Drawing : Reminiscence Drawing and fingers

An outdated reminiscence drawing check train

Reminiscence drawing was an important a part of an artist’s coaching. The picture above is of a glass slide present in a skip in Newport just lately. I’d have been actually to have seen what the remainder of the slides regarded like, however this discovered picture conjures up a reasonably good concept of how one specific examination labored.
A few years in the past I learn a biographic novel concerning the lifetime of the artist Gainsborough. Within the novel, (whether or not this was based mostly on reality I do not know) Gainsborough had arrange a nonetheless life in his cellar and had put a canvas on an easel in his attic. He hated climbing stairs, so this meant that if he was to minimise his climbing time, he must memorise the nonetheless life actually clearly when down within the cellar, in order that portray time within the attic was productive. This state of affairs has stayed in my head, so it should have had some use as a mnemonic. Once I tried to work with the identical state of affairs myself, I discovered it virtually unattainable to hold in my head the required element to make a very good correct drawing within the prime ground studio. The method of climbing 4 flights of stairs demanded a number of bodily effort and this appeared to empty away the power wanted to carry a picture within the thoughts. Like many issues, if you’re to develop the muscle groups, (each bodily and psychological) it is advisable to practice usually.

Nevertheless there are a lot of different methods of creating reminiscence as a helpful mechanism in relation to picture making, most of which contain the picture maker offering useful reminiscence frameworks for the viewers. This being the case, I wish to remind everybody who’s making drawings or pictures of any kind, that visible reminiscence coaching is a self-discipline with an extended custom and that it’s one properly value taking a look at if you’re to develop into extra astute when making choices as to how your pictures will develop into memorable.

Drawing on paper from Mogao Caves

Up to now our personal our bodies have typically been used as reminiscence machines, and they’re much simpler to work with than full blown reminiscence theatres as described in Frances Yates’ great ebook, ‘The Artwork of Reminiscence’. A ebook that everybody ought to learn, just because it helps us to know how our brains want constructions inside which to avoid wasting recollections and much more importantly, that reminiscence constructions want pictures related to them if they’re to develop into ‘memorable’.

Guillo Camillo’s Reminiscence Theatre

Reminiscence theatres are although large and expensive issues and there are different methods to realize related ends, particularly our fingers can be utilized very like mini variations of those theatres, fingers changing the aisles that have been positioned between rows of data seating. The method of bringing collectively sure associations or specific pictures as a way to set off recollections, shortly begins to create weird kinds, and fingers particularly appear to lend themselves to each imaginative play and to help materialised considering in relation to numerical concepts and visible representations of structural rules. 

One of the vital formidable of hand mnemonics was offered by Girolamo Marafioti of Calabria in a 1602 treatise on the humanities of reminiscence. The system consists of a map of ninety-two handbook loci; twenty-three on the back and front of every hand, every housing a distinct geometric image: a crescent moon, a chalice, a circle with horns and what appears to be like like a lemon. To make use of the system, one assigns a to-be-remembered factor to every locus. One would possibly, as Marafioti suggests, use it to recollect a bunch of individuals organized by standing, age, or different traits. The system compresses the options of a reminiscence palace and makes the entire edifice match into the form of a hand. 

From Girolamo Marafioti’s Seventeenth-century treatise on the artwork of reminiscence, De Arte Reminiscentiae, demonstrating using loci 

Utilizing fingers to visualise numbers of days in months

We’ve all performed this one: 

Here is the church and there is the steeple, open the doorways and there is the folks

What started as a submit to remind everybody of how essential visible reminiscence is, is now turning into a submit about fingers and the way they’ll develop into the start line for memorable picture invention. So I am going to save the stuff about artists’ visible reminiscence educating for one more submit and take a look at fingers and the way they’ve been used as reminiscence gadgets. Sure my thoughts flits round in every single place, but it surely’s the best way it operates greatest for me and hopefully, finally all these diversions will make some type of sense. 

The fingers (above) of the Chinese language picture from the Mogao Caves have been drawn over a thousand years in the past and are annotated with Chinese language characters on the fingertips that give a selected title to every digit; above that, on a second row we discover the names of the 5 Buddhist components: house, wind, hearth, water and earth and a remaining tier, floating upwards as if on kite strings, lists the ten virtues. The drawing illustrates a mnemonic system, that helps the viewer to make connections between components and virtues. At about the identical time in England, the monk Bede got here up with a treatise known as ‘The Reckoning of Time’, during which he laid out a way for figuring out when Easter would fall on any given 12 months. These two techniques each cope with the difficulty of materialising thought. As Barbara Tyersky places it, “When thought overwhelms the thoughts, the thoughts places it into the world”. These of you that usually comply with this weblog can be properly conscious of how essential I imagine ‘materialising thought’ is; and not using a approach to externalise thought we develop into trapped in our personal minds and making pictures is likely one of the greatest methods of doing this.

Bede. Diagram from ‘The Reckoning of Time’

In historical Pompeii a bronze sculpture of the Hand of Sabazius held pictures of protecting symbols for the home proprietor. Sabazius, the god of vegetation and the guardian of girls in labour, is commonly depicted within the palm of a hand, however it’s the different symbols that emerge from the hand together with a nursing mom, a crow, a desk with choices and a serpent, that make these fingers such fascinating objects. These unusual fingers are memorable exactly due to the truth that they’re unusual, however their strangeness is one pushed by a really regular want, the necessity to search divine safety. 

