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Visual Thinking School and the Visual Voice

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by Visual thinking practice: Heads and hands on Dave Gray's weblog Communication Nation — an exercise in observation, where you try to capture heads and hands in a sketchbook.

m-cariboufaces.gifWhile at a local Caribou, I pulled out my Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook, and began observing folks coming into the shop, trying to capture their faces as cartoons. The result is the sketch to you see to the right. Of course you'll notice that I stopped at the faces and heads — I ran out of time to work on hands!

However, I found the exercise very relaxing and quite challenging. For instance, how do you capture someone's face accurately without staring at them? I realized that it forced me to capture more information with each glance, and rely on my memory to put own the shapes I was observing.

Visual Voice and Comparison
The exercise Visual thinking practice: Finding your visual voice reminded me of a recent acceptance of the "visual voice" I see in my sketches. While I don't consider myself a great artist (like Russell Stutler is) I've come to accept my own voice as unique and different — my own.

On the one hand I enjoy solving problems visually, which is the basis for the logo, icon and even web work I do for clients. On the other, I sometimes feel my sketches are not as "good" as someone else's work.

While technically that may be true — I've realized it's more about my unique visual voice. My sketches, sketchtoons and doodles are a part of me, completely unique. Like my voice or writing style, they define and represent my personality.

If you want to try sketching but feel you are a terrible artist, let go of that idea. If you feel your stuff isn't up to some other artist's level — let go of that comparison as a reason to avoid sketching! Admiration of great sketching is good, if it is truly that — don't allow sketch paralysis because you can never be as good, because this steals away the joy of sketching.

Once I let go of worrying about how good others were in comparison to me, I was free to enjoy sketching: successes and mistakes together. The whole point of sketching is to express yourself visually and have fun in the process. Don't let sketching be about quality or comparison, let it be about expression, joy and experience.

Check out Dave's Visual Thinking School form suggestions to get inspired in 2006 to sketch and explore your own visual thinking.

Update: Awesome! My blogpal Daniel has taken up sketching this year and is already excited about his progress! Check out Creative journey here I come and be inspired everyone!

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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for the great thoughtful and encouraging article Mike. Thinking of sketching as personal expression and unique voice may help me get past the beginner sketcher self-criticism. I really appreciate it.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Tokerud
Hey, great to hear that my article may have helped you start sketching! Forget about self criticism and just have fun! :-)
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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