How Painting Can Improve Your Memory

Custom House Portrait by The Art of Michelle

Custom House Portrait by The Art of Michelle

I typically have a terrible memory. No joke. If I could change one thing about myself, I'd switch out my memorizing abilities with Seth's because that guy's mind is like a steel trap. I'm totally jealous.

But when I paint, something weird happens. I can look at a painting from months or years ago and immediately remember every single smell, sight, sound, and feeling I experienced while painting it. Somehow painting opens up a door in my brain that is otherwise locked and empty and floods that empty space with memory.

I'll prove it to you.

Take this house portrait for example. I painted it almost a year ago. Every time I see it I remember that I was in a camper while Seth was out riding horses on the trails in southern Illinois. I was 6 or so months pregnant and swollen. The window was open to my left, and I could hear the horses trotting, birds chirping, and breeze blowing. I could smell the sweet and sharp scent of horses, leather, the smoke of campfires burning. Sarge was curled up next to me, and I was listening to the audiobook The Fault in Our Stars. I was totally engrossed in that story, feeling sad and happy right along with the characters.

I remember falling in love with this house, the deer in the backyard, my sweet customer Lacey, her little pup, their Autumn decorations. 

But ask me what I did last Friday, and I'd probably say, "um...let me look at my calendar." 

Crazy, right? I mean, this doesn't happen to me every time I paint something. After all, I paint every day. But, sometimes, the magic happens.

So, here's what I would tell you. If you want to remember a place, an experience, a feeling, then sit down and paint something. It can be anything, really. Paint the bouquet of flowers in front of you or the bowl of fruit on your counter. It doesn't matter what the painting looks like. Come back to it in a few weeks or months and notice how it brings back your memories of that moment. It's amazing, really!

This is just one of many reasons why I love painting so much.