Category Archives: drawing

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Exploring colours

Because it’s good to experiment and play.

2014-01-03 Exploring colours

I think I’ll focus on black text with colour for emphasis when I’m drawing on paper, with some light yellow or light blue highlighting added on the computer if the sketch needs it, and maybe some shading too. I don’t like highlighting on paper, as the colour is uneven and I’m worried about the ink smearing. On the computer, I’ll use brand-based colours if I’m matching a logo and the colours make sense. If not, I might play around with non-black text, just because I can do that on the computer easily. =)

If I use colour for structure and black for text, the balance feels right (and it would be wrong the other way around). Maybe that means darker boxes (more prominent) and lighter text, when I’m working with non-black text? It makes the visual hierarchy jump out more than it would with a light structure.

Hmm… Drawing on paper with red and black is annoying because red scans as pinkish (maybe the scanner’s trying to correct for off-white paper?). Blue survives the scanner better. Comparison:

Blue Flickr Blog
Red Flickr Blog

Okay, let’s see what it’s like with this as my default workflow!

Building a habit of drawing with colours

If I don’t think about colour, I tend to not use it. I draw with whatever’s handy: blue pens, black pens, anything I’m carrying around. So one day I talked myself into being okay with this. (Click on images for larger versions.)

2013-11-21 I've decided to stop caring about pen colour

Figure 1: I’ve decided to stop caring about pen colour

I think this is just me compromising with myself, though. I think there’s more that I can do, more that I can learn.

On the computer, different colours are just a click away, so I use them. Here’s something I coloured in while waiting for the speaker to get through a very long line of people who wanted to talk to him. It’s nowhere near as colourful as the graphic recordings on OgilvyNotes.com or @agentfin’s sketchnotes, but I like it.

20130611 How to Live an Amazing Life - C.C. Chapman - Third Tuesday Toronto

Figure 2: How to Live an Amazing Life (C.C. Chapman, Third Tuesday Toronto)

Actually, colour is a lot of fun. It goes a long way towards making the sketches more approachable, less intimidating, easier to visually distinguish. That’s handy when I’m looking at my Flickr photostream or through my print-outs. Besides, the coloured sketches feel more polished. They make me feel better. (Then I worry that they become intimidating… So maybe the mix is all right – coloured sketches and plain ones, all jumbled up.)

How can I colour more? How can I make it part of my workflow? How can I practise and get good enough at it that it becomes a habit?

2014-01-02 What would it take to make colour part of my workflow

Figure 3: What would it take to make colour part of my workflow?

After drawing that, I started experimenting with switching pen colours. Red and black are classic combinations. This one was fun to do, and it didn’t take that much more thought compared to a plain black one. No post-processing, too.

2014-01-02 Google Helpouts - Imagining an ideal session

Figure 4: Google Helpouts: Imagining an ideal session

Drawing on the computer still produces more confident lines and colours, though. Maybe it’s the pen width, and the ease of switching between background highlights and pen colours?

2013-11-29 Helpers Helpout 02 - Communicating with Clients Before and After Helpouts

Figure 5: Helpers Helpout #2: Communicating with customers before and after Helpouts

So… Hmm. How can I make drawing with colour more habitual?

  • When I draw on paper, I will keep red and black pens handy. I think that will prompt me to use red for highlights, and red is more vivid than blue. If I’m working at a table, it’s easy to slow down and switch. I can use that as thinking time.
  • When I draw on paper, I’ll try staying with the density of figure 4 versus figure 1 – write fewer words and leave more space. I might also try out 0.5mm or 0.6mm pens (currently on 0.4mm) to see if that gives me a different feel.
  • When I process scanned sketches, I will colour at least one of them each day before moving them into my Flickr sync folder. That usually gets me to colour the rest.
  • At least once a week (probably every Thursday), I’ll draw on my computer instead of on paper. I’ve been minimizing the number of events and presentations I do and focusing instead on my own content, so I’ve been drawing on paper more than on my computer. Setting aside some time to work on my computer will encourage me to keep tweaking the workflow, and I like the feel of my computer-drawn images more.

Did you teach yourself to use colour? How was that process for you?

Update 2014-01-03: Here’s a related post about different colouring styles I’ve used

A year of drawing my own content

If 2012 was the year of sketchnoting lots of other people’s presentations, this year was the year of drawing my own thoughts — and I loved it. There was a brief lull mid-year when I was focused on consulting, but now that I’ve made drawing my thoughts a step in my thinking/learning process (like the way writing and blogging are), I draw and post a lot more regularly.

2013-11-30 12_11_02-Flickr Search_ 2013

I really liked focusing on my own content instead of drawing other people’s ideas. For questions that helped me think out loud, I followed my interests and learned a lot more. For things that I drew to help others, I found myself building up a great archive of one-page guides that I could quickly share with even more people.

