Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Graphic Facilitation and Recording Skills for Absolute Beginners - Part 3

Key Skills Continued

In Part 2, I introduced you to two of the key skills of graphic facilitation and recording. I began with some simple introductory drawing exercises as this is the area that tends to worry people most. But, as I then pointed out, the most important skill is being able to listen. This is using a range of interpersonal techniques and behaviour to ensure that you fully understand what the people you are working with are saying.

A third skill that you need, and the second most important one, is interpreting what you hear into some kind of order; prioritizing ideas, making connections and identifying what images you will use to highlight them. Brandy Agerbeck, in her book, ‘The Graphic Facilitators Guide’, calls this “thinking”. The book is a great resource for what it involves, practically. Essentially, it’s working out how you will represent the processes and ideas being expressed into an easily readable visual format and give it meaning. Most often, the things you will need to draw will be straightforward lines and basic shapes like boxes and arrows, along with writing key words and phrases. Simple imagery can also be used to enhance the meaning. 

By now, you should have realised that being able to draw like an artist is not a requirement for you to be a graphic facilitator/recorder. You do need to be able draw some basic imagery and you will have to be able to draw quickly. This takes practice. Drawing is a skill and like any skill it can be learned and when you have learned how to draw things you need to keep practicing until they are second nature. It is also very useful to be able to draw things from your imagination or memory. Again, this takes practice and the more you practice the easier it becomes. Graphic facilitation is not about producing ‘works of art’, but because it involves drawing and communication we can borrow some learning methods and exercises from art education.

Learning to See

It’s not always easy to see the basic shapes in the world around us –
When we learn to recognise them we can use the shapes as a sort of coding to help us break down the real world into easy-to-draw building blocks –

Here's a 

and then a

and now we have

....a house. 

One way to be able to do graphic facilitation is to learn by rote all the basic shapes and images you think you will need – we’ll have a go at some of these later - but one day, in someone’s planning meeting, you’ll need an image you’ve not thought of or practised. What are you going to do then? 

Well you could ask people in the meeting, but you’ll probably need to have some idea in your head of what it or alternatives look like. How do we know what things look like? We can recognise them, but can we describe them; can we draw a passable likeness?

To do this we need to learn to see – We need to learn to recognise the elements that enable us to see three-dimensional objects, to understand how they relate to one another and learn some rules for representing them in two dimensions, on paper. Some of these elements are innate; others are learned. It’s worth remembering that it’s no good using an image unless everyone in the room understands what it represents.

The elements include perspective (how objects seem smaller the further away they are and how this affects the shape of things), shapes and negative shapes, tone or light and shade, shadows and colour. The rules include the rules of perspective, the use of lines, shading and shadows and using colour, including how we can suggest emotion and mood.

The best way to learn these is the same way that artists do it; look at things and draw them. Artists will tell you they draw every day; it’s why they regularly do still life and life drawing. So I would like you to do some simple still life drawing:

The biggest obstacle for people not used to drawing is what they think an object looks like (or should look like) and trying to draw that instead of what’s in front of them. To overcome this, initially, I don’t want you to try drawing bowls of fruit or vases of flowers, etc; instead I want you to find some 3 dimensional versions of the basic shapes; two or three ordinary boxes and a plain coloured ball to start with. Arrange them in a similar way to this and try to ensure that there is just one main source of light:

For this exercise I want you to use just one marker pen of any fairly deep colour and a large piece of paper:
Start by looking for the edge lines and how they relate to one another. Draw one of these lines and then another that joins the first. Make sure you draw clear positive lines, not hesitant ones. Remember, be bold and draw big. Carefully build up the image with more lines. Try not to think of the arrangement as boxes and a ball, but to see it as a collection of shapes; rectangles and a circle.

Some of the rectangles are distorted and partially hidden: See the perspective; how lines that are really parallel, seem to become closer the further away they are. Look for the shapes that make up the objects and the “negative” shapes in between that fix how the objects relate to one another -

How are you getting on? Hopefully, you should now have a line drawing that resembles the objects in front of you. However, it probably looks like it has no substance, no solidity and it’s floating around in the air somewhere. It is important that the images we use as graphic facilitators or recorders have some impression of reality; that is, that they look solid and are grounded (look as though they are standing on a solid surface). We could start to give the objects some solidity with traditional hatching and cross-hatching like this –

However, for graphic recording and facilitation purposes, this takes too much time. We need an approach that is quick and easy. Look for the light and shade and think about how we can represent that on paper. See where the objects cast shadows and what they look like.

Now find a light-coloured marker; again, any colour will do – it doesn’t matter at this point. I prefer to use a marker with a chisel shaped nib for shading, but, through practice, you may discover that you get on better with a round or pointed nib. Look at the objects again and fill in the shaded areas and the shadows.
For example, like this; 

Take your time for now; speed will come with practice. Eventually, you should develop a quick, simple standard method for doing shade and shadows. Remember we are not trying to produce artwork, but learning to see like an artist will help you find and execute images that hold meaning for the people you work with.

In the next part we will look at creating some basic images and lettering. In the meantime keep practicing drawing from life. When you feel able, move on and try drawing some ordinary everyday things you have around your house, using the same approach. Look for the basic shapes in these things to help you. See how the light falls on them, creating shade and shadows. If you have any questions, get in touch via the comments box.