An artist with atphantasia

Home Forums Practice & Advice An artist with atphantasia

This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by El Rat 1 year ago.

  • Subscribe Favorite
  • #29469

    Hello, My name is Eli, I have atphantasia. I've been drawing for 13 years and my art isnt great, its been declining in how good it is, usually because I cannot imagine the poses or structures in my head, I know the muscles, the anatomy, I just cant see it, or visualize it, thius makes art incredibly hard, and all of the advice ive gotten is just " Do't let that stop you! ", which, doesnt help, itws frustrating to know the antomy but not able to make your own poses because of a mental condition that can't be cured, if any of you have advice, please tell me.

    Get more practice photos

    Support us to remove this


    (Sorry if this is not very useful because I don't struggle with that and you have far more experience than me but a few things that I either use or have seen other use in passing, that will hopefully be of use to you.)

    1. Having a collection of reference images, most useful if it is sorted with labels (e.g. fighting, lounging/relaxed, sitting) or tags (e.g. energetic+fighting, sad+lounging+multiple_figures) and either using them as seen, replacing details with your own, or using them as starting points (e.g arm positions are different but with same body, added tension with the same overall position,etc). (Also works if you draw your own poses and just reuse them.)

    I use this, and I also have a few "default" poses remembered (mostly from classical paintings I've seen and studied since they tend to show dramatic but realistic poses) ehich embody general concepts (e.g. jealous, disgusted, listening). It works incredibly well for me.

    2. Having a "chart" like one of those angle ones except instead of slightly different angles it's slightly different poses (especially if it is a sequence of movements/events – e.g. different stages of a conversation). It helps with putting the pose in perspective to the rest of the drawing/comic/whatever.

    You can refer back to it, and predict poses from mixing them. Perhaps a mix-and-match kind of thing?? But that seems damaging to the overall pose

    3. Having a model – physical or digital. Physical is often not as easy to position, and angles can be difficult to draw, but as you have a lot of experience, you'll likely find it easy to exaggerate/shift the pose until it feels genuine. The more able you are to do that the less realistic the model needs to be, and more realistic ones are often a lot more expensive and difficult to find. As for digital, CSP had a 3D modelling feature which is free. Not sure how good it is since I don't know anything about 3D modelling, or what other programs are like in comparison.

    4. Breaking it down in a logical way instead of trying to image the overall image. For example, the line thing people do to show flow in the body. I often connect the torso, legs and head together as one main chunk and worry about overall structure first, then shift until it feels natural, and then the arms separate, all details after.

    This relies on starting with very, very basic principles, then doing everything step-by-step (it's kind of like mapping your thought process on the paper so it's definitely helpful for some people, and it can help to see which way you want to go and which you don't). Definitely not always helpful to everyone, but as long as you're doing it in a way that makes sense to you it'll probably help, at least slightly even if it's not enough. I'm trying to use this method to draw better without a reference (I would be much more efficient if I could do that, personally) and for branching out into more animals (I mostly draw humans, sometimes other mammals like dogs, horses, etc.).


    Maybe you could try something where instead of trying to work with your head, you work with your muscles instead.

    I also have trouble visualizing things, not to the extent of aphantasia, but I've never been able to draw a figure without a model or reference.

    However, recently, when I've been doing gesture drawing warm ups, I've noticed that I finally have been able to scratch down some figures without any reference at all. No picture in front me, no Line of Action website, not even a poseable mannequin. They haven't been crystalline perfect figures, but they've been better than anything I failed to do in the past. And the thing about it is--I wasn't visualizing a pose in my mind at all. I was honestly just doing mindless doodles, curved lines and circles to get my arm ready for gestures. I was zoned out, head empty, listening to music, and I decided to try and turn the curves and circles into a simple figure, but that was it. I didn't picture a pose in my head, I didn't even let myself establish if it was going to be sitting or standing.

    What happened was muscle memory. It wasn't my brain doing the drawing, it was my arm and my hand. My brain wasn't even there, it was a million miles away listening to the Skyrim soundtrack, it had no part in what I was doing. I realized that I've been doing so many quick gestures one after another after another that it's the muscles in my arm that now know where to place the parts of the figure and how to twist them to get a simple pose, not my head.

    When you walk, you don't have to think about it, you don't have to picture yourself walking, your muscles just do it. You've been drawing for 13 years and you know anatomy so you're already over a big hurdle. My advice would be to use this site and many others like it to do a ridiculous amount of gestures and figure drawings, like hundreds. Draw figures from every kind of model and reference picture you can imagine. Build up an extensive catalog of poses not in your mind, but in your arm muscles. If your head isn't going to help you then kick it out and dis-invite it from the party. Teach your shoulder, wrist, and hand how to structure a body exactly how you want instead. Do something enough times and for long enough and your body will do it automatically without needing your head to provide a blueprint. Maybe it could end up being a great workaround to not being able to visualize something beforehand with your head. It can be a big shift in thinking but I think it's at least worth a try, good luck.


    Good evening, Blankminded, and welcome to Line of Action. I'm Polyvios, and how are you doing at bedtime? Say, I'm too ignorant when it comes to "aphantasia," but I know a thing or two about that thing. You know what I do when I cope with my aphantasia? I gather as much reference material to diversify and expand my visual library, by taking pictures and texts of what I see and how I see in my books, physical or otherwise, with my iPad's or iPhone's cameras, to add to my collections. The reason why is that I can collect them into my albums to dupe, rotate, and such to see them with newer and different eyes. It's certainly and completely and totally worth a try, don't you think? For further info, here is the most informational and inspirational link right here, and here. Let's all hope they've been completely and positively and posolutely useful, informative, helpful, but yet, encouraging and inspiring. Good night, and see ya.


    I'm glad someone understands, and I agree with you completly, I've done this a few times and its a roullete wether I do a good drawing or a bad one, I've been trying to cure my atphantasia, because theres a very sketpical cure to retrain your brain to see things, and I thank you for taking time out of your day to make a wall of text to help me, thank you


    For someone who doesn't have this mental illness, you have helped a lot, ive tried these and they help a lot! IU'm sorry I cant write much, im nto much of a writer but I thank you fro making that long of a response


    Hi Blankminded, I am 50yo and have over the last few months started drawing, I've never done this since I was a kid because I have complete multisensory aphantasia and I thought it was beyond me to do anything like this. But recently I've gou d joy in it, even though it can be a struggle. I was trying to draw a portrait of my OH, a person that I've lived with for 30years and all the pictures on my phone he was wearing a hat. So I had to message him at work to send me an unhatted picture because I couldn't remember what his hair looked like. For everything so far I just download bunches of pictures of what I need off the internet, or take pictures when I'm out to try and make sure I have things to reference. I can't seem to do anything much without reference pictures, but I think that's ok. It's all about having fun. I just got one of those freaky artist mannequins so we'll see if that helps with figure drawing.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and that you're not alone in this. It *is* a struggle and people also don't grasp that aphantasia has serious impact on memory. So I look through my sketchbook and most of it I can't remember drawing at all. Even stuff I only did a few days ago (maybe that's just me though) keep going if it makes you happy.

Login or create an account to participate on the forums.