolism. The drawing you're trying to copy you see a face, nose eyes and wrinkles. A person learning to see is learning how to construct the face away from symbolism. They learn about how to accurately judge distances, learn form, edges, mark making etc...they want to view the face as a whole. One artist may leave out a pimple or hair, because they're trying to get the overall look. Another may focus on those details but still may not make accurate mark making.
When one uses their visual library it is from a lot of observation. I may know what kind of metal and how it reacts because I've studied, and looked at the same metal under different conditions to see how it works. I look at a towel rack with the same metal. I learn how to construct it with combination of observation and study (similar to scientists learning how to construct events and theory).
Learning to observe as an artist goes with learning how to draw. Just having a good visual memory can be totally irrelevant if you don't know how to draw.
Last edited by Arshes Nei; October 25th, 2012 at 10:13 AM.
Even thought I agree with some things you say, I don't agree with everything.
This is true. But if the visual memory of the person is strong enough, then it is possible to memorize distances,form,edges etc.A person learning to see is learning how to construct the face away from symbolism. They learn about how to accurately judge distances, learn form, edges, mark making etc
It's like tracing a photo. Anybody can trace, you just need to follow the contours of the photo with your pencil.
A person with a strong visual memory is doing the same, only the tracing occurs from the visual memory your brain retains. (this is not draftsmanship. Its literally copying what you see.)
And this can be trained. Even thought it's not needed to become an artist.
So what does work then? I have no idea - I still can't copy accurately!
My sketchbook thread:
(Unless somebody is some kind of bizarre savant-type of the kind that can memorize a phonebook by glancing at it. But that's extremely rare and generally involves sacrificing basic living skills in favor of a super-memory. As far as anyone knows, this cannot be learned. Yes, people have tried experiments.)
When I capture something in memory, it's usually a combination of specific shapes and colors AND basic structure AND the overall gestalt of a motion or attitude. Drawing it later involves parsing that info and combining it until it looks close to what I remember.
Last edited by QueenGwenevere; October 25th, 2012 at 10:54 AM.
Arshes Nei: I think Pegasi means mindless mapping when he/she talks about anybody can trace.
Just to add another point to the 'better visual memory=better drawing' concept:
Imagine someone with a photographic memory, that is to say, a perfect visual memory. They are (to coin Mr Ferrara's wonderful phrase) a camera made of meat. Drawing is synthesis out of a consciously chosen set of shape intimations extracted from an infinite flux.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; October 25th, 2012 at 11:00 AM.
My sketchbook thread:
Last edited by pegasi; October 25th, 2012 at 11:05 AM.
It is a dangerous one. and has to be used with infinite care (like the blur/smudge tool ) Mimetic skills are the plague of all the arts.
Briggsy: Completely agree with that Henri extract. There appear to be exceptions in the likes of William Coldstream, Cezanne, Uglow etc, but they are really a special catagory of what Henri is saying and, if intepreted rightly, follow Henri's understanding and distillation of the issue perfectly.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; October 25th, 2012 at 11:18 AM.
I'm not saying I draw exclusively using visual memory. Its like the Bargue's Drawing, its just a way to study.