OCAD Studio: Memory Exercises

Memory exercises will help you keep images in your head when you’re drawing and painting from life or a reference. If you are able to remember how something looks for longer, you won’t need to keep looking at your subject so much, giving you more time to draw and paint accurately and expressively


These are the materials you will need:

  • Reference image to copy from; simple hand drawn shapes, photo or a printed copy of drawing by another artist etc.
  • Pencil
  • Piece of blank paper
  • Eraser



  1. Place your reference image (drawing or photo etc.) on a table in a room in your house or studio.
  2. Set up your blank paper, pencil and eraser in another room.
  3. Return to the reference image, look at the image for as long as you like and try to remember the dimensions and relationships of all the lines and shapes. Try to start with the general proportions because these will be easier to remember when you are drawing.
  4. Once you’ve finished looking, go to the room with the blank piece of paper and try to draw what you remember as accurately as you can. Stop when you can’t remember the image clearly anymore.
  5. Go back to the reference image, look again and repeat, until you feel like stopping.
  6. When you’re done, bring the copy back to the reference image and compare them side by side. If you like, you can keep going or you can try again another day with a different reference.



  • Start with a simple reference, even if it’s just a rectangle or triangle, before choosing more complicated subjects.
  • Memory exercises use a lot of brainpower, so don’t worry if you can’t do them for very long when you first start.
  • You can work from real subjects too, try going outside and looking at a tree or landscape or work from a still life or person indoors.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART