Author Archive

Learning to draw through other’s practice.

21 Jun

Some of you sketching newbies may be looking for help getting started, some examples…

As we take the old fashioned pen-to-paper approach to thinking and creating, we like to encourage people to get away from their computers as much as possible and spend time learning in the “real world”. But sometimes, the toys and trinkets that come about from our technified world offer an experience not readily available through our analog ways.

The folks at the design/ marketing firm Odopod have created an online playground for sketchers.

At their interactive site, Odosketch, participants can create ‘drawn’ images using various line weights and colors. They have featured sketches which demonstrate what you can do with this tool.

The best part is that you can observe how others go about creating these fantastic images. How they begin with an outline, start tracing and re-tracing the shapes, and gradually complete the shading.

So if you are the techie sort, and are looking for some silent tutoring, check out Odosketch.  Maybe then you’ll have the courage to try the pen and paper approach.  Both will prove to be a lot of fun and a great way to develop your one-of-a-kind creativity.

Popularity: 11% [?]


Looking at the landscape.

17 Jun

Drawing is a complicated thing that many artists will struggle years to master… and even then it takes diligent daily practice.  But drawing skills and tools are on a spectrum which means that at the most basic level, they can be achieved by anyone willing to give it a shot.

Learning to draw is really about learning to see more clearly exactly what is in front of you and relaying that information to the page as clearly as you can to communicate it.  Let’s apply this to a quick lesson on how to make a sketch of a landscape.

Here is a gorgeous photograph of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. First, let’s take a closer look at the image:

Courtesy of Richard Weisser and

Notice how there is a distinct foreground, then a middle ground with a number of mountains and finally the most distant mountains further off in the background (and let’s not forget that pink sky!)  This is all easier to distinguish if you squint a bit at the photograph.  Now notice how each of these three distinct areas have a different value (or lightness vs. darkness) in the image.  For a simple sketch, which we’ll do here with pen and paper, taking note of these facts is all you need.

First, draw the simple shapes that delineate the front, middle and rear of the picture place:

Next use marks, sometimes called cross-hatching, to create darker and lighter areas.  If you have a small paintbrush, you can use water to run the line of your pen which creates a nice gray:

You can stop here or, add a little color for that sky…

This simple sketch only took a few minutes and I could probably work on it longer to add details such as some more of the middle ground mountains.

Looking at a mountain landscape and simplifying it to get a better understanding of how to approach a drawing of it is a wonderful metaphor for our work lives (if not beyond!)  Noticing that there are distinct differences in what lies just ahead, and a bit farther off, and then on into the distance is crucial to keeping your goals and priorities in order.

Making a simple drawing in your sketchbook of a favorite place of yours, or an imagined business landscape perhaps, is a great way to take a few minutes and assess the path ahead and decide how to proceed.

Send us what you come up with.  We’d love to see it… and share it if you don’t mind!

Popularity: 73% [?]


The Power of Play

15 Jun

“The most successful people in here have rich hobbies out in the world.” – P&G CEO Bob McDonald

Some of the most successful and creative people I know are also the most playful.

An old friend from our days in the military is now an extremely successful professional. Years ago, Chris was ever the prankster, mixing fun and laughter in to the stresses of day-to-day Navy life.  Eventually his entrepreneurial success afforded him the opportunity to travel the world and develop his photography practice. It began as a simple hobby, but is now his professional work.  The secret to his success is his sense of wonder in the world.  Chris still maintains that playful spirit.

Another successful professional who knows the value of play time is designer Stefan Sagmeister.  He has an unusual approach to productivity. He takes an entire year off every seven years.  He explains that it’s as if he takes five years of his retirement and intersperses them into his working adulthood.  This period off is a lot of fun, tremendously re-invigorating and affords him the opportunity to pursue the ideas he didn’t have time for. Most of the projects he does in the next seven years come from that single year ‘away.’

