ADHD visual processing / spatial reasoning issue. How do I work past it?

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    I have a currently unidentified issue (beyond that it's ADHD-related) with visual processing that's making art very, very hard and frustrating. I've seen several doctors (including eye doctors), who have referred me to other doctors. I am not a new artist and studied art in a formal environment, and I do frequent studies. But this issue makes "seeing" / understanding 3D shapes, proportions, and perspective extremely difficult.

    I've been doing relentless studies - figure and still life practices from here along with additional, untimed photo studies, drawing from life, fundamentals from Draw A Box and on my own, brushing up on Anatomy for Sculptors, working in perspective, and so on.

    But I still can't see.I'm spending hours correcting things that should be automatic for me, frequently struggle with proportions and figures at certain angles or whose heads are facing a certain way, and even basic things like, say, drawing the other eye. I'm frequently told to just practice/study more, but I'm already practicing all the time - I've filled multiple sketchbooks and have been drawing figures almost daily for nearly a year now, and took classes before that. I can often tell when I've drawn something wrong, but either overcorrect and end up with a new problem, or can't figure out quite how to fix it.

    I have already tried that exercise from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

    Has anyone struggled with something like this? How do you work past it?

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    While I myself have never properly been diagnosed with ADHD I've had strong symptoms ever since my teens.

    I've been drawing for a long time too, maybe around 7 years however I am not expert yet, mainly because among other things I too have suffered and I still suffer of this spatial reasoning issue.

    I have not found a definitive answer that could solve this problem however a few months ago I've realized that I tend to do better while thinking of the illusion rather than the 3D Shape. This is very difficult to explain, let's say that when I try to construct a body with 3D Shapes I simply can't, often it ends up extremely rigid and if that's not enough I struggle trying to think of the body as boxes and all that. In the other hand, let's say I draw the gesture of the pose, I place certain landmarks like the clavicle or the pelvis (as 2D lines) then I try to draw the anatomy itself but concentrating on the "illusion", I'm not thinking of it as a 3D shape, I'm thinking of it as what it actually is but using lines as hard as I can to give the illusion it is three-dimensional. This has required a certain amount of knowledge about anatomy but I've managed to be slightly better this way.

    I hope I've made myself at least somewhat understandable because it's really difficult to explain but basically it's the power of placing guidelines and 2D bases what has helped me, for example in the socket of the eyes to guide myself I often draw curved lines that go inwards so this way I understand there is depth in this area and of course depending of the angles these lines will be shorter or there will be less.

    I want to clarify this is not a definitive answer to this problem, in the first place it might not even work for you despite in my case it does but even althought it does I still have some struggles, first I find difficult to create poses of my own, I need to have a lot of reference present and that's another thing I've realized too, unless I have present visual reference I'm gonna have a rough time, it's not only the spatial reasoning issue but given how many thoughts there are all the time in my mind I just lose my focus.

    I made an account in this site just for the sake of answering this post, I hope that if I wasn't able to say anything helpful at least there exists someone else out there that can help us with this problem, I've searched about this spatial issue for a long time and sadly I haven't been able to find anything useful. Maybe our brains just process visual stuff differently I really wish I could have an answer.



    I appreciate the effort, thank you! I similarly made an account to ask about a related topic a while back. My issue unfortunately means that part of the core difficulty can include placing guidelines - it's particularly bad on spheres, where they look "flat" no matter what I do - it's like I can't seem to force my hand to follow the idea of the correct curve.

    I actually do think that the illusion theory is a strong one, though - I find myself having a slightly easier time working off of drawn references, but that can be a bit counterproductive for learning certain things.


    You're not alone. I have the same problem! I was also dianosed with ADHD and similarly struggle with drawing 3D and visualizing. Often it feels as if I can't draw what's in my brain.

    I've drawing for 4-ish years and I am still having the same problem although sometimes I have random "moments" when Im drawing where it's like WOAH HOW DID I DO THAT, like for a minute I forget about all spatial awareness issues and it just flows. I've been trying to figure out how to make that happen more often but I still don't know how entirely. It takes a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you have to learn about your brain rather than drawing. What environment do you do your best work? What gets you in a good mindset for drawing? Treat your art like how you would treat studying for school, ADHD makes it difficult to give your all even if you want to.

    I hope this helps!


    Hi there, Icouldntthinkofaname, how are you doing today? Even if I have problems with my high-functioning autism, but guess what, my problems can be complementary with your ADHD issues in general, specifically when it comes to patience.

