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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

 

Creating my universe

Just the other day I was talking with my VEOLI buddies (Visualizing End-of-Life Issues) about where we are in our development as a collaborative/group/organization. We’ve been engaged in a low-key version of the 5D Appreciative Inquiry Design process…

  • Defining what are we seeking to achieve—our topic and scope
  • Discovering what we appreciate about our work to date—as individuals and as a group
  • Dreaming about what we want to become (knowing that we have different interests and perspectives)
  • Designing some experiments (social media, collaborations, offering workshops)
  • Delivering what will be

What about you? 

As the half-year mark approaches, what are you appreciating about what you are doing and where you are in your universe?

We began discussing how we fit into the existing professions, organizations, and niches that comprise end-of-life care and work. I volunteered to draft initial ideas and then ask VEOLI members to review, add, change, delete or re-imagine the draft. Initially, I thought I’d start with all the organizations and professions that we had been naming and see how we fit into what they do. When I put the pencil to iPad, I started instead with us, and all of our capabilities and interests. I have created the first draft, though I may completely re-envision it before sharing. We’ll see!

 

If you were going to create a visual about yourself in your universe, what would it look like?

What is your foundation? What do you appreciate about your work?

What ideas will you explore to determine in what ways you will move forward?

I decided to dig into the question of my current universe… as I’m feeling so many changes afoot in the work that I do. My first draft was completely literal, black and white (so I just had to add a yellow background!)—just get the ideas out of my head and onto the canvas. It is informative and rather uninspiring. Of course, as I was drawing it, I started to think of another way to represent my ideas that felt fun and exciting… so that’s next up for me. Here’s a sketch of the ideas I am going to draw out in the next few days… My path for moving forward—even if that path is in the stars!

“You are wrong.” 

I could not believe that those words were leaving my mouth! After 90 minutes of teaching and sharing the Zentangle method and philosophy…

  • Zentangle — It’s about consistency not perfection. 
  • No mistakes — Every line is an opportunity, we embrace every mark that is ours as artists.
  • There is elegance in limits.
  • My place in the circle, everyone’s place in the circle, is a unique perspective. No one else can see the same view.

I had been working with the participants to leave their inner critic “at the door”/outside the room and to develop a calm presence with a relaxed focus. Emphasizing the number of ways there are to use shadow (this isn’t art class), combine patterns or create their “chops”/signatures, underscored the flexible nature of this art form that has a handful of guidelines.

But in fact, the participant was wrong. 

When is the last time you were in a situation in which you needed to deliver the message that something was seriously amiss? What was the context? How did you prepare to deliver the words that feel like a bucket of cold water to the person receiving your message? How did you get back to a place where the conversation could move forward with each person feeling heard and understood? 

At the end of every class, we gather up everyone’s work to create a mosaic. We make time to appreciate the beauty of the individual tiles and the work of the entire group. The participants always remark on the similarities across the tiles and marvel at the differences they created, as each piece is unique.  

Everyone has the:

  • same instructions
  • same materials
  • same process

and yet everyone’s tile is different!

Yesterday, in organizing the tiles on the table, some of the folks in the group were particularly interested in ensuring that everyone’s tile was at the same orientation. Orientation can be discovered through where people put their chop on the tile. As we look at this nonrepresentational art, we search for clues as to how to interpret it, and the chop gives us the clue to the artist’s thinking. 

I never mention anything about how we might organize the tiles, I seek to understand what people want. I embrace whatever arises in the sharing of their work. To me, it’s really the cacophony of the styles and orientations in the mosaic that adds to its beauty. That’s my perspective!

Well, it was almost pistols at dawn! 

The tiles were organized as you see them here, with the chops at the bottom of all the tiles—which was (perhaps) easily understood if you were standing at either the top or the bottom of the mosaic. A woman standing next to me, on one side, was adamant that the tiles were not facing in the same direction and started to move a few around. There was a bit of back and forth about it. The air got prickly! I could sense the energy shift. I was surprised because this was the second set of tiles we were making into a beautiful gathering and the first time had been like butter. 

I felt the need to intervene quickly. And, while I was shocked and amazed—and I did think before saying it— I told the woman who was agitated, “I hate to say this (pause) you are wrong.” She was stunned! It took her back. And that led her to look differently at the tiles. I explained the reasoning again, and this time she was able to hear and see it. I sought to break the tension by pointing to Zentangle philosophy, about how this process helps us to shift and take a different perspective. Happily, everyone just started talking again and all was well. 

The event ended on a high note with people feeling energized and amazed at their own abilities. As I was packing up, one woman said, “I can’t believe I did this! I am not an artist” to which I replied, “You are now.” Then one of the men came up to me and told me this was the fourth time he was tangling with me—having taken classes with me over the years. In spite of our wearing masks, I had recognized him—though I didn’t remember that I had seen him three times previously. I was delighted that he continued to find joy in tangling!

I feel this when I am tangling…

“Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth

 

 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 14th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 

 

A deep dive into tangling!

If you’re ready to explore more deeply, join me for Zentangle Project Pack No. 14, a special tangling event to recognize the importance of Mental Heath Awareness. Look here to discover more! It’s going to be amazing!

I hope you will join me!

Just a few ideas about finding and maintaining equanimity…

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US…

How are you taking good care of your mental well-being?

While it’s always been important, the past few years have highlighted the need for giving consistent attention to our own self-care. The direction to, “Put on your oxygen mask first” is critical for us and all those around us. (I don’t even need to draw that visual right?) If we do not take care of ourselves we cannot work with the challenges in our own lives, much less care for and help others. 

In the early summer of 2013, I discovered Zentangle during my search for resources for high school students engaged in the college admissions process. My coaching clients wanted and needed tools to support them in moving through their feelings of anxiousness, confusion, and overwhelm. I wanted to provide methods that would help them feel agency in their lives— something they could do on their own, developing their confidence, giving them pleasure, and engaging their creativity.

The Zentangle Method is a way to find calm and focus using simple steps and basic strokes to create beautiful designs. 

In November of 2013, I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Since then I have taught over a thousand students around the world — in Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, Singapore, South America, and the United States, in person and online (even before the pandemic). It is a practice that brings me, and my students joy, and nurtures relaxation.

What do you do that nurtures your well-being?

Okay, maybe walking and resting…

There are so many possibilities! I love the idea of a vacation—really getting away from the daily routine. And yet what supports me consistently is the small actions I take on a daily basis.  Enjoying a cup of coffee and reading for 20 minutes or so before walking Gus in the early morning, making art of some kind—tangling, watercolor, painting with acrylics. Getting out and walking a mile every day, in all kinds of weather, or working with crafts—knitting, quilting or slow stitching. And, there are those weekly “musts” of connecting with friends around the world over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to find equanimity. I hope you will share your methods and resources with me.

 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 16th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 

I hope you will join me!