Like most people, my family and I don’t yet have the freedom to just take a year off to nurture new ideas or to do as much traveling as these adventurers do.  That said, we do play – a lot!  We have music and our love of the outdoors, especially kayaking.  We travel as often as we can on simple road trips or further afield when we can find the time and funds.  We make play time a priority.

In these unsure economic times, it is not only vital to work as hard as we can but also to play hard.  Fostering a sense of play feeds you as a person which makes you better at your job, whether you are a business person or an artist.  What do you do for play?

Popularity: 4% [?]


Ideas every lap

11 Jun

Creativity is a tough thing to pin down.  Ideas can come out of nowhere, swinging at your head, in the shower, the car, or especially while exercising.  Why is this the case?  You need to create the right environment for it.

We at Drawing Down the Vision are not brain surgeons, but through the course of our research, we have learned about how the brain can get into the mode of thinking that causes creative thought to occur.  Some call it right-brain thinking, others might refer to it as the zone or flow.  Whatever you call it, it’s very different from the linear day to day thinking that most people are familiar with.

Back in Ancient Greece, philosopher Aristotle developed the Peripatetic school where thinkers gathered to ponder questions of the day.  While lecturing, Aristotle would walk around, always on the move. His students would follow.  It has been theorized that the very act of walking contributed to Aristotle’s generation of new ideas and today we refer to this phenomenon as peripatetic thinking.  Thinking while on the go.

There is a wonderful series of books on the creative process called The Artist’s Way, written by Julia Cameron.  Her books have given many beginning artists a place to start and have provided seasoned artist’s some guidance to keep at it, even when ideas seem to run out.  One key tenet in the process she suggests is the idea of taking a long walk everyday, very much like Aristotle and his followers did.  Personally, I take this a step further and go for a run.

The effects of peripatetics, combined with a healthy dose of exercise-induced-endorphins sets me up to become an idea factory for an hour or so.  It’s intense. I love it.  3 or 4 times a week I put on my running shoes, grab a portable pen and paper and hit the road (or when it’s stormy, the indoor track).  During these times I am often flooded with little snippets of ideas that I capture on the pen and paper to sift through more thoroughly later in my sketchbook.  A good friend of mine calls these little ideas butterflies.  A small notebook is your butterfly catcher.

If a run or a walk is not in the stars for you today, the peripatetic phenomenon is still yours to embrace.  Through the simple act of putting a pen to paper to record some thoughts or better yet, making a drawing is a direct and physical way to tap that right-brained approach to thinking and get ideas flowing.

So get out there, and start racing your body and mind with running shoes or pen and paper. Don’t get frustrated over a problem, get away from it, change your perspective, and come back refreshed. Then take the single best idea, and make it real.

Enjoy! And share your experience!

Popularity: 9% [?]


A drawing a day turns into a business.

10 Jun

Adam came across the Obsessive Consumption project recently on Twitter.  Kate Bingaman-Burt has been documenting her personal consumption habits for years by drawing everything she buys.  Over time, this self-processed obsession has become an entire line of graphic work that is now shown in galleries as fine art, published in books and even printed on pillows.  Her drawing work is sought after by companies such as IDEO, ReadyMade Magazing and the New York Times.   All this by drawing everyday.

Now mind you, she is a working artist, and many of you may not consider yourselves to be artists.  But the exercise of drawing daily can still be a valuable tool to tapping into your very own brand of creativity.   There is a wealth of research available out there about tapping into the right side of the brain which houses the more creative, holistic thinking processes.  Listening to music, going for a scenic drive or a long run, and of course, drawing, are all ways to tap the less used hemisphere of the brain.  Have a look at Bingaman-Burt’s work and be inspired to try documenting something in your own life.  You could doodle what you buy like she did, or the dogs you meet, like I often do.  Currently I am spending quite a bit of time in the garden trying to figure out if certain plants are flowers or weeds.  I was recently informed that the thistle-like flower I have been so keen on is actually a weed that will quickly push out all of my other plants.  So I pulled it up… but not before I did a quick sketch of it!

Popularity: 17% [?]