    If you have actual problems with drawing 3D shapes, spaces, and forms, just let yourself know that you're only human, but you have the potential to shine thru in this assignment and any assignment in the future. I've been practicing drawing for over 15 years, but I've have sometimes,I am self-aware with spacial awareness, but sometimes I find it the most challenging. Even when I have autism, I tend to forget about my mental condition, and just let my edges flow out our from my eyes, to my brain, all the way down to the tips of my pencils, sticks, or pens. So how would you like to try out listening to some yoga and/or classical music while you practice and warmup your drawings? So that you can pay attention the most strongly to your work with littler struggle.

    So, like I said, I'm not totally an expert on ADHD, but the best but smartest thing you can do, is to look into how your brain works, so that you can apply it into your own artwork. Ask yourself, for example, What environment is best for my work? How do I pick out an environment for my job?? But that's not all, as Dylan puts it, treat your art goals as you would in any social group, but ADHD can make it the most difficult to give it all you've got.

    Let's hope this helps out.


    Apologies as I know you said it was ADHD related, but I was just wondering if you'd ever looked into Aphantasia? I came across this once with an ex boyfriend, we had a big argument because he told me I was lying when I said I could see books as I read them like films, whereas he could not at all. Turns out he simply could not visualise what I could and didn't realise before then that people could.

    The good thing is that loads of artists have it and still are very successful (see the Wiki) it might be that instead of struggling to try and force yourself to 'see' when maybe you just can't, you find ways round like references you take or whatnot. I have dyslexia for example and I just never will learn my times tables, but I still can do university level engineering math quite well!

    Sorry if this is totally irrelevant to you, I just thought I would highlight it to you just in case.


    Ack, logged out and forgot to check back here for a few days (if that doesn't prove that I have ADHD, I don't know what does, lol). I appreciate all the kind responses and I'm glad I'm not alone; I've struggled to find help so far as not many people I know have the same problem (though I have talked to some extremely patient people in other places who are doing their best). I'm not sure how (or if I can) ping people on here, so apologies as I go through replies in one big chunk.

    I'm not sure on environment, but I try to maintain a good practice schedule. I feel like there's a missing link in how I'm learning certain things that I can't quite explain, though; like if I could figure out how to make my brain understand this issue as it appears on the page, I could fix it. I do struggle with executive dysfunction, so LoA is actually really helpful due to having timers / knowing exactly what the time commitment here is (I've been less successful in figuring out what I can do in my personal work). My background noise of choice is actually video game soundtracks for practice, and that's worked out pretty well (it's easy to find ones that have the correct "mood" and tempo - fast-pased 'epic' music is good for 30-second exercises, for example).

    I do not believe that I have aphantasia, though the possibility has been suggested to me a few times! I'm not sure that it's an issue visualizing in my head; rather, something gets lost between my head and the page in a way that isn't typical (which I want to stress - not being able to draw exactly what you see in your head is common, but in my case, it's not being able to draw things that I actually know how to draw / have studied). If you have further resources for it, though, I'd love to look into what's helped other people (it can't hurt to look more closely)!


    Hello fellow ADHDer! I got a lot of it myself, so I understand where you are coming from!

    One thing I've learned as an ADHDer is that we obsess sometimes with doing something the "right" way. I'd spend hours of time practicing what I thought was the "right" way of figure drawing and wondered why I was never getting any better. I thought I just wasn't trying hard enough, that I wasn't spending long enough time on each session. Turns out, I was just doing it wrong. I have a feeling that you are going through something similar.

    You need to learn to translate a gesture to 3D. Im guessing you know how to draw the basic 3d object we all know and hate/love, the sylinder, cube, etc. Luckilly we just had a tool added to the website that lets you practice exactly that. Maybe take a cylinder and try and draw it at every angle you can imagine, like you are rotating a plastic tube in you're mind and putting it on paper. Do this with any simple 3D object you can imagine, as long as its something simple that you can understand from any angle.

    This is simple exercise, but its easy to do, and a quick warm up that I enjoy sometimes.

    Now the next exercise I reccomend is the blob exercise. I was taught this exercise a long time ago, but only recently I have learned the value of it.

    This can be done with any kind of doodled blob and that line can be draw at any angle. The rings just have to circle around that line, they can be as flat or as round as you'd like. In fact I reccomend playing with the rings as much as you want. If the blob has a random straight line on its edge, you can try to incorporate a flat surface, but thats not required. The exercise is just for learning how to take an intrinsicaly flat object and making it 3D, as long as you can make it look 3D, than you are learning.

