Archive for May, 2010


29 May

The Drawing Down the Vision team is constantly striving to connect with others developing a more holistic and creative approach to life and work.

Yesterday we interviewed Donna Burns, Director of Communiversity, the community education wing of the University of Cincinnati.  Communiversity provides lifelong learning opportunities. Whether a student wants to brush up on their financial skills or learn a new language, Communiversity probably has something to offer.

During a Drawing Down the Vision Workshop, students learn the art of keeping a visual journal.  Drawing is one way to broaden your spectrum of communication. But drawing is just one path toward creativity.  To avoid getting bogged down in the day to day and to maintain a sense of creative potential in your work and personal life, it is essential to always be trying new and creative things.

Resources such as Communiversity are a wonderful way to tap into these opportunities. Most metropolitan areas have some form of community education and the classes available range from art to science to business.  As an instructor at the Art Academy’s continuing education program, I have met some amazing people from all walks of life who take a few hours each week to broaden their horizons and do something creative.

We highly recommend checking out all that Communiversity and other programs like it have to offer.  The personal and professional enrichment that lifelong learning can provide is priceless.

Popularity: 10% [?]


Create, don’t consume.

28 May

Reading and writing are the primary methods we’ve been taught to evaluate and create information.  Both allow us to explore how to solve problems in business and life. However, there is one major difference… writing forces you to produce while reading only asks you to consume.

When reading, we kick the problem bucket down the road. We hope we’ll be better able to solve the problem in the future, once we become well-read in the current thinking on subject. With HUGE problems, that doesn’t work. HUGE problems are HUGE because they don’t have existing solutions. They demand we produce new solutions.

So, we must practice to stop consuming and start producing. But how?

Well, in addition to writing, you can practice drawing. Through drawing, you leverage a combination of experience and naivete to start solving huge problems! If you’ve begun exploring a problem through drawing, you’ll have collected your experience in a nest of ideas. If you’re still new to a problem, you’re naive look on things will allow you to profit from mistakes and find alternate solutions which an expert may glance over.

Here are some more practical ways to stop producing and start consuming:

  1. Start reading 20% of what you traditionally do.
    1. Focus on applying and absorbing what you read by producing related materials.
  2. Get a piece of paper and a pen, and start drawing ideas out…
    1. Try to draw the ‘landscape’ of a problem.
      1. What are the key obstacles?
      2. How would you lay them out in a landscape painting?
    2. Try to draw the characters interacting in the problem.
      1. Who or what, does what and why?
      2. Where would they/it sit in the landscape?
    3. Try to draw a picture of today, and tomorrow.
      1. What would it take to get you to the tomorrow you want or need?
  3. Carry that pen and paper everywhere you go.

Don’t overthink it. When you get stumped, drawing doesn’t do its purpose anymore. So, go find some inspiration, get out in the world. Or, go read a book.

More on how to stop producing, and start consuming: Practicing to be concise,, Inside Higher Ed

Popularity: 8% [?]


Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

27 May

My journal offered me a phenomenal breakthrough today. I’d like to share how it all precipitated.

I went through my sketchpad the other day and tried to pull a theme out of what’s been going through my head and my life lately. The answer wasn’t immediately obvious. I realized there was no theme because… there was no theme. I was doing too much.

We call this retrospective process ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to.’

Knowing I was spreading myself too thin, like too little butter on too much bread, I decided I should make some serious choices in my life, and focus my energies. Here is how I represented my thinking on what I needed to do:

I was thinking about focus all wrong.

I thought I had figured it out. I would slowly cut out the diffusion in my life. In the end, I would be laser focused on what I really needed to accomplish in my life. Wrong.

After creating the original representation of focus… everyone around me was suddenly talking about focus! I was paying attention to how people focus, and pulling lessons out of this.*

In hearing so much more about focus, and pulling a few life stories from friends, I realized there was a hidden crutch buried in my original sketch: a need for comfort, security, and a fear of making tough life choices.

While reviewing my original drawing, I realized making a choice to focus your life is more like what I represented below. You need to make the tough choices you’ve been putting off, and commit to follow through on those choices.

The most successful people I know made difficult decisions and focused their effort on their top priority.

For example, John Traynor, made a commitment to follow classical painting when he was growing up in New Jersey, against the advice of many educators. He could have gotten a business and art degree at Skidmore College, with something to fall back on if art didn’t work out. He realized that lack of focus was setting himself up for failure. Instead he committed and persisted at the Paier College of Art. Today he is phenomenally successful.

The process of creative journaling offers me an opportunity to dissect my own thinking, and how focused it is.** The journal serves as a nest of ideas. It proves to be a very valuable tool as we all search for ways to live our life to the fullest and make our business a success. I’d love to hear how journaling and creative work fits into your life!

