On 9th of May, we gathered at Shoreditch House Library for an illustratively invigorating morning in the hands of the brilliant Scriberia.
"Drawing is decision making in its purest form."
Scriberia is the home of hardworking pictures; a place in which its scribes can help us to simplify our thinking, tap into our subconscious, and provoke, persuade and change the way we make our points. Founders and creative directors Dan Porter and Chris Wilson believe that drawing can help us to "see the wood for the trees, encouraging us to levitate over a situation and remove the distortions of a personal perspective.”
Following on from the success of October's Wake up and Draw event, Dan and Chris kindly offered to host a second event for a group of members. They introduced the thinking and magic behind their methods, taking us through a series of drawing challenges and exercises — proving that anyone can really draw anything (also explained in their marvellous new book).
The morning proved to be a great opportunity for anyone looking to sharpen their drawing skills, gain immediately applicable learnings and to get to grips with Scriberia’s unique take on the power of pictures to change the world.
Here's what we learned.
Art that works, not works of art
Dan opened with a bit of context on the work Scriberia do, and the importance of drawing as a tool for communication: he explained that the aim was to "think through drawing", using it to "synthesise information." Its interpretative function means that "you can't afford to think about it as a work of art" – this is drawing to "deliver a message quickly", which means it must be "economical". The stripped-back nature of this kind of drawing has other advantages. For those less naturally inclined to the arts, communicative, simple drawing "plays to their strengths," added Scott.
This is something that Scriberia drill into each new recruit, and the basis for Dan and Scott's new book, How to Draw Anything. The idea is that people are given the same starting point in order to communicate clearly with one another. Dan kicked off by asking "how many people here can draw?" A handful of people put tentative hands up, something that Dan says would be completely different "in a room full of eight-year-olds [...] at that age you don't think about if you can draw – you just draw." When do we stop drawing? How can we get back into it and not miss out on "another form of expression"? "We are going to try and get you to regress to your eight-year-old selves."
The best way to learn is to do, so the audience were asked to draw a quick portrait of the person sitting next to them. Dan and Chris' own portraits of each other were an exercise in simplification – while Chris had gone for technical accuracy, Dan's portrait of Chris was far simpler, proving that the key features are the most important in terms of communicating an image or message. So important is simplicity, that Chris and Dan have created The Drawing Alphabet - 11 symbols that can be used and incorporated into any drawing: "with these you can draw anything in the world." The idea is that sticking to these shapes, "the building blocks", "democratises drawing" by getting people to "speak the same language". When we are equipped with the same tools, everyone has a voice.
To prove their point, Dan and Chris had the audience draw objects of their choice using the basic shapes: a pizza, an elephant, a goldfish, a shark – all as simply as possible. In Chris' words, "the drawing has to be as simple as possible to be as close to the truth as possible,", the key being to "know when to stop." The shark, for example, is instantly recognisable by its fin above a line of water, so it's not necessary to draw the entire shark. Similarly, drawing 'Paris' might require more than just the Eiffel Tower, but drawing with confidence is about "looking for those shortcuts" and knowing "when enough is enough".
People and places
Unsurprisingly, people tend to be less confident about drawing more complex objects, like people. One way we have cut corners is with the universally recognisable "stick man" – to which Dan and Chris have their own answer: "brick man". Using a rectangle as the body, you can create more expressive figures, doing activities or experiencing emotions and states. We are all familiar with cartoon and comic book features such as exaggerated lines to indicate stress or anger, drips of water that signify sweat or tears and waves or dashes that represent heat or smells. There are also the classic storytelling devices, like thought and speech bubbles, "zoom" and "x-ray" features that allow us to "draw the invisible." Drawing allows us to "read minds" and "see sounds", through music notes and wavy or jagged lines. When asked to draw "marriage", "a stressed doctor" and "a man worried about getting old", we also saw that drawing allows us to "time travel." Comic books are a great example; left to right panels denote a passage in time, which together form sequential stories.
Dan and Chris showed us the huge scope for creativity within drawing: it's a powerful tool for communication that we all have within us, and one that can and should be incorporated more into the way we work collaboratively. Visual aids are already a huge part of presenting and sharing work, usually in the form of Powerpoint presentations, graphs, charts and diagrams – so why not drawings? The key is to "shift the effort away from your hands and into your brain", by drawing simply and with confidence.
See future panels, workshops and roundtables on this topic and more, in the Learning Programme here.