Painting from Memory

This week, I found an old mind-to-hand exercise painting from 1986. I occasionally did mind-to-hand exercise paintings to keep my coordination and reflexes sharp. Instead of painting something in front of me—a still-life, for example—I painted from memory, which is what mind-to-hand exercise painting is.

I used acrylic paints because of their quick drying time and would spend an hour painting whatever popped into my mind. Sometimes, if my children and their friends and cousins were present, I’d ask them for ideas. That’s how the beach scene pictured below came about.

Painting from memory is a great exercise to keep the mind sharp. This is true of drawing, too. I have several sketchbooks of “memory drawings.”

Anyway, the object of this isn’t to get the subject to look exact in life, but to get the painting (or drawing) to look how you imagined it. So, if you imagine cartwheeling clowns on a country lane during a rainstorm, picture it in your mind, keep it pictured, and get it on paper or canvas as quickly as you can.

Since my imagination can explode with many things to look at, I keep the subject matter limited to no more than five things. For example, I knew I wanted to paint an outdoor scene, so I began with a cloudy summer sky because I love painting skies. One of the children in attendance—niece, nephew, one of my own?—suggested a sandy beach. The third item was ocean waves, followed by seagulls and a plastic bucket to put sand in.

beach painting, acrylic
Beach (from memory), Acrylic, 1986. Copyright © 2023 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

Because I painted with acrylics, this encouraged me to be quick.

I recommend this exercise to any artists reading this. It’s a refreshing break from painting/drawing what you see, to what you know and remember.

Thanks for joining me today.

Peace and love to all. Stay safe and healthy.

Steve, 2/26/2023

This post “Painting from Memory” copyright © 2023 Steven Leo Campbell at – All rights reserved.

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