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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An outdated reminiscence drawing check train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 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 explicit examination labored.
A few years in the past I learn a biographic novel in regards to the lifetime of the artist Gainsborough. Within the novel, (whether or not this was primarily based on truth 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 situation has stayed in my head, so it will need to have had some use as a mnemonic. After I tried to work with the identical scenario myself, I discovered it nearly unimaginable to hold in my head the required element to make a very good correct drawing within the high ground studio. The method of climbing 4 flights of stairs demanded numerous 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 tissue, (each bodily and psychological) you should practice repeatedly.

Nevertheless there are a lot of different methods of growing 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 photographs of any kind, that visible reminiscence coaching is a self-discipline with a protracted custom and that it’s one properly price if you’re to change into extra astute when making selections as to how your photographs will change into memorable.

Drawing on paper from Mogao Caves

Prior to now our personal our bodies have usually been used as reminiscence machines, and they’re much simpler to work with than full blown reminiscence theatres as described in Frances Yates’ fantastic e-book, ‘The Artwork of Reminiscence’. A e-book that everybody ought to learn, just because it helps us to grasp how our brains want buildings inside which to save lots of recollections and much more importantly, that reminiscence buildings want photographs related to them if they’re to change into ‘memorable’.

Guillo Camillo’s Reminiscence Theatre

Reminiscence theatres are although large and expensive issues and there are different methods to realize comparable ends, specifically 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 explicit photographs with the intention to set off recollections, rapidly begins to create weird kinds, and fingers specifically appear to lend themselves to each imaginative play and to assist materialised considering in relation to numerical concepts and visible representations of structural rules. 

Some of the bold 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 special geometric image: a crescent moon, a chalice, a circle with horns and what seems to be like a lemon. To make use of the system, one assigns a to-be-remembered factor to every locus. One may, 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 individuals

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 will change into the place to begin 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, however it’s the way in which it operates greatest for me and hopefully, finally all these diversions will make some kind 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 identify to every digit; above that, on a second row we discover the names of the 5 Buddhist components: area, wind, hearth, water and earth and a last 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 referred to 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 programs each take care of 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 repeatedly observe this weblog will probably be properly conscious of how essential I imagine ‘materialising thought’ is; with out a strategy to externalise thought we change into trapped in our personal minds and making photographs is among 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 photographs 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 need, the necessity to search divine safety. 

Hand of Sabazius

Cicero wrote in regards to the significance of reminiscence as a side of rhetoric and he introduces us to the concept of reminiscence gadgets and supplies an enduring 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 area 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 informed 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 determine the our bodies. Throughout 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 secure. Very quickly the distraught family of the opposite diners arrived on the scene and in response to customized they wanted to bury their lifeless family throughout the day, however there was an issue, the diners had been badly crushed and disfigured, so nobody might inform who was who. Simonides nonetheless got here to everybody’s support, he had a method 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 individuals 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 vital locations and also you walked via 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 making an attempt to memorise. The hand is sort of a small constructing and can be utilized in the identical method. 

I’ve checked out fingers as a method of remembering musical notation in an earlier submit, however a good suggestion is all the time price revisiting. On this hand picture (under) 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 photographs.

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 in a position to break completely away from regular conventions of spatial depiction, The close to hand is massive 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 completely different fingers can change into. The one above additionally illustrating Guido’s concepts might belong to an Egon Schiele of the Medieval artist world.


Egon Schiele

These woodcuts of chunky fingers under, are completely completely different in sensibility. They’re heavy and stable, the kind of fingers that if engaged in making karate chops would do some severe harm. 

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

Van Gogh: Fingers

Van Gogh’s drawing of fingers, is a picture of fingers that know easy methods to do laborious work; these are peasants fingers. While the hand under is supposed to be far 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 in reality fairly robust, and but on the identical time it’s delicate and positively 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 e-book, 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 proven fact that makes me assume that the artist, might have like myself, had arthritic fingers. Nevertheless in the identical e-book, 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 

After all 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 under the place the hand turns into a ‘useful’ sundial.

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

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

You’re speculated 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 usually maintain my hand and thoroughly hint out my lifeline or prod my Venus Mount, she appeared to know all there was to know in regards to the palm of my hand, however she by no means spoke to me in regards to the different facet. 


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

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