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Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Lesson 2, Warm up exercises, part 2

In Sketchnoting, Visual Thinking on May 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

Time for the next set of warm up exercises. Are these lessons arriving too slowly?

circlesExercise 1, 9 circles

Go back to your 9 circles page or start a new one following the stir circles process.

Now for the next 5 minutes, make something out of each of those circles. Draw anything. Draw the first thing that comes into your head.

Exercise 2, 9 squares

Use your vertical and horizontal line throwing technique to make 3 rows of 3 squares about the same size. Throw the top and bottom. Pull the sides.

For the next 5 minutes, make something out of each of those squares.


?   Whasquarest did you draw?

?   How many did you draw before you had to stop and think?

?   What about that was hard?

?   What was your drawing speed like? Did you feel rushed? Did you have enough time?

?   Did you find new images, ones that you either hadn’t drawn for a long time?

?   When did one idea lead to another idea?

?   What did you learn as you created your images? What surprised you?

Exercise 3, Assigning meaning

Look at each of your images. What concepts could each of those images represent for you?

For example, my tire circle could represent movement, or being out of control. My balloon might represent a feeling of lightness, or childhood or celebration if I draw a bunch of them.

The box can be a container for something or unpacking.

Go ahead and label each drawing with at least one concept.


You have formally begun your visual vocabulary!!!!


Lesson 2, Warm up exercises, part 1

In Sketchnoting, Uncategorized on May 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

We’re going to warm up.

Exercise 1, The pacewalking man

When you are beginning to sketchnote, you’ll be tempted to sketch as rapidly as you possibly can. You’ll worry you’ll miss something important. Don’t. Draw as you would breathe normally, not too quickly, not too slowly. Let’s get a feel for how much time that might be. Find a clock  with a second hand. You’ll do this part for 15 seconds.

Start now by just moving your pen in easy, slow circles and squiggles on a page in your sketchbook for 15 seconds. Let your hand and your pen fl o-o-o-o-o-w across the page. Breathe.

This will both loosen up your hand and give you a feel for how long 15 seconds really is. Remember, we’re aiming for a civilized walking pace. Not strolling in New Orleans or late for a meeting in Manhattan.  Maybe like you’re meeting a friend for a drink at The Driskill and you have an interesting story you’re looking forward to telling.

Okay, move your pen.

How did that feel?

These next two exercises will allow you to use your body wisdom, the wisdom of your fine motor skills.

Stand up and shake out your body. Really shake it. Roll your head around. Now shake out your hands. Be loose.

Exercise 2, Stir Circles

We’ll start with sitr circles.

Hold hand above your sketchbook page and make a circle about 1/3 the width of your sketchbook page, as if you were stirring a small cup of tea. Now put your pen down and draw that circle, keeping that same stirring motion.

Now put your pen down and draw a row of three circles across the page, keeping that stirring motion.

Draw two more rows below. Fill the page. You’ll have three rows of three circles each. We’re going to come back to these in the next lesson so you can either create a new page of circles just for practice or move on to a fresh page.

Exercise 3, Throw lines

throw linesStart again on a new page.

1. Make two dots, one on the left hand side of your page and one on the far right hand side. They should represent two points of a straight line.
2. Now place your pen on the left hand dot and look at the right hand dot. Don’t look at your pen; look where you are going. There’s a great quote that says something like, “You don’t need to look behind you. 3. That’s not where you’re going.” Who said that?
4. Throw the line, just like you would throw a ball, keeping your eye on your destination. Use your whole arm. It knows what to do.

?   How are those lines?

1. Now make a dot at the top of your page and a dot at the bottom. Make them close to vertical. Do the same thing.
2. Place your pen on the top dot, focus your eye on the destination dot and let gravity work to pull the line.

You can do this at any scale. Now you can easily draw tables in your sketchbook,on a flip chart, on a white board.

Now let’s put both of these skills together.

Exercise 4, Facial expressions

Use your throw lines to draw a 4 x 4 grid. Leave a little room on your page at the top of your grid and a little room on the left hand margin. You are going to use these. If you like, you may draw a 5 x 5 grid to make sure that you save the space.

Fill the 4 x 4 grid with stir circles.

