Making Art Into Making A Living


It’s not everyday that you hear of people who decide to pursue a hobby – like doodling – as a career, especially when it’s not an obvious need. Have you ever even stopped to wonder why we do things the way we do them? For example, why do we read line by line instead of word by word? Why do we take notes the way we do? Why is there an outline feature on every single word processor but not a sketchnote feature?

Nora Herting and Heather Willems always knew they wanted to pursue art-related careers, but they also knew that it would be hard to make a living. Willems soon found herself waitressing to supplement being a fine artist. “As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins," she says. Willems eventually found herself with enough napkins to make an entire “large-scale mural consisting of the text as image,” which she did, inviting her customers to the corresponding art exhibition.

As it turns out, the customers were less interested in the art and more interested in the artist; and Willemswas offered a position turning meeting notes into graphics. Willems quickly joined the company's Chicago division, while her friend Nora Herting went to the New York division. Herting and Willems continued to work independently until an agency hired them to tandem-scribe (to work together). Not long after, ImageThink LLC was born.”

Clients, including advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, toymaker LEGO and computer services giant IBM” hired the team at ImageThink to create business-inspired art by “[listening] carefully and objectively to what’s being said, then [capturing] the highlights via bullet points, notes and sketches.” Technically ImageThink is a graphic facilitation firm, which surprisingly wasn't a fully novel idea. Graphic facilitation, also known as graphic recording, started in the 1970's, when a network of consultants based on the West Coast, decided to take an approach inspired by designers and architects to empower businesses.

What makes ImageThink different from its competitors, however, is that the firm was started by two women who wanted to use their knowledge and passions to empower others.

Their newly published workbook, Draw Your Big Idea, includes over 150 drawing exercises to provide readers with the tools to hone their own graphic facilitation skills. Herting and Willems realized that graphic facilitation can – and should – be used anywhere, especially outside the boardroom.

According to the book, “graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, doodling or whatever you want to call synthesizing concepts into visuals, have value beyond the boardroom and SXSW.”

“As a waitress, I would entertain myself between shifts by eavesdropping on customers and jotting their conversations on napkins"

-Heather Willems

The pair are aware of the universal cognitive benefits provided by their business. “Drawing out concepts provides access all 4 learning modalities, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile," says Willems.

"When you have fun with the sketches, or make a visual note of a joke, you are adding emotion into the mix and are even more likely to remember the experience of capturing the information long after the conversation wraps" says Willems.

Some may be quick to doubt the benefits of visual note-taking. Arguments about the process being a distraction, or a barrier for the brain have been made. According to Willems, while at first, it may be a kind of distraction, it will soon normalize in the brain “Clients often ask us if the graphic recording will be distracting," says Willems. "I usually respond, ‘Yes, it will be… at first but it is a healthy distraction.’” Once the novelty of it wears down, and it becomes part of the usual landscape, it’s no longer a distraction. “Sketching the ideas in your notebook for yourself while someone is graphic facilitating (drawing out ideas for a team to build upon) is a quick way to learn new information and it stimulates cross-cognitive processing," says Willems.

What’s most interesting about visual note-taking is the freedom it brings. The participant doesn't necessarily have to know what he or she is doing while doing it. “Even if I didn’t necessarily understand all of the content that was transpiring, I was good at listening for the key points and capturing them with words and pictures," says Herting. And, after all, isn’t that the point of taking notes?

Photo Credit: www.entrepreneur.com

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How To Treat Yourself Like A Queen

Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!

I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.

The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.

Reflecting On Myself

Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.

This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.

Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!

1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.

This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!

2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.

Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.

3.) Appreciate how far you have come!

I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.

4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be

If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!

This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.