Memory Sketching


Yesterday I covered part 1 of my latest assignment (my instructor is Stephen Silver). Part 2 was to do a memory sketch. “Memory sketching” is an exercise designed to strengthen your observation muscles. It works like this:

Go to a place where there are a lot of people (i.e. a mall, airport, coffee shop, etc.). Choose someone in the crowd to draw. Before you pick up your pencil, spend a few moments studying everything about them (their clothing, their posture, their face, the way they do their hair, their height….everything). Don’t look at them for longer than one or two minutes. If they haven’t walked away by then, turn and face the other direction.

Now, close your eyes and continue to study them in your mind. Analyze as much as you can remember. What was that hairstyle again? How far apart were the eyes? What color were the shoes? What was with that funny walk? (Don’t peek. It will completely destroy the purpose of the exercise.)

Finally, when you’ve got your target burned into your brain and you’ve thought everything through, THEN pick up your pencil to draw. And again, no peeking.

This was my first attempt at memory sketching. This guy was helping to take down a small stage in the Mall of America east court. Once I started to draw, I suddenly realized how little I had actually noticed about him. I had to improvise a lot of the details. Memory sketching is HARD.

But that’s why it’s such a great exercise. It forces you to really work your observational muscles for faster and more accurate drawing. It will also help fill your memory bank with facial features, hairstyles, body types, etc. so that you have more to draw on when you have to design a character from scratch. Personally, I’ve noticed that I have a clearer memory of this guy than I do of most other people I’ve drawn.

To see sample memory sketches from other artists, check out these two blogs: SketchClub and Sketchcub East.

Two Reminders…

This weekend is FallCon, Minnesota’s largest comic book convention. Here’s a recent post about it, and here’s the official site. I’ll have a table to display some of my work and sell a few sketches. If you are in the Twin Cities area, stop by and say hi!

Also, don’t forget to watch the season premiere of 3-2-1 Penguins! tomorrow morning on NBC! (I’m a character designer on the show). It airs at 10:30am central time. Check your local listings.