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A different lens

Version 2There are those who argue that we should look at the world through our eyes and not through our cameras – that we’re less present in the moment when we’re viewing the world through a lens. Having a mediated rather than a direct experience. Distancing ourselves from the world rather than immersing ourselves in it. And there is probably some truth in that – especially when we just snap away mindlessly, treating the world as nothing more than a backdrop for our selfies or as scenes to add to our scrapbook – and having shot, moving on.

But the opposite can also be true. When I look at something familiar through the lens of my camera, the familiar can become quite wonderful and strange. I close in on it, step back for a wider view, look at it from a variety of angles, play with exposure and effects, and actually give myself a deeper experience of the thing (or person) I’m looking at than I would have if I weren’t framing the image through my viewfinder. By the same token, when I look at something unfamiliar through my lens, it gives me a chance to become familiar with it as I engage with it for longer than I would if I were just passing by it, and puts a kind of exclamation point on the scene, where otherwise there would just be a period.

And then when I upload the photo to my laptop I can play with it again: crop it to my satisfaction, tinker with the lighting and colour, and create something that is both a memory and a work of art. OK, a minor work of art – Ansel Adams I’m not! But still something creative and satisfying, and I’ll dare to call it art.

I took several photography courses back in art school, which was (ahem) a rather long time ago: way back before iPhones made everyone a photographer; back before digital cameras were even thought of; back when you bought film in 24- or 36-shot rolls and composed each picture carefully because that was all you got, and if you failed to load your film properly, you got…nothing. (Yes, that happened to me a few times!) I shot almost exclusively in black and white in those days, and loved the magic of watching the image emerge from nothing as it soaked in its chemical bath. I still don’t feel the virtual images I shoot on my digital camera are entirely “real” – though maybe I’d take them more seriously if I got them printed. But I still love taking pictures, and I still believe the act of doing so helps me be more, not less, present in the world and gives me a different angle on reality than I’d get from seeing things only through my eyes.

I’ve started uploading some of my photos to Flickr. If you’d like to see them, please go to my Flickr page. Let me know what you think … and if you like what you see, come back from time to time because I’ll be uploading more at regular intervals.

Something new for you!

BestI’ve created a new page on my website! It’s called “Goodies“, and that’s what you’ll find there: a growing set of resources I’ve created that you’re welcome to download for your own use. For starters, I’ve included a 2-page PDF of lettering samples I put together a few years ago (see the page for more details), and a poster of World Cafe Guidelines I created ages ago that has long been available for download on the World Cafe’s website and is now available here too. Come back often, as I’ll be adding new goodies from time to time – and might even be inspired to (gasp) blog about ideas that have been rolling around in my head. The easiest way to know when to look, of course, is to subscribe to my blog, which you can do by filling in your email in the Subscribe box at right. (I guarantee it won’t fill up your inbox in a hurry unless I change my habits drastically!)

CLICK HERE to go to the Goodies page – and have fun!

Paved with good intentions…

That would be “the road to hell”. The one that’s paved with good intentions, according to the proverb. Ahem.

I started this blog with the very best of intentions, something over a year and a half ago. I was going to post regularly. OK, at least once a month. By my blogging standards, that’s regular. I made a list of topics I was going to share my thoughts about. They were interesting! They were worthwhile! Some of them even related to my work! I’m sure you would have found them enjoyable to read. I might even have found them enjoyable to write.

But life intervened, the days turned into weeks and then months, and…yikes…the last post I wrote wished you happy new year. In January 2014. Oops.

So I’m writing this very short post simply in order to push “Happy New Year 2014” off the home page of my website and spare myself further embarrassment at being so publicly out of date. And I’m hoping it will spur me to write at least once in awhile. Because I really do have some thoughts I want to share on various topics, and I created this blog as the space to do just that.

But I’m going to refrain from making rash promises. I’ll just say: stay tuned. You might see something new here before the end of 2015. You might not. And if you don’t – well, at least no one can accuse me of flooding their inbox. That’s gotta be worth something in this age of information overload, right?

“A goldmine of graphic facilitation take-aways”

That’s a quote from a participant at my Artful Visual Facilitator workshop last week. (I paid her to say that.) No, but seriously: it was a blast. We had an almost full house, with 15 enthusiastic participants digging in for 2 very full days to learn the fundamentals of graphic recording and a few ways of incorporating visual facilitation into their work. Preparing for a workshop is hard work – no matter how many times I’ve done it, there’s always something new to add, elements to tweak and refine, and of course a million little details to attend to that wake me up at 3:00 in the morning in a cold sweat. But once we’re all in the room working and playing together, the class is always a joy! Each group is different, with its own collective personality, and I always learn at least as much from them as they learn from me.

One thing I changed last year (thank you, Lisa Arora, for the idea!) was to create a Do-It-Yourself agenda for the second day of the workshop. I lay out all the options on sticky notes, like a menu of possibilities, and the students get to vote on which pieces they most want to cover. The ones with the most votes get top priority, and others are added as time permits. I did that again this year, and it was great. The students get what they want the most, and I don’t have to sit up till 2am the night before, rejigging the Day 2 agenda based on what shifted on Day 1! (Because something always shifts, right?)

Here are a few pix from the workshop.

DIY  Day 1  5 things        Groupwork   WorkingSketchbook    GR    Lettering

Registration has closed for the workshop

Langley-1Thanks to all who signed up for my Artful Visual Facilitator workshop next week! We had a flurry of registrations this past week and are now officially full! I’m super looking forward to meeting the new cohort, including 9-count-em-nine teachers from the Langley and Chilliwack School districts.

Two of them, Scott and Tristan, got a bit of a head start the other evening. I was graphically recording a visioning session for the Langley School District, and they were there to (among other things) observe me do my thing. At one point I asked Scott how he would draw a particular concept. When he gave me his idea I said, “How would you like to draw it?” and handed him a pen. He went to with a will while I wandered off and got myself a cup of tea. The next time an image was needed, I recruited Tristan to draw it. Well, long story short: they both did such a terrific job that I turned over most of the drawing to them and I just focused on capturing the text!

[Note to self: Must see about getting nice young men to do my drawing for me as often as possible…] But seriously, as every graphic recorder knows, tandem mapping is hugely fun. I’ve done it on several occasions – sometimes with one person capturing text and the other focusing on drawing as we did here, other times piggybacking content and images as the spirit moves us. Either way, having four hands on the chart makes it much easier to capture content, especially when things are moving fast. And when you get into a flow, it’s like dancing with a terrific partner: anticipating each other’s moves, alternating leading and following, and creating a whole that’s way more than the sum of its parts!