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Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework

Ways in which drawings facilitate memory function are presented in the lecture. Examples are taken which are derived from a qualitative case study which shows the way in which memory drawings can be applied simultaneously for both therapy and coursework learning. A quantitative study is discussed which revealed that children generally recall drawn images five times better than written words, nine weeks after originally participating in the study. Lecture participants are invited to partake in a simple drawing- and writing exercise which provides insight into various memorization aids and how they work. Moreover, the exercise offers a window into how the research was carried out and how drawing improves memory retention.

The lecture contextualizes memory drawings in terms of the theories of art therapy, psychotherapy, teaching and educational psychotherapy. The means by which memory drawings can bring sensitive and complex emotions to the surface is reviewed, as well as how these emotions can be processed through art making. The importance of art therapy methods and theories is discussed, particularly in relation to providing emotional support for the individual engaged in creating memory drawings.


"I enjoyed your Keynote presentation at the Nordic Art Therapies Conference and think that the memory drawing research that you are doing is very interesting and relevant. When I got home I read your article in the AATA journal.”

Lisa D. Hinz, PhD, ATR-BC

Feedback from participants at the American Art Therapy Association Conference lecture 2019.

Lecture held before

2019 Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing. The American Art Therapy Association Conference. Celebrating 50 Years of Healing Through Art. Kansas City, MO.

2019 Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing. The International Practice/Research Conference. Queen Mary’s University, London.

2018 Research on Processing Emotions through Memory Drawing. Open public lecture at University of Goldsmiths, London.

2018 Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing. Four open public lectures at the Reykjavik Academy, Reykjavik.

2018 Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing. Keynote speaker, 20th Nordic Art Therapies Conference, Hveragerdi, Iceland.

Memory drawings

Visualization has been used as a memory retention technique since the days of the Ancient Greeks. However, drawings have only recently been applied to aid memory, for example in relation to mind-mapping techniques. In 2000, Unnur Óttarsdóttir conducted a study that showed that drawings facilitate long-term memory.

Memory drawings are contextualised in the lecture in relation to related theories, research and methodologies. For example, the reason why drawing facilitates memory is discussed in relation to theories underlying art therapy. Ethical questions are also raised from the perspective of art therapy in relation to memory drawings for children who struggle with emotional and specific learning difficulties.

Lecture held before

2017 Memory Through Pictures. Paper given at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts at a conference on Memory, Hugarflug, Reykjavík.


“Thank you for this interesting and illuminating lecture.”

Kristín Valsdóttir, Dean of the Department of Art Education, Iceland Academy of the Arts.

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