Taking a picture from your imagination or head and replicating it on a canvas or paper is quite different from drawing from reference or observation.
Drawing from observation is basically studying things like your surroundings or an object and replicating what you see on a flat surface. What you observe is the object(s) structure, lighting —where the shadows fall, colours involved, angles. An artist drawing from reference is basically copying what he or she sees. We’ll, drawing from your imagination is also copying from what you see, but it’s more of what you think you see. Although it takes a level of skill to be able to replicate what you see in an object, the reference picture is more concrete.
That’s where it gets complex. You imagine this beautiful scenery in la la la land—so beautiful you want to immediately put it in paper so you can show the world! However, it’s not coming out right. This is not what you imagined, and why can’t you draw what you imagined? I mean, you can draw! But, that is not the case.
Reasons why drawing from your imagination is more complex
1. Product Your imagination is fuzzy
Truth be told, your imagination is not 100% clear. A real life object sitting in front of you is more concrete, even though what’s in your head feels so alive. Some parts are blurred out and the main object in your imagination seems to be the somehow clear part, the rest of the other objects just seem to be in the background. This makes replicating what is in your imagination a lot harder, ’cause you’d have to fill in a whoke drawing surface! Also, the colours. The colours need to be got right for what you are drawing on paper or canvas to resemble what you imagined.
2. Your imagination is in motion
What you are be imagining might be in motion. For example, a moving bus with kids sticking their heads out of the window, screaming for joy as they make it to their camp spot. This is what is going on in your head. Now the question is how can you pause what is playing in your head and replicate it on a surface? Sometimes applying life and motion to your artwork can be quite complex and what happens when motion characterises what you have imagined. If you aren’t able to put life into the artwork, then it’s likely not to resemble what you imagined.
3. Applying what you have in your imagination on a flat surface
When you were imagining a nice waterfall in the heart of the jungle, you weren’t thinking of it on 12×14 inch board. Your imagination spanned a large surface with more and more trees behind each other, you could take a 360° hop around and still see the land and its waterfall. However, you just need to put a section on it, on paper. Angles are necessary, precision is much necessary.
Reasons why drawing from your imagination is complex and how to beat that!
4. Old-fashioned texture needs to be applied
Texture, texture, texture! Texture is what brings a drawing to life and most times, objects imagined have texture but it’s not paid attention. Instead what is paid attention is the surreality of what you imagined. I am just like “wow!” We tend to forget a lot of things make u p what we see everyday and what we imagine are objects we see everyday but in a different reality. Objects we see have texture.
5. Need more practice
Drawing from your imagination requires a lot of practice to get it right. Try taking part in exercises that will help you recall what you have observed, you might be able to recognise an object but not able to draw it. That’s because there is something called passive memory. Passive memory is what helps you recognise day to day objects like a tennis ball. It helps you subconsciously remember a thing that you have seen once or a lot of times. Active memory on the other hand, helps you recall something you consciously put in memory, like the name of a town you once visited. Because you recognise some thing doesn’t mean you really know it (its different parts, real colour and feel). For instance, you can recognise a friend as soon as you see them but if you decide to draw them when they aren’t present, you will find out you have no idea what the shape of their eyebrow really is.
However if they come to you with newly groomed eyebrows, you will immediately recognise something just doesn’t fit — even though you might not immediately point out the groomed eyebrows. That is passive memory. Active memory is what artists use. Start by memorising an object and keep recalling it. Try to see if you can draw it on your own later.
When I started digital art, I skipped drawing by observation and straight up started to draw from my imagination but still drew from observation sometimes. Over the years, this has helped me a lot.
Bonus tip: When drawing from your imagination, take time to step back a bit, observe your artwork in process and check if you are on track.
How to draw from your imagination
Another bonus tip
Try as possible to observe your own imagination. Assess what you understand about the objects you imagined. Make a rough sketch to see if it fits proper.