Hand of Sabazius

Cicero wrote concerning the significance of reminiscence as a facet of rhetoric and he introduces us to the concept of reminiscence gadgets and gives a long-lasting picture with which to recollect how reminiscence gadgets work. Cicero connects the coaching of reminiscence with sight and like different classical rhetoricians he used the thoughts’s recollection of visible house to behave as a information to the memorisation of concepts. A mythic story of the invention of the artwork of reminiscence by the poet Simonides, is advised by Cicero and because it not simply describes how the artwork of reminiscence works, it’s itself a reminiscence gadget, I shall repeat it once more. 

The poet Simonides created the artwork of reminiscence when, after he was the lone survivor at a crowded banquet, he was requested to establish the our bodies. Through the banquet, he had been requested to step exterior as a result of he needed to obtain an pressing message. Whereas taking the message, there was a rumbling sound as an earthquake shook the constructing, the roof then collapsed, crushing everybody inside past recognition. Simonides was shocked however protected. Very quickly the distraught relations of the opposite diners arrived on the scene and in keeping with customized they wanted to bury their lifeless relations throughout the day, however there was an issue, the diners had been badly crushed and disfigured, so nobody may inform who was who. Simonides nonetheless got here to everybody’s support, he had a approach of remembering the names of all of the corpses by remembering who was sitting the place. The form and format of the room and its tables and chairs have been clear to him in his reminiscence and because the folks within the room have been of nice significance, their positions in relation to the room’s format had been sharply impressed upon his thoughts. 

This affiliation with location, meant that many early reminiscence strategies concerned strolling round a constructing and issues that have been to be remembered have been then distributed across the constructing in important locations and also you walked by these areas in your thoughts, every location triggering a reminiscence as a result of one thing was positioned that was designed to set off an affiliation with what you have been attempting to memorise. The hand is sort of a small constructing and can be utilized in the identical approach. 

I’ve checked out fingers as a approach of remembering musical notation in an earlier submit, however a good suggestion is at all times value revisiting. On this hand picture (beneath) made in response to concepts supposedly set out by the Eleventh-century Italian monk and music-theoretician Guido from Arezz, we are able to see how he makes use of the hand picture to memorise the names of tones and their relationships by linking them to the pure divisions that we make when drawing hand pictures.

Sixteenth-century diagram from the manuscript of an unknown writer depicting musical notes scored throughout a hand within the technique attributed to Guido

Manuscript illustration of a ‘Guidonian hand’ 1274 

The solmization sequence ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la seems each on the enclosing circle and on the hand itself

Within the drawing above the artist has been capable of break completely away from regular conventions of spatial depiction, The close to hand is huge and highly effective, however the far hand is gigantic, it spreads out till it’s large enough to include the concept. 

It is wonderful how totally different fingers can develop into. The one above additionally illustrating Guido’s concepts may belong to an Egon Schiele of the Medieval artist world.


Egon Schiele

These woodcuts of chunky fingers beneath, are completely totally different in sensibility. They’re heavy and stable, the type of fingers that if engaged in making karate chops would do some critical injury. 

From Anianus’ Compotus cum commento (1492), an adaptation of Bede’s computus system

Van Gogh: Arms

Van Gogh’s drawing of fingers, is a picture of fingers that know easy methods to do exhausting work; these are peasants fingers. While the hand beneath is supposed to be rather more non secular. 

Hand-coloured woodcut: The Hand because the Mirror of Salvation

El Greco

El Greco’s hand above, is a captivating one. It’s the truth is fairly robust, and but on the identical time it’s delicate and undoubtedly a hand that has non secular intent.  

From Stephan Fridolin’s ‘Treasury of the true riches of salvation’: 1491 

The fingers above include numbers that correspond to meditations within the ebook, in impact making a desk of contents. I like these fingers because the little fingers have a kink in them, and so do my very own fingers, a indisputable fact that makes me suppose that the artist, might have like myself, had arthritic fingers. Nevertheless in the identical ebook, we have now a pair of extra stable fingers, fingers with a lot broader fingers that may carry busts of the apostles, saints, Mary and Christ. 


From Stephan Fridolin’s ‘Treasury of the true riches of salvation’: 1491 

In fact we are able to use our fingers for a lot of different functions, they’re as versatile as we would like them to be. From the shadow puppet of childhood to the fist of maturity, the hand morphs into what we would like it to be. As within the case beneath the place the hand turns into a ‘useful’ sundial.

Thoinot Arbeau 1582 quantity of sensible astronomy: The right way to convert the fingers right into a sundial 

For the folks of Michigan, the hand turns into a map.

You might be imagined to know one thing rather well if you realize it just like the again of your hand. A phrase I by no means actually understood. As a boy I had spent many hours with my gran who would typically maintain my hand and punctiliously hint out my lifeline or prod my Venus Mount, she appeared to know all there was to know concerning the palm of my hand, however she by no means spoke to me concerning the different aspect. 


Tyersky, B. (2019) Thoughts in Movement: How motion shapes thought London: Primary Civitas Books

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