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In praise of great teaching

It’s so important, I will say it again:

Great teaching, the right tools, experimentation, willingness to get it wrong to get it right, perseverance, and the pull of a challenge are essential elements of the learning experience and lead to success!

The Back Story

Acrylics, with and without Flow-Aid on raw linen, 33″ x 36″

I am venturing into new creative territory—color mixing. I have been playing with all different kinds of paint (acrylics, fluid acrylics, high-flow fluid acrylics, and gouache), additives (water, Flow-Aid, and mixes), and substrates (mixed media and watercolor papers, raw canvas and raw linen) for the past six months. While I loved taking a class in watercolor decades ago, I found it very challenging and lost patience with it (or maybe with myself?). The work and play this past half year have been (mostly) a delight!

Now I am in the process of learning color mixing with watercolor to make my work with acrylics (and the rest of the paints) more consistently successful—meaning achieving my desired results with greater ease. 

I started an online course over the weekend and discovered a few key factors to my success and happiness with my effort:

  • A great teacher makes a HUGE difference! I love learning from someone who goes step-by-step—the mark of someone who teaches with learners in mind, who can step out of their own level of expertise to meet us where we are.
  • The right tools are very important—from the light (a simulation of good daylight), the right paper and paints (I have several sets of watercolors and it took a bit of playing Goldilocks to find the one that worked best), and the best brush for the task (easier said than done).
  • I had to let go of a desire to get it right the first time—I know (in my mind/logically) that it’s critical to experiment AND there are only so many hours in a day so I want to get “there” fast. My heart needs to be involved in this journey as I want to enjoy—and not just learn from—my results). Experimentation and “stick-to-itiveness” is essential. 
  • Ensuring that I use my new skills consistently, so they become second nature is critical. The teacher I am learning from has developed a 14-day challenge in which we use our new skills—I LOVE it! It’s a great investment of my time and money.

Whether I’m focusing on training, facilitation, or coaching, these same concepts and practices are foundational to growing my knowledge and skills and those of my clients. While my example below is a deep dive into the world of visualization skills, if that’s not your world, how would you adapt the ideas to your work and your clients? I would love to hear of your modifications and expansions upon my ideas—I hope you will be in touch!

Aha! Drawing the Connection to Our Plorking* with Visualization

As you reflect on your journey with bikablo—whether you have completed the Basic course (Days 1 and 2), the Advanced course, Extraclasse or coached with me to elevate your work—what are you doing right now to consistently broaden or deepen your skills?

In thinking about visualization, most recently, I am thinking of my practice and my clients through:

  • offering the students in the Gonzaga University course, “Visualizing Meaning and Purpose,” a list of prompts for every day of the week—we share our drawings on our Miro board.
  • working from a list of prompts with several of my Drawify colleagues, to add to the platform (working in .svg format/Concepts)
  • reviewing a beautiful card deck over the weekend and being inspired to create new drawings based on the figures in the deck
  • being part of an international graphic recording team—and brushing off my sketchnoting skills to make “mini-stories” to capture key points shared during presentations at the Stanford University-sponsored Me2We conference last month.

* plorking—playing and working

Here’s a Query!

Are you interested in consciously and consistently improving your visualization skills? If so, how will you do it? While there is a world of possibilities, which is the right match for you at this moment in time (or planning for the future)?

  • Are you seeking a live class—in-person or online? 
  • Would meeting up for 30/45/60 minutes once every two weeks or once a month be the right fit for your style of learning and schedule, based on daily prompts? It could be a place to share your work, ideas, questions, and challenges.
  • Do you like the intensity of a 10-day Challenge—with the opportunity to post your work, see others’ work, and receive encouragement and/or feedback?
  • Is the new Procreate Starter Set package from bikablo the direction you’re moving? What interests you about it? What questions do you have?
  • Is one-to-one coaching a better use of your time and resources?
  • What other ideas are percolating for your professional development?