* We call this ‘The New Car Phenomenon.’ When you buy a new car, magically, you notice hundreds more on the rode than you ever noticed before!
We call this Diversity of Thought… words, text, and graphics all help you analyze your life and business from multiple angles, multiple forms of logic. You become your own critic, your personal sounding board.

Popularity: 18% [?]


Score one for creativity

26 May

In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine, creativity was touted as the most important quality for business leaders today.  It seems this is a bit of a sea change in the world of business.  In the past, especially during economic hard times, business leaders would have buckled down with tried and true practices and hoped to weather the storm.  This is not the case however as CEO’s navigate an increasingly global and challenging marketplace.  They are instead developing creativity in themselves and their employees to find innovative ways to keep their ideas flowing and their companies growing.

How can business professionals develop their own creativity?  Getting outside of the normal routine of the day to day, drawing in a sketchbook, taking a different route to work are all small ways to create a big impact in thinking.  Team building workshops such as Drawing Down the Vision can get a group of people excited to approach a new project with the freshest ideas they can muster.  Encourage your team to develop their creativity.  Practice some creativity enhancing ideas yourself.  It’s the best thing you can bring to the table.

Popularity: 4% [?]



24 May

Recently on a trip to New York City, I had the privilege to meet up with an old friend and fellow art student Stephanie Koenig. Koenig and I were sculpture majors together at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP School of Fine Art a number of years ago. While there we shared a love of all things involved in the creative process; drawing, research, materials, processes and tools. We both have gone on to follow our love and passion for Fine Art in many ways through teaching and by continuing to pursue our own studio work.

Koenig is based in Philadelphia these days and like most artists, she wears many hats. One of her jobs is studio manager at NextFab Organization where innovators go to translate new ideas into physical prototypes. NextFab is a place where business innovation directly intersects with artistic creativity. The organization employs industrial designers, mechanical engineers, animators as well as artists to create a team of individuals who can solve most problems on route to producing new products. Stephanie and I spent a good bit of our conversation sharing our anecdotes of the intersection of art and business. It seems the more people we meet in the entrepreneurial world, the more we realize how artists can contribute to the creative side of business.

I am extremely excited to hear that other artists are dipping their toes into the business pool. I find that developing my own inner entrepreneur is strengthening my career as a working artist. Working with Adam on Drawing Down the Vision has shown us both how tapping into creativity and maintaining a vibrant sketchbook can enhance his professional career. We should all step outside of our self imposed labels and make a point to connect and intersect with those in other fields.

At this intersection lies true creative potential.

Popularity: 8% [?]


The Sketchbook Tour

16 May

A stack of Amy's sketchbooks. Different from Adam's pocket journals.

Starting, keeping and maintaining a sketchbook is daunting.  This is the case whether you are an artist working out ideas or a business person keeping track of trends and projects.  Even a seasoned keeper of a sketchbook can find themselves staring at that empty page and thinking “what next?”

There are many ways to get around this predicament and maintain an interesting and engaging collection of drawings and impressions over time.  One way is to give yourself daily exercises to do in your sketchbook that enable you to put pen to paper.  Even just writing out a grocery list or a to-do list is something.  Add some images and you are well on your way!  But this may not be enough.  For drier times in your book, outside help is available.

Years ago, Danny Gregory, author of Everyday Matters, created the Every Day Matters Challenge where each day you could find a suggestion, a nudge, of what to try in your sketchbook.   EDM is now a huge collection of ideas that have inspired even the most timid newcomers to begin drawing.  And that is all it takes, beginning.  I recommend to all of my students to join this group if they need ideas on what to draw and support on maintaining their sketchbook work.

Recently I heard of something called The Sketchbook Tour where sketchers are challenged to fill up a moleskin journal with sketches and then return it to them where it will then go on tour to various cities and finally back to Brooklyn to be cataloged and kept there for all to see.   Adam and I both have signed up to be a part of this.  It will be a fun opportunity to create a themed journal and become part of a lasting public art project.  Even better, it will give us more reasons to draw.  Drawing begets drawing.  The more we draw, the more we draw and the more comfortable with drawing you will become.

So whether you are starting small with the day to day or want to tackle a whole themed journal for an art show, just draw.  You’ll be amazed at how much you like it.

Popularity: 37% [?]


Crosstown Bus

15 May

Let’s take a moment to talk about tangents.  You know, those often annoying, ever present detours we find ourselves taking in meetings, conversations, or even within our own activities, be they mental or physical.  I have a friend who calls these little detours “the crosstown bus” when we attend meetings together.  In some meetings, heading out on unnecessary tangents is a waste of time.  In other situations though, these journeys down the unbeaten path can spell new creative solutions to current problems.  These paths can lead to new ideas to which you wouldn’t have arrived without a wrong turn or two.