08 Jun

It’s a fast paced world we live and work in nowadays.  We are constantly berated by information and data points that warrant our interest and demand our attention.  Two recent reports by NPR and the New York Times looked at the issue of endless access to technology and the impact it has on our brains according to recent research.

Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows is the subject of the NPR story, began to take a hard look at his own inability to concentrate when he realized that the more online time he spent, the more difficulty he had in reading a long article or sitting for a good long while with a book.  The work that started as an article in the Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, has now become The Shallows, where Carr investigates what the internet is doing to our brains.

“…Carr argues that even if people get better at hopping from page to page [on the internet], they will still be losing their abilities to employ a ‘slower, more contemplative mode of thought.’ He says research shows that as people get better at multitasking, they ‘become less creative in their thinking.’”

It is just this ‘slower mode of thought’ where the most creative thinking occurs.

In the New York Times, Matt Richtel’s article, Your Brain On Computers: Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price, follows the Campbell family as they try to keep up with everything technology has to offer without losing themselves in the process.

Both articles speak to what’s great about technology as well as what can be problematic.  In this day and age, someone with the right set up of wireless internet access and personal computer options can work just about anywhere.  No longer are we chained to our desks and telephones during business hours in order to get work done.  In fact, there are no more business hours.  Every hour is business hour.  And that’s the rub.  While technology enables us the freedom to use our time how we may want to, many people find it hard to turn off the computer and smart phones for fear of missing something.  In this heightened state of waiting, we are actually missing the chance for our brains to slip back into a more relaxed state where new ideas can be sown and come to fruition.

Obviously we here at Drawing Down the Vision love a good dose of technology.  Here I sit at my studio computer writing this blog post.  Our access to ever evolving technology and communication options is how our message will ultimately reach the masses.  But we know that in order to center in what will become the next piece of compelling art work or lucrative business idea, we need to unplug and get our pens to paper in our sketchbooks.  By balancing what the modern world has to offer with what creativity needs to flourish, we can ensure that technology will be a tool that we use in our work versus something that changes the way our brains work.

So slow down a little, turn your gadgets off for a few hours.  And draw…

Popularity: 8% [?]


Stress. And Creativity.

04 Jun

Let’s talk a moment about stress.  We all have it in our lives.  The endless to-do lists, the demands of job, family, bills.  You know the drill.  For most of us, stress is a familiar part of everyday life.  A day without it is, well, vacation.  Stress and creativity have a tricky relationship.  It takes a fair amount of comfort to foster creative ideas.  I don’t necessarily mean feet-up, chocolate-nearby sort of comfort, but rather a lack of stress.  The best ideas come when we are least stressed; when taking a shower or driving for example.  And yet the pressure to perform is a constant.

An interesting report on NPR the other day spoke to this phenomenon.   Dan Ariely, author of “The Upside of Irrationality” says:

“… when it comes to creativity and problem solving and thinking and memory and concentration, it turns out you can’t will yourself to a higher level of performance. … instead, the high bonus actually got people to be very stressed.”

In his behavioral experiments, the higher the reward stakes (i.e. performance bonus), the less performance he got from his participants.  This caught my attention and I began to think how it could apply to the work we do at Drawing Down the Vision.

Businesses who want the most creative work from their employees, entrepreneurs seeking to see their ideas come to fruition, anyone who wants to get the most from their creative thinking, all are under a fair amount of stress to get things done.  But concentrating on this stress will only make it more acute.  Instead, relaxing a bit will let the ideas come in through the back door…via your sketchbook.

By tracking your thoughts in your sketchbook and putting ideas down on paper, you can simply and cheaply activate the creative thinking that is harboring your next big idea.  Drawing Down the Vision can get your team working together and drumming up new and innovative ways to solve problems to grow your business.

Give drawing a try.  It’s a whole lot less stressful than the traditional approach and you might get some amazing new ideas out of it!

Related reading: The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People
Related video: Dan Pink, The surprising truth about what really motivates us

Popularity: 6% [?]



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% [?]


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: 9% [?]


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