Drawing from memory

Blog prompt: Find [a] photo of a stranger on the Internet. It can be any photo. Look at the photo of the stranger for a minute. Turn off your computer screen to hide the photo, create a mental imagery of it, and draw a sketch of the person based on your mental image. Compare your sketch to the original photo.

Photo of a stranger

Photo of a stranger

Sketch of a stranger

My sketch of the stranger

As requested, I found a photo of a stranger online and stared at it for a minute.  I’m sure you can tell by my sketch that I am definitely  not an artist! Please forgive the crude drawing.

In my sketch, I remembered that there were people in the background but I miscounted the number by one. I only drew four shapes and should have drawn five. I also didn’t remember the spacing of the people in the background correctly. I penciled in their shapes at the same level and they should have been stacked, or alternated. I also added more buttons than are visible on the stranger’s shirt. His photo clearly shows only one but I drew three. Perhaps, I drew more than one button because my schema associates multiple buttons with a collared, button-down shirt (Goldstein, 2011).  I, also, completely got the collar design of the shirt wrong. I drew mine more as a buttoned, close around the neck collar. It should have been more open with wings on each side. I have never been able to draw noses but the shape of my nose is off compared to the actual photo. I drew mine to the side and it should have been more of an upside-down triangle shape. Perhaps my negative memories of drawing noses from high school art classes interfered with my ability to consolidate the memory. Goldstein (2011) would classify this interference as proactive.

I did remember that the stranger had a pink-striped shirt on with the stripes alternating between pink and white. I also remembered that he had both a beard and mustache and that he was openly smiling. I did my best to simulate an open smile with teeth and facial hair in my sketch. I also remembered that he had what I consider to be green eyes and colored mine in to match. I also remembered he had a cowlick in the photo and drew that although my rendering of the hair leaves something to be desired. Even though I inaccurately recalled the number of background people, I did remember their presence and that the photo had lots of light in the background, which is why I drew in the windows.

I don’t think that my memories of the person would have been strong or clear enough to help a sketch artist create a life-like sketch or to recognize him in a lineup of suspects. Based on this experience, I can understand why so many eyewitnesses’ testimonies are unreliable and fraught with potentials to wrongfully accuse people (Goldstein, 2011, p. 226-227; Ortiz, 2014, March 3). This exercise makes me even more appreciative of the work that is being done by the Innocence Project.

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Ortiz, E. (2014, March 3). “Dying art?”: Forensic sketch artists face a digital future. NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/dying-art-forensic-sketch-artists-face-digital-future-n41421

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