I hope you will consider the questions I raise in several ways: 

  • answer them, if building your knowledge and skills in the bikablo method is part of your professional or personal development plan—and let me know if I can be helpful as you design your path
  • re-write them to meet your needs and desires. What are you dreaming of learning now (and how does it fit into your plans for the remainder of the year or longer)?
  • tell me what you’re thinking about what I have shared and your plans. I find sharing my plans with the world (wisely, to those who will nurture nascent ideas) brings a different level of commitment from me.

I hope to hear from you!

The Delights of Teamwork!

Mere words cannot express the fun, the collegiality, and most importantly, the impact of the work we accomplished at the #StanfordLEAD #Me2We2024 event last week. (Perhaps that’s why I’ve included a visual to represent my gratitude for the experience of being a member of an international team, in which each individual contributed something unique to the dynamics of the team and the event.)

The team, assembled by Drawify founder Axelle Vanquaillie, included Alexandra Oporto d’Ugard, Ben Crothers, Erin Nicole Gordon, Filippo Buzzini, Olina Glindev, and me. We hail from six different countries, yet we were on the same page, bringing the impact and influence of visualization to a conference already brimming with big names, big ideas, and participants hungry for engagement.

While we all played several different roles—as grocery shoppers, chefs, dishwashers, errand runners, schedulers, graphic recorders, presenters, and illustrators—I will say that I felt luckiest. The conference committee, h/t to Raphael Auwerkerken for his work in bringing us to the event, and to the conference committee that provided us with a gorgeous space in which to set up our array of analog recordings, were true partners throughout the experience.

As host of the table and showcase space for the first day of the event, I had the opportunity to meet so many of the attendees, share information about Drawify—our purpose and intention for being at the event—and encourage them to share their appreciation for their professors in their program. (They wrote on file cards, which were made into a gift for each of the professors in the program.) As you can imagine, people were curious. I loved sharing my passion for visualization with those who wanted to have a conversation.

Digital graphic recording has become a go-to practice of mine. The four sessions I attended were a pleasure to capture. One of my favorite memories is attending a workshop on improv, sharing my recording with the two presenters immediately afterward, and seeing their delight. They had no idea I was recording the event and were astonished to receive the visual summary. Kesinee Angkustsiri Yip told me that they had just incorporated three days earlier and she was going to print out the digital recording, frame it, and put it on her desk. It was a gift to have the time to connect with Kevin Weinstein and Kesinee after the session.

 

While I had never created tags with snippets/key phrases from the sessions, I loved it! The opportunity to capture a key idea for a session, draw and letter quickly on the Neuland Tag It, and offer it to others as a remembrance was a kick!

Perhaps the highlight of the three days (for me) was my presentation, Re-envision Yourself and Design the Life You Desire. I am dedicated to infusing Appreciative Inquiry, into every aspect of my work. The room was bursting at the seams— there were close to 100 people in a session that was meant for 80. Everyone was all in. We learned together—sharing thoughts, questions, plans, and insights. My role was truly as a facilitator, creating the environment and offering an experience that each individual would make their own. I felt almost guilty that my colleague Erin, who was graphically recording the workshop, had huge swaths of time in which participants were talking with each other. (Maybe a pause during a graphic recording is a blessing?) Of course, she became very busy as they offered up their thoughts. I was thrilled when one of the participants said, “This is exactly what I came for!” Participants left with plans for their immediate next steps for the future they desire.

These new experiences stand out for me (and may provide a few ideas, for graphic recorders, facilitators, and event organizers): 

  • a mid-size international team brings diverse, fresh energy to an experience
  • professionals from different backgrounds and with various skill sets enliven the processes used and the final products
  • hosting a space—being available to explain our work was an amazing opportunity for participants and increased engagement
  • space for showcasing the work, and enabling people to engage with it easily increases the impact on participants 
  • the creation of mini-stories/meaningful takeaways was an additional opportunity to connect with participants—we were surrounded by interested people, and some requested key phrases be “sketchnoted” for them live and in the moment
  • having my session graphically recorded was a gift I don’t often receive—give that gift to all presenters 
  • offering the opportunity for the students to show appreciation for their professors and to give the professors a gift was heartwarming and impactful.

My thinking? Let’s do this again—the results were tangible!

