Although I’ve already written about how to memorise things you see (in order to paint them later), I made a memory painting (for the first time in a while) the day before I wrote this article. The full-size painting will be posted here tomorrow, but here’s a reduced-size preview:
This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 3rd September.
Apologies if I repeat myself in this article, but it’s been a while since I last talked about memory painting. So, what did returning to memory paintings after being a little out-of-practice teach me?
1) Sometimes, you can’t control it: The painting I showed you early was based on a memory of a car journey that included the road running across Portsdown Hill. Although I’ve seen this road quite a few times before (which can help with memorisation), I hadn’t really expected to paint the part of it that I did. Seriously, there were a lot more interesting sights on the journey than the one I painted.
Yet, when it came to actually remembering what to paint, this memory seemed to be the clearest one. I think that this was because the car stopped near this area for about 30 seconds or so, which gave me a chance to take a really detailed look at the road in question (I also found myself slightly fascinated by some of the gigantic houses nearby too). Not only that, the basic shape of the roads and the grass verge were also fairly easy to memorise too.
So, what was the point of this?
Simply put, go for the clearest memory when painting from memory. Even though it might not be the most interesting thing you saw, it’s the thing that you’ll be able to paint with the highest degree of confidence and accuracy (but, as I’ve mentioned before, memory painting is never 100% accurate, nor should it be. If you want accuracy, take a photo instead).
2) Artistic licence and filling in the gaps: Simply put, when memorising the scene that I painted, the only things I actually focused on memorising were the shape of the road/grass verge and maybe one or two of the houses nearby. This was a simple collection of shapes and details that was easy to remember 20-40 minutes later.
But, of course, I saw a lot more than that. However, since my memories of the rest of the scene were very slightly more vague. I sort of had to make an educated guess about other parts of the picture. For example, I was pretty sure that there were trees and a bridge in the distance. I wasn’t 100% certain, but it seemed vaguely familiar – so, I added it.
So, yes, it’s ok to “fill in the gaps” by guessing when painting from memory. Again, if you want 100% accuracy, then take a photo instead.
Plus, in order to make sure that the picture worked well as a painting, I also used some artistic licence too. This included narrowing one area so that I could add a cityscape (and the Spinnaker Tower) to the far left of the picture. In addition to this, I also added more clouds to the sky too (so that it wasn’t just a featureless blue area).
Likewise, on the right-hand side of the picture, I added another “layer” of the hill (which included an undetailed impression/silhouette of one of the 19th century hill forts) too. Finally, the perspective I used for this picture was slightly different to the one I actually saw (again, so that I could cram more detail into the picture).
All of this detail wasn’t in the scene that I actually saw, but I thought that adding a few more Portsmouth landmarks would improve the painting and make it instantly recognisable as a painting of Portsmouth. So, yes, it’s ok to use artistic licence when painting from memory. Again, memory paintings have to work well as a painting, not just as a recorded memory.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