    Once you have done this exercise and you can confidently take any blob and make it look like some form of 3D, take this mindset and approach a gesture that you have made, one that has its whole body. Pick a leg, torso, arm, something like one of the simple forms you practiced and draw over it as one of those forms.

    Notice this technique doesn't correct anatomy, proportions, a lot of accuracy. This little exercise is for you to practice interpreting objects as 3D and nothing else. I remember struggling with art, because my ADHD brain learned every little lesson it could have about figure drawing and tried to practice every dang thing every time. Not only was this innefficient, it also hurt my ability to learn, because I kept on going through a gigantic list in my mind of what I could fix, rather than trying to understand art one part at a time. Since this approach lacked structure, lessons I learned through this technique I forgot immediately, like writing my notes on scrap paper and then tossing them in a bin labeled "How to draw good" and then my brain would never know where to look to find specific knowledge.

    SO you are going to focus on JUST the 3D part of your figures. Thats what you are going to learn. Don't try to skip ahead to the more advanced section of your "how to draw" book. You might get to the point where your ADHD brain is going to get bored and say, "I got this, isn't there something else I can work on?" and when that happens, STOP, breath, look at your artwork and really evaluate wether or not you do "got this". Maybe draw something else for fun, but decide on a time to return to practicing this, an EXACT time that you specifically schedule.

    If you show us you've done this exercise, we'll be able to help you far more than any long paragraph can.


    I definitely relate to that (though the term ADHDer always felt weird to me); I'm struggling a lot with things like the "other eye" and spend hours doing that part over and over (i actually also really need help with that, lol).

    I've done a few similar exercises already, so I've included those. I've also completed the 250 challenge from Draw A Box and Marc Brunet's 30 Day Challenge, but because it's a visual processing issue or something like that, I'm struggling to translate a lot of it to figures. I've done a lot more than is in the link, but it's scattered across a full sketchbook. I've also done a number of the exercises with objects / still life on this site! But it feels like nothing I do is doing much at all (not to be a downer) and I'm getting frustrated.


    You don't need to see exactly what you want to draw in your head in order to put that thing on paper. Thats an exceptional human skill and not all people are capable of that. You eyes absorb so much information on a subject like a human at just a glance, an ADHD working memory disregards most of it. But picturing the line of action in your head is far easier, then the rest of the steps building on top of it follow a kind of logic that relies much less than just drawing whats in your mind.

    You seem to have a fantastic grasp of 3D already! You know how to draw in 3D just fine. Now you just have to know how to apply that skill to the body.

    Have you tried constructing the manequin? A human figure whose body parts are reduced to the simplest shapes? Ones that are like the ones you've practiced? SOme examples of these attempts will give us a clearer idea of where you are messing up along the way. Because its clear you understand form, your brain just may not be making the connection to the body.

    Exercises like the ones in your notebook are invaluable, but you have to know exactly what skills you are practicing when you do them.

    I'd love to see some figures you've made and maybe we can diagnose where you are having the most trouble.


    I have, yes! But frustration with the results is what motivated this thread - I was originally struggling with faces and symmetry and lapsed all the way back to basic 3D shapes to try to fix it (I still struggle a lot with faces and would love advice if you have it - I am familiar with most methods such as Loomis, etc but I'm having problems "seeing" what I'm doing, which is why I believed the issue to be one related to my grasp of 3D - I've tried drawing skulls but made the same mistakes every time). My main issue is proportions - it feels like I can't "see" the correct lengths (and again, symmetry; real people aren't symmetrical, but I lean more into stylized, anime-esque art where asymmetry is a bit more notable).

    You may notice some line confidence issues; while I do studies traditionally, I work digitally for personal work and the issues aren't as glaring then due to stabilizers, though I still overcorrect. I mainly practice in pen to force myself to move on rather than obsessing over one aspect. Also, sorry for the stains, I spilled coffee at one point (woops). I didn't plan to do much coloring, so I don't mind pens that aren't super water-resistant.

    This is a random selection from my sketchbook, dating back a few weeks. Obvious warning for nudity; I practice with the nude figures exclusively.


    Alright, excellent work! You are a very talented artist!

    You did point out that your line confidence was an issue and I certainly can see that. Its hard to avoid when you are trying to find the figure and you don't want to waste time as the counter goes down. But the muddy lines also make it more difficult to find the lines that actually work, so we spend more time refining and thickening the lines we like, like how a lot of studies look like in the second page you shared.

