Friday, May 22, 2009

Remembering a Face

One time a few years ago Jeanette and I encountered a crazy guy on the street. He started yelling at us out of the blue. When we returned home an hour or two later, a little shaken, we set the challenge of drawing him from memory.

Jeanette’s drawing is on the left, and mine on the right. We both got the beady eyes, the broad nose, the brow ridge, the spiked hair, the lines around the mouth, and the stubble. Our recollections varied in the head shape, the mouth, and the ears.

I don’t know if the cops could identify the guy based on our memory sketches.

This exercise gave me even more appreciation for Mort Drucker, the master of drawing faces from memory. If the legends is true, he did many of the MAD magazine movie satires from his recollection after simply watching the movie once through.

Mort Drucker image from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" courtesy Mike Lynch’s blog:

Lines and Colors post on Drucker:

GurneyJourney Memory Series
Part 1: Art and Memory
Part 2: Memory Game
Part 3: Remembering a Face


jeff jordan said...

Mort Drucker was probably my favorite Mad artist, along with Wally Wood. Those 2 were the guys I tried my best to copy, also Frazetta's women in L'il Abner.

Can't say it helped much, except to push me toward my own little niche.

Chris Jouan said...

Truly inspiring. Not only the ability to draw faces but to remember characteristics of individual faces and then create charicatures without reference.

I am always impressed by that sort of ability.

My Pen Name said...

The 2004 American Artist Article on Lecoq's drawing from memory course, claimed that those who went through it were able to look a statue for 5 minutes, go into another room and draw it down to hair details.

There are probably artists who intuitively picked this up, but i do believe it is a learnable skill, of course, I speak at this point completely theoretically :)

Steve said...


Thanks for introducing me to the book, Forty Illustrators and How They Work -- source of the recent coffee cup post and one of the inspirations for these drawing from memory posts, both from the John Gannam section. I was able to get a copy of the book on interlibrary loan. It came from Ironwood, a town in Michigan's upper peninsula -- that place which, as was pointed out to you, fails to register in most people's mental maps of the country. FIAHTW is an amazing book. You could base dozens of posts from it.

LandPainter said...

I just realized he didn't draw the ear.

LandPainter said...

Maybe he didn't remember what it looked like :P

Jean Spitzer said...

I'm really impressed with the two top drawings. Is Jeanette shorter than you? It looks like it from what she recalled.

Oscar Baechler said...

Ever read "The World According to Garp"? A girl's kidnapper cuts out her tongue to prevent describing him to police, but as a talented artist she was able to draw him. Good book!

Super Villain said...

check your closets tonight, make sure he isnt in there, muhahahaha!

Tom said...

hi james

I am out of town but Mort Drucker sent me a letter about drawing when I was just kid. I will post what he wrote if you want me to.

Bagel said...

wow really? thats so crazy that he drew from memory. awesome. your blog is also awesome. thanks for it. menzel is also great