2013-11-20 More thoughts on drawing for others

2013-12-01 Drawing for others and drawing for myself - note-taking versus note-making

Want to see what I thought and drew about? Check out my Flickr collection of sketches from 2013. =)

In 2014, I’m planning to continue drawing my own content and refer requests for sketchnoting to other people… I’ve got the opportunity to do so and people find it useful, so why not? =) If you like what I’m doing, help me out by sharing your questions with me through blog comments, e-mail ([email protected]), or live conversations!

Doodle Thursday: BrainDoodles.net lesson 3 and 4

Here are some more doodles I drew while listening to the video tutorials at BrainDoodles.net:

2013-11-29 BrainDoodles lesson 3 and lesson 4

I like the reminder to play around with drawing faces and accessories – gotta do that more often! =)

See last week’s post for the previous lessons, and watch the tutorials yourself at BrainDoodles.net . Want other video tutorials? Check out SketchoFrenzy.com!

 

Doodle Thursday: Going through BrainDoodles’ lessons

Jason John Wells told me about braindoodles.net in a comment on my Google Helpouts update (it’s funny how these interests cross), so I checked it out. It’s a site with basic sketchnoting tutorials geared towards high school students, but apparently it gets the five-year-old kid seal of approval too. And this thirty-year-old! =)

Here’s what I drew while listening to the first two lessons:

2013-11-29 BrainDoodles lesson 1 and 2

Intimidated by the idea of drawing? Thomas Michaud breaks it down into building blocks and shows some easy-to-follow examples. I love the sketchy feel of the website, and will probably work on incorporating even more hand-drawn elements into mine.

Check out BrainDoodles.net!

Update: Developing thoughts further

I’ve been drawing my thoughts for years, on and off. I found some sketchbooks with old mindmaps and explorations. Still, writing was the main way I thought through things, and I made good progress in learning how to outline so that I could think about progressively larger topics. In September, I re-started the habit of drawing through my thoughts – and posting them, thanks to a sheet-fed scanner that made sharing easy.

I tend to draw one thought per page and write about one thought per blog post. I also tend to draw way more than I publish each day. I wondered if I could combine the drawings and the words to “chunk” what I was thinking about into larger topics, so that a blog post could logically group together several sketches. With a mindmap to help me keep track of the sketches (acting basically like an outline, but with icons, easy folding, and quick navigation), I could keep an eye on topics that had accumulated several sketches. Once I’d fleshed out the topic a little, I could write it up as a blog post, include the images, and replace those notes with a link. Working well!

How to think in bigger chunks

2013-09-25 How to think in bigger chunks

I had tried collecting text snippets in the past, but I tended to lose them in my archive. Because the drawings were compact, easy to review, and easy to track in my map, I found it more fun to go over them compared to the text. Unlike the partial thoughts I’d saved in my text archives before, most of the drawings were enough on their own: an answer to a question, a reflection on an idea. It was easy to remember enough context to turn them into a blog post.

So that’s the bottom-up approach: think about several ideas, and then put them together. I was curious if this new approach would also help me with the top-down approach, which is to take an idea and then go into the details.

Developing thoughts further

2013-09-25 Developing thoughts further

I was reading a student-oriented book about writing that reminded me of the idea of developing thoughts. The author wrote that short essays usually meant that the thoughts weren’t developed enough – that the student could go into more detail or explore the implications of the topic. I made a list of some ways that I could develop a thought further. I had thought about this in a text-centric way, but now that I’ve been drawing a lot more, I can see how exploring the details in drawings has been helping me develop thoughts.

Fitting multiple thoughts on a page

2013-10-21 Fitting multiple thoughts on a page

Drawing one thought per page requires a lot of paper, and I have a steadily growing stack of sketchbook sheets piling up on my shelf. Although I’ve scanned the sketches using my ScanSnap, I keep the paper around for extra flipping-through fun. I briefly considered trying to fit more thoughts onto a page, but I think the one-thought-per-page system works well for me. It also makes the images easier to include in blog posts like this.

Wrap-up

I feel like I can think about topics that are 3-4 times as large as I could before, especially if I spread them out over time. I’m looking forward to getting even better at organizing these, sharing them, and planning the next steps. I like the way drawings help me quickly pick up the thread of my thoughts again, and how the map helps me plan where to go next. So far so good!

If you’ve been struggling with developing thoughts over a period of time, try drawing them. You might find that it’s easier to mentally chunk topics that way. Check out my one-page guide for getting started with visual notetaking, and go through these other resources for sketchnote beginners. Good luck!