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Lecture on Memory Drawing

Lecture in London

Hosted by Dr. Unnur Ottarsdottir, art therapist, artist and teacher

Date: 31st of October 2020 2PM



About this course

Dr Unnur Ottarsdottir, art therapist, teacher and artist, will give a lecture on the 28th of March 2020 in London on “Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing”, in which research findings about drawing and memory will be introduced. The lecture is open to everyone interested.

The research was conducted by Ottarsdottir in two related parts. One hundred and thirty-four subjects participated in the part of the study where they were asked to draw the content of certain words and write other words down. Some subjects were asked to remember after three weeks what they had written and drawn, and others after nine weeks. In both cases, words that were drawn were generally recalled much more successfully than words that were written. Drawing was generally as much as five times more effective than writing when recalled nine weeks after the original memorisation. To the best of knowledge, research regarding such long-term memory of drawings has not been conducted worldwide, prior to now.

In the other related part of the research, Ottarsdottir conducted a qualitative study with five children who had experienced stress or trauma and had specific learning difficulties. The children drew pictures partly to memorise coursework material. Indications were found that such drawing could facilitate processing of emotions associated with difficult or traumatic experiences.

Art therapy theories and methods were found to be important in order to understand the memory drawing process. It appears that drawing, in art therapy, provides sufficient safety so that children often manage to express vulnerable and complex feelings more easily through drawing than they do through speaking. The memory drawing research is contextualised within the literature on related research studies, methods and theories.

Participants in the lecture will be invited to take part in a drawing/writing exercise which explains the way in which the quantitative part of the research was conducted. The exercise provides insight into the functions of memorising through drawing and writing.

The full paper on the research, “Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing”, was published in ATOL: Art Therapy OnLine, and can be viewed here. Ottarsdottir is available for interviews and giving lectures on demand, about the memory drawing research. To schedule an interview or a lecture, feel free to contact her through email or by phone at +354 8670277.

The lecture is open to everyone interested in memory drawing. Limited availability, so registration is required.

  • Extremely interesting loved this presentation. Great job.
  • Ottarsdottir introduced very interesting research and it was well presented. The experiential aspect helped to elevate the significance of this study as well as illustrate the double role of art therapy & education.

Date & Location

The lecture will take place at 2 PM on the 31st of October 2020:
Lift Hub,
45 White Lion Street
London N1 9PW
Registration fee: is £75 with 20% Webinar discount: £59

Unnur Óttarsdóttir

Unnur ÓttarsdóttirDr. Unnur Ottarsdottir has worked in a preschool, secondary schools and a high school as a teacher, special education teacher and art therapist. She is a part-time art therapy lecturer at the Iceland University of the Arts and at the continuing education department of the University of Akureyri. She is also a practising researcher at the Reykjavik Academy.

Unnur has practised art therapy in various institutions and in her private practice for 30 years. She runs an art therapy clinic in Iceland, specialising in treatment for children and adults dealing with traumatisation and specific learning difficulties. Her areas of research are: art therapy in education for children with specific learning difficulties who have experienced trauma, and art making as a therapeutic and learning approach, including drawing for memorisation and emotional processing.

Unnur has given lectures and written chapters and articles about art therapy and memory drawing which have been published internationally.

Unnur conducted  a research into long-term memory of drawings and words and it is the first time where comparisons between drawn images and written words over such an extended period of time has been studied worldwide.


  • Informative!
  • One of the best research presentations that was easy to translate to practice.
  • Good to participate in the material.
  • This workshop was one of my favorites of the day, the presenter was knowledgeable and her session was extremely though provoking and interesting.
  • The exercise we participated in to experience the potential benefits of imagery to enhance memory was intriguing and thought provoking.
  • Very interesting research and well presented. The experiential aspect helped to elevate the significance of this study as well as illustrate the double role of art therapy & education.
  • Materials from Unnur's session will be helpful to me in my practice. Appreciated her novel approach.
  • Great information & examples.
  • Extremely interesting loved this presentation. Great job.


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