PS: If you’re curious, I posted this piece to LI with the use of Gemini (AI) and a little light editing afterward… Check out the differences

 

Never too old, never too late…

An early morning exchange on WhatsApp between Drawifiers* prompted me to take a moment to reflect on beginnings. Perhaps more literally, starting something brand new.

My colleague Bene was posting on LI, sharing in detail, for the first time, how he came to be an illustrator in his fifties. And, just today, he’s beginning to step fully into using the power of LI. (Perhaps visit his page and share a little love and appreciation for his work.) Joao piped up and said he was starting to do the same (leverage LI) at 38. Axelle chimed in and said she started a start-up  (Drawify) at 47. I added that I  might just win the “start something new prize” as I chose to go back to “school” in a totally new field (chaplaincy) 39 years after my last degree. 

Our conclusion? We/People are never too old to start again. 

What do you think?

When you reflect on your life, with the focus of stepping into new endeavors, big or small, what has been your journey?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what has shaped me—intentionally/of my choosing, by circumstance (friends moving away, deaths in the family, COVID, the economy, and more) and more serendipitously, (meeting new folks and developing new relationships). As I chart that path, my belief in our abilities to continuously develop turns to certainty. 

No doubt, I/we face limitations or constraints—personal and professional commitments, time, funds, capacity, and energy. And, while I am the gal who says, “Yes” probably a little too often, I make time for relaxation and fun.

Here’s a visual I created in 2020, about my professional journey. Gosh, there’s more to add since then! And, I have a parallel journey that includes my art and craft adventures and travel. Perhaps that’s a drawing in my future or an addition to this one… another thread (or two)  in the tapestry.

May I suggest that you make time right now, for just a few minutes, to recognize and celebrate your adventures over the year in your professional and personal development…

I’d love to learn what you have taken up a bit later in life.

How have you surprised yourself with your energy and desire

to continue to learn and develop?

Maybe you will even consider what the future might hold. I hope you will be in touch to share your reflections.

 

* illustrators for Drawify. Drawify is a platform offering over 10,000 hand-drawn illustrations from artists worldwide. If you’d like to learn more about using our work for telling your stories visually, grab a spot on my calendar and we can explore together, or venture out on your own with this coupon for two months of free Hero-level access to the site (no strings attached), and contact me with your questions. 

The Joy of Exploration

How often do you stop to really reflect about the the tools you’re going to use for a project?

What motivates you to look at your “go-to ” resources with new eyes?

Honestly, I don’t often think about the tools that I use because I’ve already vetted them (explored the possibilities, tested their capabilities, compared them, and made my decisions). When working with markers and paper for graphic facilitation, graphic recording or visual coaching work, I will choose my Neuland markers and the paper that fits the task best. For digital work (and play), I’ll work with Procreate on my iPad with my Apple Pencil but if I am creating illustrations for Drawify, I’ll need to work in Concepts. 

If I’m working on Miro, the online collaborative space, I will continue to discover new resources available through plug-ins and different ways of imagining the canvas. I have mounted large projects,  (my Appreciative Inquiry final project for certification)and imported photos, visuals, documents, and more.

When making my own projects with Zentangle designs or teaching, I use my Sakua  Micron 01, 08, 1, 10 or PN black pens and the lovely Italian paper “tiles” that are a signature resource, or watercolor, or mixed media paper. In  preparation for my first mural work. I tested many markers, paints, and varnishes plus brush tips. And in my Tangling BIG class I am working with markers on canvas and still wondering how I will translate the beauty of using graphite on paper to such a different surface—I’ll know soon!

What about you?

When is the last time you shook it up a bit and did a “tasting” of new tools, materials, and resources?What’s new in your bag of goodies? 

Yesterday morning, I was imagining all kinds of projects for my upcoming Tangling from the Heart class. I broke out many of the possibilities at my fingertips. An hour later, I had made so many discoveries—my paper was crammed with notes: “Love this!” “Oooo, that brush tip is too soft.” “Best result when I write more quickly.” “Oh! These markers smell terrible!” ”Make the tangle pattern first and then do the lettering.” 