    Sketchy lines also hurt our learning and ability to make something 3D because the sketchiness disguises our imperfections and our eyes fill in the details with the corrections. Sketchiness is an invaluable first step, but it almost never should be the final one.

    I reccomend this little warm up for line confidence.

    Keep your warm up quick before drawing figures. Try not to be super ambitious with your next practice session and have a clear and easy to aim for goal. Maybe try puting a simple constructed form on top of your initial quick gesture, with your intent to make clean and clear lines for the shapes.

    As for advice for your faces, examples would be helpful lol.

    You are going to have a lot of different things in your mind about what you want to try and implement to "fix" your artistic style. My advice for an ADHD kind of brain, is to write out and focus your sessions on learning one thing at a time, at least for that one 30 minute style session. Look back at your previous work, pick out a specific thing about your approach that bothers you the most and try to fix that one thing.


    I have litereally just joined, but this topic just hits so hard.

    I have been trying to get more consistant with art, but proportions and the matter of trying to get things to some granular quality has been frustrating.

    I've looked in on myself and a lot of things I've prohibited myself from doing has come down to some abstract notion of purity. Like, as if soemthing isn't worth doing unless I am 100% good at everything to do with the 'thing'. And without guidence and some kind of tutor it's nigh impossible to truely know what I'm missing when everyone else seems to do it effortlessly. Like the problem where I always just seem to start the size wrong and I end up off the page. I panic during the 30 second poses.

    One thing which I have done to get me over those initial hurdles (the boring parts, the hard parts, the tedious parts) is to know it's ok to use some modern tools to help. I started using Clip Studio Paint because it comes with models built in which can be orientated and drawn over with perpsective and proportion (yay), which I can draw over and get through the basics of my 'vision'. I've done so much more when I started to just get it done with.

    We're living with something which has layers of effects. It's ok to use as many tools as we need to finish. I found that I love coloring and shading, but I've never gotten to it because I feel bad going through linework.

    As for traditional drawing, I can't say how best to deal with it. It turns into a whole lot of ideas. Either by focusing exclusively on a specific element or bodypart. Or learn how to abstract by way of going more toony. Check out 'Drawfee' on youtube for the sake that they're artists who don't care much for proportion if it gets in the way.

    Anyway, back to the point. Never feel incomplete by getting over some hurdles to complete a piece. The tools we use are our aids, and sometimes it our ways to trick our mind to doing what we want it to do. Part of tricking our minds is to silence the doubt in us. Doubt tells us that we're not doing something wrong, and getting good means we've successfully tricked doubt.


    @Drunkenelf I'll try the warmup; face examples here (mostly based on cosplay photos and things from Pinterest; I did try the tools on here and other sites for faces, but had consistent issues with the structure and placements of features. Sorry for the sudden deluge of models and anime boys!)

    These are studies and not my usual mode or style; I'm not necessarily aiming for pure realism, just focusing on good anatomy / structure (you can consistently see me struggling with the very basic forming of the cheeks and chin, the other eye, etc). I don't focus on style for studies if I can help it as I don't want to distract from the study, but I'm aiming for something closer to artists like these (in order: Ryo Suzuri, Yusuke Kozaki, JR Doyle. Searching the first one may have NSFW results as a heads-up).

    @Psychonerd91 Yeah, I feel that myself! Hope the topic is at least a little bit helpful - I've asked for help in more than one space and was met with a lot of misunderstanding (and got into a few arguments over it), so the more positive approach that people on thsi site have had is comforting.

    CLIP is actually my default program and the one I do almost all of my personal work in. I actually struggle a lot with using CLIP's models; the proportions feel "off" to me and I find myself tracing shapes instead of doing actual construction (though there's no shame in using them; I want to emphasize that! this is just my personal relationship to the models).

    In my case, it's more an issue that I can see and identify and want to fix, but am struggling as to just how to fix it; a lot of "standard" advice and individual feedback hasn't helped much so far (though I am always grateful for help - this thread has been one of the most helpful conversations I've had, in fact).

    I don't personally want to do more toony art or avoid proportions altogether, as neither of those conveys what I want or where I most want to improve (though there's no shame in toony art either! A lot of skill is required to simplify things for cartoons / animation and I admire that, even if it's not the work I want to do).


    Update: attempt at the line confidence exercise. Keeping in mind that I've finished the 250 challenge for DAB which covers similar material, I'm struggling a lot with the same problems I saw there - the lines aren't really going where I'm aiming, and wobble regardless of how quickly or slowly I move. I do have some wrist pain / a possible joint problem that can make things harder, but there should hopefully be ways to improve regardless?

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