Last Saturday I spoke at Sketch Camp here in Chicago, which is a yearly event focused on…what else? Drawing. Well to be more specific, there were all sorts of workshops on the ways and reasons to draw. Once could practice still life drawing, storyboarding, rapid prototyping, wireframing techniques, and graphic facilitation – which is a fancy way of using drawing as a form of recording brainstorming session. It’s also known as taking sketch notes. My talk was about using free association drawing as a way to uncover your own ideas, because it’s really hard to storyboard or whatever if you don’t have an idea to draw in the first place. I did this because I’ve been wanting to find the time to draw more, to revisit what I learned in four years of art school, and to practice my speaking skills.
First we had to get past the fear of the blank paper, and how important (and hard!) it is to find a place to start. This is one of my favorite questions to ask creative people, in fact. For Kate Bingaman-Burt, it’s to draw something she bought that day. For Picasso it was the color blue. For a long time for me it was to doodle an ampersand or two. However simple or complex, it’s just a trigger for your hand and your brain, and once it’s practiced enough, an idea is sure to follow. It’s the same concept as the warm up exercises that dancers or athletes use and it works.
For the purposes of this class we made paper airplanes instead. The creases in the paper make a beautiful pattern, a landscape that maybe makes you use the paper in a way you’ve never considered before.
The next exercise in class was a game, what I’m calling “visual telephone”. One person starts by writing a short non-sensical sentence. They pass it to the next person, and person #2 has to draw that sentence. Then they fold the paper to hide the original sentence and pass to person #3. Person three writes a sentence based off the drawing, then passes along to the next person so they can draw the newest sentence, as so forth. Throughout the chain of people the original sentence invariably becomes mangled to hilarious result. What’s great about this is that it’s a window into other people’s thought process, as well as an ice breaker/team building exercise which are always useful with groups of people who don’t know each other.
And finally, we used Cards Against Humanity cards as drawing prompts. Although beforehand, I picked out the most offensive cards from the deck, because even though they are funny in the context of the game, I’m not willing to sanction drawing racist, violent, or sexual themes in a classroom setting. (Sorry, Max Temkin.) We spent the last 15 minutes or so of the hour long session free drawing from the selected cards and giggling over what everyone was drawing.
I definitely had a lot of fun teaching it, and several participants mentioned how much fun they had too which makes the whole thing worth it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, attending this camp worked. I’m definitely way less scared of drawing than I was, even last week. I’ve been practicing different techniques (do you like my brushwork in the slides? Of course, I had to draw them all – it being Sketch Camp and all!) and while I’m not about to chuck my computer out the window and go full-analog, it’s been a goal for awhile to find as many opportunities to merge old and new school ways of making things.
Quick, someone else hire me for another drawing workshop so I don’t have anytime to get rusty! If you have any tricks that you use to keep your hands ready and your mind trained, please do let me know! I never tire of hearing how other people manage to solve this conundrum.
Smiles for miles,