Do you ever straddle the line of how much you need to keep experimenting and when is it time to move on?

My love of creativity and play is a double-edged sword. Honestly, there are only so many hours in the day. I also need to remember that my time for experimentation is not limited to this one experience. So finding what will work now and leaving the door open for new possibilities feels right… even if I’d rather keep plorking (playing and working).

What are you working on that brings out the need to experiment with new tools—pens, markers, colored pencils, paper, tablets, apps, and more? 

What’s your approach to the process?

For me, it’s all about finding the best materials for the project AND having fun in a (mostly) efficient way. I’d love to hear how you dive into this realm of your work… no doubt I can learn from you!

 

The Delight of Creativity—and the Reality of Time

Just the other week, I had two experiences that gave me pause. 

Very close to the actual event, I was asked if I was interested in volunteering to pull together a pop-up extravaganza for the IAF Impact Awards … I discovered that folks in the NYC Metro area didn’t have the appetite/time/energy to get together in person to watch the awards and discuss facilitation. Wanting to support the event, I offered to graphically record it. The timeline for prep was tight—I had a lot of other projects on my plate too and so not a lot of time to devote to this last-minute choice to offer my services. 

Truth be told. It was a very challenging event. So many winners of the awards, fascinating, life-changing projects, and many moving (SHORT) parts to the agenda. Orchestrating the capture of info in the breakout conversations happened at breakneck speed. I also, true to form, felt I had to try something new to make it a learning experience for me. I usually create my own templates or design and yet this time, I decided to work with their imagery—a blessing and a curse. With a bit of working with their materials—gaining new skills and ways of thinking in the process—I achieved new and different results. It was a bit messy —getting to the result I desired—and it took a bit longer than I’d planned, yet creativity is like that for me. 

What about you? When is the last time you chose to take a new and different path? 

What did you discover—like and dislike—about the process that will influence your work going forward?

The very next day I started preparing for my session for Drawify. To share the fun and excitement of using the new Drawify plug-in for Miro. In fact, I hadn’t used this new app on Miro so I had to learn how. It was a snap (yay!). Then I needed to design the session to teach how to install the app (easily accomplished) and show a few use cases… because I’m me, I also wanted to make the session an engaging learning experience for participants. 

As I started playing with the app, I became immersed in the possibilities—thank goodness that there are only about 800 images in the plug-in and not the almost 10,000 on the Drawify site as I would have fallen deeper into the rabbit hole! I also wanted to show folks how quickly they could create a fun, appealing, and useful visual. I timed myself—the very first time using the plug-in on Miro—and in just over 30 minutes. I had found more images than I needed, combined illustrations and text, and had a fresh look for material previously conveyed in my hand-drawn visual. 

Using a wide variety of styles was joyful. I had also designed a way for participants to collaborate with this new piece—something I hadn’t done when I originally presented the material. 

I then shifted to preparing the frame in which the participants in the session would collaborate with me to develop an evaluation/feedback tool. With my original hand-drawn digital piece from several years ago and a draft of the text for the new document, we got to work searching for illustrations. In less than 10 minutes’ time, we had created a new resource that was easily interactive for a group of virtually any size. Granted, it needed just a little more fine-tuning yet the results were… well, you can judge for yourself! 

It was great fun and people’s questions arose while learning/working with the plug-in:

  • What illustrations are available in the plug-in-in? 
  • How do I search for them? 
  • What happens if I don’t find what I’m looking for?
  • How is the plug-in different from the Drawify platform? 

Our 30 minutes together flew by! Folks left with the ability to use the plug-in immediately… my work was done.

If you’re planning to create Miro and you’d like a hand in working with the plug-in, (perhaps a 10-minute conversation over Zoom in the app) let me know! My guess is that you’ll get it in a heartbeat—if not, you know where to find me. 

If you’re interested in playing with the Drawify platform—having access to the almost 10,000 illustrations there, you can try it out for free for two months—no strings attached, https://drawify.com/promotions/Drawify2MonthHeroJill

If you’d like to walk this path of reflection and learning with me, let’s talk. I offer coaching with an Appreciative Inquiry lens.