Add the following information to the left hand margin and the top of your grid. Like this:

experssion grid

All of the human face happens on the lower half of the head.

The key components of expression, remember we’re all about capturing essence, are the brows, the eyes and the mouth. Let’s do a bit of practice. This is an adaptation of a great demonstration that Austin Kleon does when he talks about simple expressions.

  1. Draw four rows of circles with four circles in each row. Leave a bit of space below each row.
  2. On the first row, add only straight brows. Two straight lines.
  3. On the second row, add two diagonal brows, slanting down in the middle.
  4. On the third row, add two diagonal brows, slanting down on the outside.
  5. On the fourth row, add two arcs for brows. You choose, up arcs or down arcs.
  6. Now add the eyes below the brows. Put in simple eyes. Dots.
  7. Now noses. Put in several different noses. Noses point the face, so they show the direction that the face is looking. Point your noses in different directions.
  8. Now on the mouth line, on the first column, add a straight mouth all the way down the column.
  9. For the second column, make the mouth frowny. These can be either close lipped frowns or open mouth anger if you like.
  10. On the third column make the mouth smiley. Same deal open or closed.
  11. For the fourth column, make the mouth jagged. Same deal again, open or closed.

Let’s see how much information you can capture with a few simple lines.

Show your journal page to someone else.  See if they can label the expressions for each face.

Swap back. Read the labels. See if you agree or if you’d add a different label.

See what simple but eloquent expressions you created using only brows and the mouth?

Lesson 1, Part 2, Get your mind right

In Sketchnoting on May 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm

In the last lesson, you learned some improvisation rules to keep in mind. As you read these short lessons, try making a symbol for each of the key points. You can see some of mine embedded in this post. Once again, try this process to continue to build your vocabulary.

  1. Read the article.
  2. Highlight key words from the article.
  3. Create an image that reflects the key points.
  4. Try for one small image for each of the points.
  5. Use some kind of “fancy” connector for those points that seem to be closely related to each other.
  6. Make note of the images that you created that you can use in other places.

Now let’s talk about the practical part of getting your mind right. This is a beginning list. What’s exciting about this class is that the officialness of the practice of Sketchnoting is so new that no one has written the rules down. That means you are free to write the book, to move beyond the confines of rules defined by others.

Here are five to get your started.

pen1. Draw over and through. Redo your pen line if you don’t like the first one but do it immediately. You will then also see your path toward that image. Free your hand to continuously improve. And move on. Always move on.horse


2. Use a pen. As a way to accept your own burgeoning Sketchnoting skill, try Sketchnoting with a pen rather than a pencil. A pen forces you to move forward. Pencils, and  erasers, allow for a lot more editing, moving you out of the moment and into the world of perfection.





don't be fussy3. Don’t be fussy. Sketchnoting is thinking made visual and thinking is messy. Sketchnoting is also innovation, not process improvement. Push yourself to record new images, new metaphors. Repeat after me, “don’t be fussy.”





4. Draw at a civilized walking speed. Don’t get in too much of a hurry when you Sketchnote. While you don’t have time to capture every detail, you do have time to capture what’s important to you. Most speakers spend a lot of time explaining what they mean by . . . . Use the time you are given. And pictures are faster than words. You only need one for each 1000, remember?

walking man



5. Do whatever you can to set up your environment. Come early to get a good seat for sketchnoting. You can use the extra time like Mike Rohde does, to put a fancy title on the page. After all, you already know that. But that’s all you know, remember paying attention over preparation.fancy title

Lesson 1, Part 1, Get your mind right

In Sketchnoting on May 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This talk is about establishing a solid, safe, exploratory environment for Sketchnoting. There are two parts. Part 1 talks about gaining an improvisational mindset. Part 2 is a list of principles for holding that mindset open. This is part 1. 


  1. Read the article.
  2. Highlight key words from the article.
  3. Create an image that reflects the key points.
  4. Try for one small image for each of the points.
  5. Use some kind of “fancy” connector for those points that seem to be closely related to each other.
  6. Make note of the images that you created that you can use in other places.

gear brainSketchnoting is innovation – finding new meaning and new learning in listening and drawing. We’re bypassing our verbal editor, that part of ourselves that Natalie Goldberg explains is the Monkey Mind editor who inhibits our writing as well as our drawing.

