Posts

Creating Collaborations—My Intention for the Year!

At the beginning of the year, one of my intentions was to create more collaborative work— with existing colleagues and venture into unexplored territory.

I see connection and opportunity almost everywhere (a blessing and a curse, I believe). Two weeks ago, I took a fabulous course with Ramiro Davaro-Comas, a professional muralist and instructor at the Art Students League in NYC. (Ramiro has been painting murals for 15 years, painted over 200 murals, and facilitated more than 150 additional murals. You can find his work here, www.ramirostudios.com and www.super-stories.org) I have a (not so) secret desire to create more murals—BIG artwork. I want to add more of this type of work and play to my repertoire. 

During the session, I also found that I was constantly thinking about the mechanics—the micro-adjustments necessary to create the desired effect with the spray paint—which nozzle I was using, how close my hand was to the wall, and what angle I needed to get a tight straight line as opposed to a wide swath of paint. Sustained, hyper-focused attention to the details of my drawing is not so common for me—I most often work in well-known ways that are almost second nature. It was a great lesson in microlearning. 

After the course, having had so much fun and learning new skills, I approached Ramiro about partnering to create a session I could offer to my community—visual practitioners. The idea has come together so easily and quickly! The session is on the calendar, announced just yesterday to my bikablo alumni and now for everyone who would like to dive into this learning experience/adventure. While it might seem like the session—an afternoon in Bushwick (Brooklyn) is all fun and games, visual practitioners, trainers, facilitators, and coaches are always creating posters, charts, and collateral that includes headlines/hand lettering, close attention to layout, and color.

Have I whetted your appetite? Are you curious to learn more? I’d love to talk with you about my experience and to answer your questions!

Come to New York, if you’re nearby, and run into the city for the day. I added a brief trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to start the day for those who love to be up early to begin their day in Manhattan. All the details of the schedule are on my calendar. Or perhaps make it a long weekend in the middle of the summer, or maybe you’re attending the IFVP (International Forum of Visual Practitioners) Summit that begins the day after this session, and you will add this adventure to your calendar.

As you can imagine, space is limited because we will be plorking (playing and working) in the backyard of world-renowned LowBrow Artique, a Brooklyn gallery, and a spray paint store. Find more details on my calendar here.

Perhaps most importantly, beyond the joys and challenges of hand-lettering, what do you think about your experiences with collaborations and partnerships? And of greatest import, what are your intentions for this year? How are you living into them? I’d love to know!

PS: And, if you’re curious about more visualization events and resources, email me to join my ezine list. Yesterday’s edition was chock full of info and goodies!

I LOVE feedback! What about you?

When you finish a project, what do you do? Do you celebrate, reflect, plan for the next time/future, and…?

 In the past two weeks, I’ve had opportunities to engage in giving (myself and others) feedback. I’ve also considered how I want to receive it from others. These have been enlightening experiences. 

In what circumstances do you offer feedback, appreciations, observations, reflections, critique, constructive criticism or the like? 

What do you think, feel, and communicate before engaging in the activity? And how is it different when the sharing is one-way, a conversation with one or more people, or setting up an opportunity for people to share feedback?

In my practice
I have developed a daily art practice. One project took me into rather unknown territory—working with a combination of acrylic paints and pens, gouache, collage, gel matte as a fixative, and mixed media paper. While I’ve worked with almost all of these materials before, this particular sequence and the combinations were new and held challenges (the weight of paper was not quite right for all the media, using gel matte with gouache is tricky {there’s a story there!}, and more. I’m also the gal who follows the “recipe”/directions the first time I do something, and then I change it up. I tried to follow the plan this time but then abandoned part of it. (I gave it a good try twice and didn’t like the results, so I found my way.)

 

Working/Being with others
I am always observing people’s habits/how they give feedback to themselves and each other. As the facilitator of a recent experience, I sought to guide the reflections in a generative way—with a focus on appreciating aspects of participants’ work about the criteria of success and pointing to opportunities to try new and different techniques rather than viewing aspects of their work as mistakes or flawed. While I believe in recognizing mis-strokes in drawing and processes that didn’t achieve the intended purpose and impact, I always choose to “fail forward”/focus on future possibilities. It’s delicate work being a facilitator seeking to create a warm, open, honest, learning-oriented environment.

I was also part of a gathering of about 30 people interested in addressing climate change through art and activism. The organizers asked for feedback, and I shared my reflections using my simple framework of: 

  • asking about their intentions and goals—thinking about the complete experience for participants (before, during, and after the event)
  • what I appreciated/the processes that had worked well for me and as an observer (I never stop thinking of group dynamics)
  • what might be done differently next time and why I thought so.

The facilitators were receptive.

These experiences were instructive to me—personally (in my artwork), as the facilitator of learning experiences, and as a participant with a stake in the event. 

What do you enjoy, find challenging, or wonder about harvesting people’s thoughts and feelings about experiences?
I LOVE hearing reflections and always ask for them, even when time is short. Here are a few photos of quick feedback from students after several 45-minute sessions at a conference. They put the sticky notes on the chart paper on their way to the room. I asked them to share about their experiences: 

  • What did you like?
  • What did you learn?
  • How will you use your new knowledge and skills?

Their responses gave me a pulse check about their engagement, enthusiasm, and learning.

