The BEST Drawing Exercise I Know, Number 1 (Gustave Dore)

I want to try out a new series of articles that takes you through the drawing-from-memory exercise I love so much.

This installment borrows a part of a drawing Gustave Doré made for Don Quixote. I've also created a YouTube Video.

drawing from memory
Drawing from memory is the best drawing exercise I know. Try it out as a short daily warm-up exercise!

In each of these articles I share, we study separate parts of an image from the public domain, memorizing each piece, and then we put it all together in the end.

It works like this:

1. Look at a segment of an illustration you want to study. Try to memorize the part you chose.

2. Put away the reference, and draw that segment from memory.

3. Compare your drawing to the reference and consciously make fixes. It also helps to redraw it from observation as it forces you to look more carefully and notice where you deviated.

4. Put away the reference and your drawing, and draw it from memory again. Own it, feel free to deviate from the reference and invent things. Your second, third, fourth attempts should be much better if the chosen part is sufficiently simple.

If the smaller parts are too complex, break them down into smaller pieces, and practice them first.

Do only a short session each day, at least at first. It is mentally hard work.

Why this exercise? It is not about memorizing this specific drawing but improving your ability to access your visual library.

This drawing exercise makes me better at accessing the visual database in my head. I have become better at drawing things I did not practice this way!

The chosen reference is almost arbitrary; as long as the reference image is visually pleasing and not too complex, it is suitable.

You could also select your reference image to try this out on. I am providing these examples to make it easier for you to start. I use them, too.

Also, drawing something well, seemingly from imagination but from memory, is fun. If the reference is simple enough, the result will be rewarding, which is very motivating.

Go ahead try it out on the segments below, and if you have memorized each part, go to the last one and draw the whole thing from memory.

drawing from memory
drawing from memory
drawing from memory
drawing from memory
drawing from memory
drawing from memory

Previous article: Have I Got A Drawing Exercise For You!

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Drawing Workouts
My drawing workouts are sequences of short exercises that go well together. They help you warm up, practice a fundamental, and end with some fun drawing and a beautiful sketchbook page to look back on.

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