Made my largest sketchnote ever! Painting the MaRS Lean Startup Day banner

Posted: - Modified: | sketchnotes

This video doesn’t cover everything – there’s a gap in the middle when we started painting. I have to figure out how to reliably do time lapses with my phone or computer. =) This was fun, though!

Nathan Monk and Jennifer Marron reached out to me with this cool idea – in addition to sketchnoting Lean Startup Day at MarsDD on Dec 3, why not sketchnote the banner as well? I told them I’d never worked on anything that big, but they were up for the experiment and I was too. They rounded up canvas and paint, booked the boardroom, and away we went.

I started by drafting possible layouts using pencil and paper. They suggested some ideas to feature on the banner, and I added quick sketchnotes: an unfinished robot for the minimum viable product, arrows for “pivot or persevere”, and so on. I copied key elements of the first draft onto a second draft, and that was good to go.

Based on the proportions of the paper, we cut the canvas to roughly 68” by 120”. Coming from years of sketchnoting on a laptop screen (and doing the occasional blackboard/easel pad), it was certainly quite a new experience! It was so tall that I had to stand on a chair to reach parts of it. Glad to see that the proportion lessons I’d taken in art class paid off, though – I found it easy to work with the large space.

We started by taping the canvas to the wall and chalking outlines. I used my measuring tape to find the center and scribe a circle around it (hooray for high school geometry!). Then I lightly chalked the outlines of the MaRS logo and the sketchnoted quotes while Nathan and Jennifer chalked in the partner logos.

After chalking the layout, we stepped back to see what it looked like. It looked great! Then the duct tape gave way (canvas is heavy!), and we unanimously decided to move it to the boardroom table for the actual painting. If it collapsed that way while painting, we’d suddenly have an abstract art piece on our hands! We spread plastic wrap all over the boardroom table and the floor, set out the paints, and got going.

While Jennifer focused on the partner logos, I painted the MaRS logo, the Lean Startup Day arrows around it, and the sketchnote-style concepts surrounding the logo. We completed the banner in around 4 hours – about 1.5 hours to design and chalk it, and 2.5 hours to fill everything in with paint and touch up with white to cover up mistakes. The materials cost less than $200 – maybe $150? – and that was with way more paint than we needed, since none of us had any idea what to work at that size. I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but once it’s up on Dec 3, I’ll be sure to.

That was fun!

Lessons learned:

  • It’s okay to not get things exactly right, so don’t worry about not having a projector or other tools.
  • Chalk lightly and with a light colour so that it’s easy to brush off mistakes!
  • Have lots of small brushes on hand for detail work.
  • A little paint goes a long way.
  • So does a sewing tape measure.
  • White (or something close to your background colour) makes a great cover-up.

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