Here’s one last example of a feedback sheet I use during some of my Appreciative Inquiry sessions.

 

How do you elicit reflections on your work? What influence does what you learn have on future sessions? I’d love to know!

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. 

Liminal experiences—Finding Beauty at the Threshold

 Endings, beginnings, and transitions span the spectrum of experiences — they are often a combination of rich, full, challenging, exciting, exhausting, and daunting. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a project that is rather different—at least for me. I’d like to invite you to peek into that experience as it may be something that you want to create for yourself.

As part of my studies, I was asked to create my lineage chart. Here are a few of the questions that I mused about as I began work on this project:

  • How did I get here/How do I come to be where I am now (literally where I live and more importantly, perhaps intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually)? 
  • Who and what influenced me/my development (the people and experiences)? 
  • How did this path unfold (what was the combination of rhyme and reason and serendipity)? 

If you make time to pause and ponder these questions about your life, what surfaces for you? 

What does it feel like to explore your memories of your personal and professional development—your foundation? 

I chose to sift to sort through photos from my life to form the basis for my chart. This was fun, challenging, and time-consuming. I loved making time to sit with photographs and linger over memories of times with my immediate, extended, and adopted* families and friends. I also realized that I either couldn’t easily  access some photos (of my camp days) or I lacked photos of some essential experiences (particularly my college and graduate school years).

While it was wonderful to have so many to choose from, and my initial batch was over 100 photos, I needed to create a piece that shared the people and experiences most meaningful to me. I needed to develop criteria for who and what would be included… It was an important step in my process.

What would be the criteria you would use to show the through-line(s) of the story of your life?

Ultimately, I have organized my photos both chronologically and conceptually. And, I purposefully chose a generative (if often-used) image, seeking to play with its design.

My visual represents, in essence:

  •  The people and experiences that have been my foundation are represented in the roots of the tree. They supported me early in life. These are the people who have had a hand in the co-creation of who I am today.
  • The trunk of the tree holds experiences that further strengthened and broadened my life my schooling and my marriage. 
  • The left side of the trees/the branches hold family experiencesvolunteering and close friends. The center of the branches and leaves are my educational experiences (in part) and my chaplaincy work/CPE experience. On the right are collaborative experiences in my work life that have been particularly meaningful.  

In the future, I plan to write short notes and attach them to this tree (so to speak). I will also be reaching out to the people in this chart to tell them about it and its special meaning.

I would love to know your thoughts on creating such a visual of your lineage. Even more, I would love to see what you create.

Just a little later today I will record a guided visualization to support you in beginning the journey of designing and developing your lineage chart. It will provide the time and space to remember and reflect. (I was tempted to make notes during the visualization, which is definitely not part of the experience. Instead, I trusted in my memory, that I would recall what was most important.) I would be delighted to learn what you think of this guided visualization. I hope you share your thoughts and feelings with me in an email. I have posted the recording below.

*high school foreign exchange experience living in/with a family 

Collaboration— it’s an adventure!

What was your most recent STELLAR collaborative experience?

What made it so fabulous? 

Here’s a different yet related question: When was the last time you worked with someone new or with whom you had never worked before? (Knowing someone and working with them are two different things, no?) And, when I say “work”, I mean, co-created an experience or a project.

I’m about to step into the fourth stage of such an endeavor. The first stage was the idea, the second was the agreement, the third was the conversation about the dance that we could do together and today we will step onto the dance floor together.*A pre-training coffee together!

What factors do you consider before engaging in collaboration—whether that collaboration is by your design or the result of someone else’s suggestion or direction?

I reflect on my foundation, literally what I bring to the experience—my background, experience, goals, energy, and personal style of communication. Of course, I also consider all of the same about my colleague(s), looking for areas of similarity, easy alignment, and possible friction. It is always my intention to step into a situation with eyes wide open, understanding, and leveraging our respective strengths. Being aware of our differences (philosophical and/or practical) enables me to plan ahead, to mitigate areas of turbulence in the flow of the experience.

Assessments are a passion of mine. I rely most heavily on the VIA Character Strengths survey and Platinum Rule. The former focuses my attention on the strengths of all involved in the collaboration while the latter points to areas of easy connection and potential challenges. It’s not so much that these instruments give me answers, it’s that they increase my awareness of my interactions. (I think, very concretely, about how to remain emotionally intelligent through the experience.) (If you’re interested in learning more about these resources, please reach out to me.)

The foundation for all this work is an approach to the process of collaboration and change (because training is all about change). The five D’s of Appreciative Inquiry (Definition, Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny) guide my planning and work. Sometimes I share the essence of the approach with my colleagues and other times I keep it close to the vest, knowing that I am working with it. 

What are your frameworks for understanding yourself and others, collaborative relationships, and planning for experiences/change? How do you integrate your knowledge to create unparalleled experiences?

 I LOVED sharing the training experience with my colleague—seeing how we were both similar and different—and how that benefitted the participants. Of course, it made us better trainers too.

Now that I am back home, with time to reflect, I realize that I would have liked even more time talking with my colleague—processing each day’s events and the entire adventure. In this particular instance, that couldn’t happen though I made time to reflect on my own, and of course, we talked throughout our days together.

I hope you will share your approach to collaboration and the framework and practices that support such events’ planning, implementation, and evaluation. 

*written last week on the way to Belgium