The Monkey Mind is a Zen concept that Goldberg uses to name the incessant voice of the inner critic, that running commentary on the not good enoughness of our work. Often the voice is dressed in rational words and phrases. The Monkey Mind represents the safety of the status quo.monkey mind Drawing and sketchnoting seek to move beyond the status quo, to surface that which we don’t know we know. Often we reach that place by acting without thinking, by improvising.

Sketchnoting  is. . . improvisational drawing. Let’s start with some improvisation rules from Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson.

There are 7 that apply to Sketchnoting.

  1. Say yes – Madson describes the act of saying yes as an act of acceptance of what is offered. Its opposite is to block, by suggesting there might be a better idea. Take your first idea and move forward.
  2. Don’t prepare; pay attention –Substitute attention for anticipation. That way you’re open to surprise. Sketchnotes learnings are often surprises because you are processing in real time.
  3. Focus your attention by practicing total listening. When your mind wanders, notice the tangent and then quickly bring it back. Find a beacon of interest in all things by paying attention to points with personal resonance. The more attention you pay, the less you will notice your own drawing and the more you will fall into the work itself. Stephen King describes it as “falling through the hole in the paper.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Me Hi  Cheek sent ma hi ee] calls it FLOW.

fall through paper

  • 4. Just show up. Start anywhere and be average– Accept what is offered. The phrase “Lower your standards” has its history in acceptance. When two opposing forces wanted to parley, to signal parley the standard bearer lowered the standard. When you block an idea, you deny the muse entry. Lower your standard and invite parley. Saying yes is about acceptance so that you can begin a practice, whether you think you’re an artist or not.

lower standard5. Accept your insecurity. We’ve all got it. Find what you love about your work. It’s there.
Ignore how you are feeling and focus on your purpose. Why are you here? What are you learning? That’s what you want to capture. This is about personal value, not about what someone else might take away from your experience.

6. Risk making mistakes. Embrace the risk. Circus clowns, when they flub a routine, raise their arms high in the air and address the audience with a deep bow as if this was a normal part of the routine. Mistakes are. If you’re not making mistakes, if you’re not working outside your comfort zone, you’re not really trying.

  • clown bow

Take care of each other. Enjoy the work. Share the discovery. “Look at each other with encouraging eyes.”


Sketchnoting 101, Before you begin

In Sketchnoting on May 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I can flyI have had a lot of requests from people who see my sketchnotes to learn the process. Well, okay, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Man, those are cool. I couldn’t ever do that!” But that’s not true because I used to see sketchnotes and think that it would take forever to learn to do that. It does take time but mostly what it takes is a commitment.

For those of you who said you wanted to learn, I’m going to start a series of sketchnote lessons here.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A nice sketchbook.

Choose one with nice paper. I prefer a really smooth surface and the classic Moleskin provides a great, thick, non-bleed paper that’s a delight to run a pen across. But you should choose whatever you like. Just pick a size that you are willing to carry around. I use an 8.5 x 11 at home and carry the smaller 8 x 5.5 with me.

2. 1-2 nice black ink pens.

I prefer a gel roller ball pen. Depending on my mood, it’s either a Uniball Signo .38 or a 207. One is very, very fine, the other a bit bolder. Both pens allow the ink to flow smoothly, although the .38 is a bit scratchy, which I like.

If you prefer a felt tip, Micron pens are really popular and come in a variety of widths. I like the .01, which is very fine (but not nearly as fine as they come). The tips on these fine felt tip pens are fragile, so if you have a hard touch, you’re probably better off with a gel roller.

3. Finally, you will need 1-2 pale translucent brush tip markers, one warm color, one cool. Like one turquoise and one pink, for example.

  • ​The Pitt Big Brush markers come in a million colors. They run about $6-7 a piece and last forever.
  • Tombow ABT brush pens are MUCH cheaper and also come in a million colors. But they won’t last as long. However, they seem much more portable to me.

We’re going to start out with black pen. No pencils. We will be adding color strategically, later, but for now, it will only be a distraction. So get your color pens, now where they are and set them aside.

The first real lesson will come tomorrow. Promise!