When generating new innovations, in a group setting or solo in your sketchbook, allow yourself some freedom to follow an unexpected notion down an unfamiliar road.  Chances are you may find unexpected treasures where you least expected them.  Take an occasional ride on the Crosstown Bus… you may just like where you end up.

Popularity: 3% [?]


The value of ‘mistakes’

14 May

When we all start drawing, the lines don’t seem to come together as neatly as we often hope. In Drawing Down the Vision, that’s a great thing. Artists have a term for those moments where something gone awry turns into a silent tug in the right direction: The Happy Accident.

In Creativity Studies, the terms convergent and divergent thinking represent the alternative manners by which we come up with novel, new and exciting ideas… by combining or separating existing ones. Drawing can help us look at the world in this recombinatory manner. As we try to create a representation of what we’re thinking or seeing, the lines and patterns slowly come together. Mismarking can trigger a new connection between objects on the page, new ways to look at something we thought we understood completely, and couldn’t be done any other way.

Here is an example of experimentation done by Brad Norr of Brad Norr Design: Lines, leading to more lines, more thoughts, and ultimately, an answer.

So get out there and start putting pen to paper, thinking through that stubborn problem or just enjoying the landscape surrounding you. A ‘mistake’ may just trigger a whole new way of looking at things. A happy accident.

Thanks to Brad Norr of Brad Norr Design for contributing his work in this example!

Popularity: 19% [?]


The blank canvas.

12 May

Ok, not to get all 12-step on you, but… the first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists.

In business, we often have more problems to solve than time on our hands. Ironically, challenges often begin with choosing which problem to tackle. Here are a few practical Drawing Down the Vision techniques which can help you prioritize and solve problems.

1. Create a blank page in your journal, notepad, sketchbook… and begin to sketch out all the problems you see yourself potentially devoting time to.

By attempting to create a visual representation of the problem you’ll be forced to think of it differently than you would with words. It may be difficult to start, but over time you’ll find your own voice.

Spend a minute or two on this, don’t dwell. Even better… come back with fresh eyes in a few days. Spend micro moments revisiting the problem in different places with different people with different ideas in your head.

At some point… it should seem obvious which problem is best to tackle. If not, keep mulling, or take a leap and move forward on any, you’ll learn through the process.

Blank Canvas, evaluating problems

Bill Gates asked, 'How do we put the best minds on the biggest problems?' I chose to explore what problems I could contribute to.

2. Once you’ve chosen which problem to tackle, find another blank page. Tag it with the problem… mark the header, sketch the problem right in the middle, whatever you think best outlines the solution you need.

This is your blank canvas, your home for exploring solutions to the problem. You may have nothing to include immediately, you may have so much that you need a few pages, but either way…. let this be the place you think out loud about the problem.

As you go through your day, ideas will be triggered by the different people, places, discussions… all sources of inspiration. Fantastic! Rather than losing those potential solutions, grab your sketchpad and put them in, immediately. Drawing Down the Vision is about collecting those fleeting ideas. The more random and unpractical, the better they can support new thinking, ways to re-evaluate a problem and come up with a practical, elegant solution.

Blank Canvas, collecting inspiration

My blank canvas for a project at work. No ripe ideas at the time of the photo. Now we wait.

To solve a problem, you need to be in a different state of mind than when you discovered it… in the words of Albert Einstein: ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’ Revisiting your idea nest in the future is a great way to rekindle the thoughts, and see if there’s anything worth reapplying. Maybe you’ve discovered a solution you didn’t even know!

Again, these are not rules, just examples! So have fun, and share what you learn with us below.

Popularity: 16% [?]


Promoting diversity of thought.

09 May

Creative Thinking

Amy and I had the great opportunity to meet with Nate Zeisler. He is the co-founder of Arts Enterprise, an organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurial and creative thinking through the intersection of art and business.

Nate’s work is closely related to ours here at Drawing Down the Vision. Arts Enterprise is building a university network of dedicated leaders in this burgeoning field promoting diversity of thought: new ways to think through solutions to the complex, multi-faceted problems our world faces.

The time is ripe for this shift in thinking for both the academic and business worlds, applying best practices from all walks of life. Richard Florida, author of ‘The Rise of the Creative Class‘, dubs today, ‘The Great Reset‘ (the name of his new book). We’re all challenged to find new and relevant ways to contribute to the ever-changing communities we live in, to make the most of the myriad resources we are presented with. This demands skills native to the traditional artist and entrepreneur, a new way of looking at the world. It demands people who can combine and teach creative and professional success.

If you know of other groups working towards a similar goal, please share below! We all have a lot to learn.

“We are all artists now.” – Dalton Conley, Elsewhere USA
‘The MFA is the new MBA.’ – Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind

Popularity: 35% [?]


Powered by Olark