This workout aims to improve your Visual Memory. The French artist and teacher, Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, wrote a book in the mid-nineteenth-century on memory drawing. He begins his book by defining visual memory as "stored observations." He believed that students' visual memory was not only a supplement to the students' main drawing lessons, it was an extension of them.

The book, "Memory Drawing", written by Darren R. Rouser, provides a much more in-depth account on the history, science, and process of memory drawing. Rousar says, "All drawing and painting from life is at some point done from memory, even if that memory is only seconds old. An artist’s ability to recall something previously seen is all the more important when their subject is no longer in view."

If I were to open an academy I would have a five-story building. The model would pose on the ground floor with the first-year students. The most advanced students would work on the fifth floor.
— Edgar Degas

I studied the chair on the left for about 2 minutes before drawing the one on the right. I have had this chair in my office for over a year now. I found it at an auction, sanded it and repainted it. It wasn't until I drew it that I noticed the curved opening in the back, or the curved sections holding the legs together at the bottom.

This workout incorporates the practice of drawing with the aforementioned "stored observations". The simple act of drawing something helps you remember it. I have often found myself in faculty meetings (yes, I'm the one doodling in the back) drawing the person in front of me or sketching the presenter. It's great fun to revisit my notes and "see" that person again. 

The Workout

Choose a subject or object to draw. Maybe it's a landscape or the view out your window? Perhaps it's a interesting lamp or vase? You can start with a simple object and then challenge yourself with something much more complex. 

After making your selection(s), study the object for a set length of time, about 1-5 minutes. Turn your gaze away from the object or photo. Quickly, without thinking or doing anything between your study and your drawing, begin. Look at the object in your now newly stored observation. Parts missing? Holes in your stored observation? No problem. Repeat the process. 

This workout develops your ability to truly "see" objects and develop your visual perception. Like any workout, this daily practice will develop the connection between your memory and your imagination. 

Share your results on Instagram using #drawfitmemory


  • Pencil or other drawing instrument
  • Paper
  • Timer or watch

Photo credit at top of page:
Edgar Degas (1834–1917) Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879  
Black chalk with touches of pastel, 18 1/2 x 12 5/8 in.  
The Trustees of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham