Drawing to express emotion

In my line of work I am very much focussed on the ROI of graphics. What return will people get as a result of using these tools? What change will occur and what’s important about that?

Graphics is still new to many organisations and as such I have a role in educating others about the meaning of graphics and graphic facilitation as well as extoling the many benefits.

Sometimes though, we simply need to draw for drawing’s sake.

I find drawing particularly useful when it comes to dealing with and processing emotions. When you wake up to sad news, when your head is fuzzy with overthinking, when you just can’t face logging into your computer.

Conversely drawing is powerful when you are at the other end of the emotional spectrum. Ever find yourself giddy with excitement, bursting with love, hyper with enthusiasm?

Grab your marker and start doodling. Tune into the first image that comes into your mind and draw that. Keep drawing. Draw some more. Add words and colour. Get messy, get neat, find freedom and space on the blank in front of you.

What follows is a sense of connection and clarity, a tuning in, a refinement of your emotions.

Above are my scribbles for a Tuesday lunchtime.

What are yours?

Taking care of mind and body

It’s been a busy number of weeks at Collected Works Towers and as such I’m reminded of the importance of looking after mind and body.

As someone said on Twitter last week,
‘You know those days when you’re just too busy to stop and think?
They are exactly the times to stop and think.’

Here are some of my favourite tools for de-stressing, unplugging and maintaining good mental and physical health.

I use an app called Insight Timer for guided meditations. I don’t know about you but for me stress shows up in two main areas in my body – the neck/shoulder area and the stomach area.

To ease the tension I often listen to:

  • Celia Roberts’ Meditation on Gut Brain Connection
  • Andrew Johnson’s Stomach Relaxation
  • Analee Scott’s Connect to Nature (a great one if you have tension in your shoulders and neck like me. This is a visualisation where you imagine your neck to be the trunk of a tree and your shoulders the roots. Powerful stuff!)

To help with nerves and anxiety I listen to:

  • Andrew Johnson’s Quick Confidence and
  • Rachel Hillary’s Your Power Solar Plexus Meditation

I often find that if I could just quieten my mind of all the monkey chatter I would experience more flow and less stress. For me there is nothing better than yoga for giving the mind and body a good workout.

The evening before a facilitation or training gig I always make time to go to a Yin Yoga class. Yin Yoga consists of floor postures that are held for an extended period of time. The stretches get right into the connective tissue (fascia) of the body and the effect is marvellous. It took me quite a while to get into Yin Yoga as it’s so different and so much slower than the Flow classes I normally attend. Sometimes enforced slowness is a really good thing.
I have to give a shout out to my local yoga studio Tribe Yoga on Cumberland street. I don’t know where I’d be without it!

The final tool I’d like to share with you is an exercise workout called T-Tapp, created by Teresa Tapp. I came across T-Tapp about three years ago and haven’t looked back.

It’s a no impact workout (no equipment, weights, jumping etc. required) that can be done at virtually any age or stage of life. Check out this quick shoulder rolls exercise. Teresa is a legend!

So there you have it. My top tools for maintaining strong mental and physical health. I hope you found this useful. Do let me know and/or share some tools of your own.

Passion? Sounds exhausting….

Passion? Sounds exhausting….

When I began my journey of self employment (a staggering 10 years ago now) I was encouraged by messages such as,

‘Build it and they will come’
‘Follow your heart and the money will follow’
‘Turn your passions into profits’

I remember my colleagues waving me off. ‘There she goes’, they said, ‘Off to follow her dreams.’

Let’s just say things didn’t go exactly to plan and much like true love, I soon realised it wasn’t all about the hearts and flowers…

A couple of short years later, I found myself being influenced by a different message.

‘Find out what the market wants. Give it to them. Rinse. Repeat. Buy a big house’

‘Great’, I thought, ‘That makes sense. And a big house sounds terrific, thanks very much.’

But that didn’t work out either.

It was around this time three years ago that I stopped, listened to my own intuition and settled into a happy medium.

Last Thursday I came across a version of the diagram below in the latest copy of Barbara Winter’s Winning Ways.

It made me think about my self employment journey thusfar. I love the perspective it offers and of course as soon as I saw it I thought, ‘This is crying out for some graphics!’

I hope you like it too. Unfortunately neither Barbara nor I know who created the original diagram so if you have come across this before and are familiar with its creator, do let me know.

What if people think my drawings are silly?

What if people think my drawings are silly?

One of the biggest concerns I encounter when I train people in graphics is the fear of what people will think.

What will people think? Will they think my drawings are silly?

Will people take me seriously if I go into a room and start drawing star people?

It’s maybe ok for within my team but there’s no way I’d use it with external stakeholders.

If you are wrestling with these concerns, you’re certainly not alone. Anytime we step out of our comfort zone our subconscious goes into overdrive telling us all the reasons why we should just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. But where’s the fun in that?

I hope I can help in some way to assuage your fears or at the very least encourage you to feel the fear, and do it anyway.

1. The first thing to bear in mind is that graphics are for EVERYONE. When graphics are used, everybody benefits, not just artistic people, or visual people, or people in ‘creative industries’. We’re all human, suit or no suit, and the advantages of graphics apply to every one of us. Why should we deny others the advantages of this wonderful tool simply because we falsely assume they won’t get it?

2. Graphics are as much about mindset as they are about skill. If you enter a room convinced everyone will laugh at you and it’s going to be a disaster, then you’re setting yourself up for a stressful time. Try not to focus on what people will think (after all, we have no control over this). Focus instead on you, on what you think, how you feel about about graphics and this will come across to your audience.

4. Trying graphics with a new audience? Position your audience in advance. Explain what graphics is and how you’re going to use it. You will immediately grab people’s attention and rouse interest. And making mistakes is ok. We all do it. It’s what makes us human.

5. Remember the colour rules – black for icons, dark colours for text, use red sparingly. Use colour carefully to categorise themes and this will build confidence in knowing your work is easy on the eye and makes sense to your audience.

6. Find the biting point. If you keep telling yourself you need to practice before you do it live it’s quite likely you’ll never do it live. The key is to actually start doing graphics before you feel you’re ready. Find the balance between honing your skills and getting it perfect. Because it will never be perfect. That’s the biggest lesson of all. It’s something that can be difficult to get our heads around. It’s also wholly welcoming and refreshing.

Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? People laugh? (that’s called an icebreaker) The paper falls down off the wall? (again, icebreaker…of sorts) You trip over the flip chart with Bambi-style finesse and fall flat on your face? (it’s happened to the best of us).

Above all, don’t hide your talents. The world is waiting!

New Year coaching template

New Year coaching template

It’s here!

Welcome to 2017. New year, new energy, new opportunities. Woo hoo!

To say thanks for being my subscriber (I know I don’t always get it right and you’re still here so thanks!) I enclose a free visual coaching template to help you get 2017 off to the best possible start.

To use the visual coaching template simply print a copy, grab your favourite makers and  fill it in according to the instructions below.

1. How I Want To Feel This Year.
What words immediately come to mind? Jot these down. Have fun with it. How do you really really want to feel in 2017? The plans, the actions, the tasks are often rooted in a quest to feel a particular way. We want those shoes because we feel amazing in them; we want lots of money to feel successful, connected, contributing etc..

2. Thoughts, Words, Deeds That Feed My Soul
How often do we make plans without tending to these important aspects of our lives? To achieve our goals I believe we need support, guidance and fun along the way! Make sure you feed your soul in 2017 with that which sets you alight.

3. Aims, Goals, Desires
Ok, let’s get into the juicy details here. Choose one area of your life, or really go for it and jot down everything you want to achieve in 2017. Don’t worry about the how for now, just get it all down and make sure you write in the present tense. Don’t overthink it, ink it!

4. New Habits I Want to Cultivate
If your goals include streamlining your finances (for example) a new habit may be doing your accounts on a monthly basis. Want to feel fit and fantastic every day? A new habit may be to get up 20 minutes earlier than usual and go for a walk. What new habits do you need to cultivate to support your goals?

5. Purpose
This is a big question! When I filled out the template I instinctively left this as the last section to fill out. It can be a word, a sentence, even a song title. Get something in there that’s a nod to your why, your reason for being here. What feeds your drive, your heart, your spirit?

Good luck and I’d love to hear how you get on with the template so do drop me a line to let me know.

Here’s to your best year yet!

Oh, and if you love the idea of visual templates and want to learn more do join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics on September 5th. It’s going to be an amazing group!

So you think you can’t draw?

So you think you can’t draw?

The first time I saw one of my Dad’s drawings was last September. We were visiting my brother’s house and my niece was gently encouraging (i.e. pestering) him to draw on her blackboard.

He drew a tree and a boat. At that moment I realised I had never seen my Dad draw before. It was quite a strange feeling. Much like when you see a friend’s handwriting for the first time, it was a curious insight into his personality, his uniqueness.

This human element, this insight into someone’s personality is one of the key reasons I love hand drawn graphics so much.

You just don’t get that with those stock images you see in many PowerPoint presentations and websites. (My personal bugbear are the photos of  glossy ‘office people’ with big teeth and headsets. Who looks like that? Not many folk in Scotland anyway!)

The human element is just one of many advantages of using hand drawn graphics. Yet despite the multiple benefits people often resist picking up the marker and giving it a go. Why is this?

That’s right, it’s because people believe they can’t draw. They don’t see themselves as artistic.


Do you know what response you would get if you asked a child of 4 whether they think they can draw?

They look at you like you’re mad (I’ve tried it.) ‘Of course!’, is the typical response.

What happens when you ask a child of 7 the same question?

They don’t immediately say yes. It’s often ‘maybe’ or ‘sometimes.’

Is this because a child’s drawing ability has dramatically changed between the ages of 4 and 7?

No, it’s because by the age of 7 early conditioning will have set in. By this age we’ve often been labelled as either ‘good at maths’, ‘sporty’, ‘artistic’, ‘musical’ etc. It often becomes a label for life.

So perhaps you can draw? Perhaps it’s time to revisit your confident 4 year old self.

The truth is if you can draw a line, a circle and a squiggle then you can draw. It’s all about building on key elements.

After all research has shown that a drawing only needs 30% of reality for it to be recognisable.

Kinda takes the pressure off!

So it really doesn’t matter if your house is a square with a triangle on top, or your stick man looks like he’s had one too many. People will get it. That’s the main thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect to get the message across.

Graphics isn’t art. In fact people with a background in art often struggle with graphics because it is so quick, so simple, so in the moment. There is no room for egos when you’re working live with a group of people. Thank goodness for that.


At the end of every graphics course I run I ask the delegates for some feedback. At the back of my office door I stick up all my favourite comments. This is currently number one:

Found out I can draw!

Join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics in Edinburgh on September 5th 2017 and discover what you can do.