Hello I am Dennis and I just found out about aphantasia and I wonder if this is the reason why I am sooo damn bad at art when I need to draw something just from my imagination. It was always the same: “Just imagine it and draw the picture in your head”, but I have never seen a picture in my head. Therefore I hated art in school. When I have a reference picture tho it gets a little easier but its still hard for me to put in “original” ideas from myself. Now I am just thankful that I dont have art classes anymore in school. So what is your experience with art?
How did you do in art class?
Same. Blank pieces of paper are just blank pieces of paper to me…always have been. As time passed I would understand that the blank pieces of paper are not just that, but were more of an infinite array of possibilities. However, though I knew that the possibilities for what this piece of paper could become existed, there was not one of those possibilities that I could see, and thus, create. This always made me feel inadequate, as I always wanted to create (and I still do want to create). I will note that once I see an image and am pretty hardcore good at replicating it, but I cannot manipulate it or change it in any way. So if I am drawing a character – like Hei Hei from Moana – I can draw only what I have seen before (from a static picture online, not even from the Movie), but if you ask me to turn him to the side…crickets. Like, where are those feathers coming from? How bulbous is his body? How far out do those eyes jut out if I’m looking at him from the side? Still crickets. I haven’t been in an art class since high school (which was from 1993-1997) so I had to run to like Barnes and Noble before I would have to draw something and look at pictures of whatever it was. Since the internet became a thing, Pinterest has been a modified external Mind’s Eye for me, but it’s always crickets in my head. Unless you’re talking about words…then my head won’t shut up lol.
I was relatively competent at art because our teacher emphasized having a model to look at while we were drawing. I can also draw faces because she taught us a method on how to do so: place the eyes halfway down the face, place the nose halfway between the eyes and the mouth, etc. Essentially, I can draw faces by remembering a list of instructions and how I moved my hands–the process. The problem with this is that I can only draw generic faces if I don’t have a model because I don’t understand the details beyond the main concept. I can’t draw anything I can’t see unless I’ve drawn it before and remember how, and even then, it wouldn’t be a great reproduction.
I’m not an artist proper, so I don’t really do much outside my art classes because I’m not motivated, but the way I create original pieces is by planning out objects and where I want them to go in the piece, then either creating a model by arranging those objects in real life or by finding pictures of each and learning how to draw them individually before drawing them all together. I prefer graphic design over drawing because I can take existing images and splice them together in Photoshop to make something new, and it’s still technically art! I never know how it’s going to turn out until I’m looking at the finished product, though . . .
Since I’m so process and concept oriented, I sometimes use my art training to help me break down what I’m seeing into something I’ll understand and remember. Thus, I remember, say, a beautiful sunset not because I can visualize it, but because I can remember planning out how I would draw it or paint it, assuming I have the skill to pull it off. I don’t know if anyone else does that, but sometimes it helps me remember visual details that I would have no access to otherwise.
It sounds like your art class was not taught very well, at least not for people like us. I’m sorry that put you off art. It can be very fun, even if you’re like me and you’re only average. It’s possible you might be better at it if you can get someone to teach you according to a different method, but it’s okay if not.
I do art everyday and I love it and wouldn’t change a thing. I never realized that I had aphantasia until about 5 years ago (in my 30s now) . I do remember growing up and when ever I was asked to be ‘creative’ and draw whatever I would freeze. ‘What do you mean ‘draw whatever’??’ The teachers would tell me to be creative, and use my imagination, or worse, whatever I could see in my head. I still freeze on those kind of prompts now, with those drawing party games my friends always try to rope me into because I’m good at art. you don’t even have to be an artist to meet the objectives, but they are so stressful for me. And this is all because I NEED reference and I NEED an idea that’s solid before I can even attempt. In school I would draw styles from shows I liked, and I would draw the same poses, and the same clothes, on the same characters. Folks would see and exclaim ‘wooow you’re soo creative’ but I didn’t feel creative, to me I had no imagination I was just copying. Classmates would often tell me they could see stuff in their head but could never draw it so they were envious of me. I would just tell them to practice (which is still correct) but I never knew they were being literal, I always thought they meant they just had vivid ideas about things they wanted to draw, which I would then misconstrue as creativity. I’d think they are more creative than me but just don’t want to apply it.
Semi related this is kind of a hot topic in the art community. A LOT of younger artists for some reason see using reference as cheating in some form. Even tracing is bad to them, when tracing is just another tool to help you with specific objectives. Using reference wasn’t really taught when I was in grade school and I would assume its the same now because I still see it pop up from time to time on twitter. My point here is that if you still have some passion or inkling to do art, give it another go, and use all the reference you want. I just do google image search thats pretty generic ‘backgrounds outdoor’ and then maybe find a stock photo of a person on a horse and now you just need a ref of an outfit or some armor (type a random year) to put them in and bam you got yourself an original idea. Don’t be ashamed about it 🙂 art is a journey you can start any time and there really no ‘wrong way’ to do it.
I cant see any images at all. Like ever.
BUT I did great in art classes- I dont ever remember being asked to draw things by memory though- so I think that’s the deciding factor in our difference of experience. I saw something in life- and copied it in a new way on another medium.
Hi Dennis, I have the same story with some differences. I was one of the worst students in drawing lessons: if there is nothing in my head, then on paper too. However, when sketching from life, something could come out – provided that I start with the smallest details. Later I realized that when I was drawing something, I had to turn it and its details into diagrams; and then something whole falls into a large number of schemes. It’s more like architecture or drawing; and indeed, there are aphants among draftsmen and architects.