I can’t do this

I can’t do this

‘I guess I’m just not a visual person’

Many demons emerge when we step out of our comfort zone and learn something completely different.

It’ like our subconscious goes into overdrive telling us all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t do something. ‘Don’t bother’,  it whispers, ‘Look, you gave it a go and it’s not you’, ‘Come back to what’s familiar and safe’.

When we learn something new we go through what’s known as the learning ladder. The learning ladder explains why we experience these moments of resistance, of pulling back, and offers us a new perspective.

What if we chose not to give voice to our negative mind chatter? What if we recognised it for what it is, a sign that we’re learning, a sign that it’s all part of the learning process.

  • The stage at the bottom of the ladder is known as Unconscious Incompetence – well before you learned how to drive for example, driving wasn’t even on your radar.
  • The next stage is Conscious Incompetence – you start learning and suddenly it feels quite difficult – think kangaroo hops. It’s the same when we start drawing for the first time in years – our star people have giant heads, we can’t quite get our lettering to fit on the page, our sheep look like clouds etc. But fear not…. we then reach the next stage.
  • Conscious Competence – Hey we can do it. Somehow the whole clutch/steering, braking, mirrors thing all comes together. Our drawings look less child like and more recognisable. We can do it but it takes a lot of concentration.
  • The final stage on the learning ladder is Unconscious Competence – we can do it without even thinking. It’s easy, it’s effortless, heck it’s even fun. You find yourself jotting down simple images quickly and easily. It’s become second nature. You’ve quietened the critical voice.

So the next time you hear those subconscious murmurings remember it’s not the case that you’re no good, it simply means you’re on a certain stage of the learning ladder and with a little practice and self compassion, you’ll soon reach the next stage.As my yoga teacher said recently, ‘If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you’ll see obstacles.’ Oh hang on, I think she was quoting Wayne Dyer. Wise words at any rate!

To experience exciting learning opportunities for yourself why not book a place on the next Secrets of Simple Graphics open course. Book now >>

How to draw Hallowe’en images

How to draw Hallowe’en images

Very serious business topic today – how to draw Hallowe’en images.

Impress your colleagues, have fun with your kids, get that promotion (ok I might be pushing it there). Whatever you do make sure you grab this fun opportunity to put pen to paper!

1. The pumpkin.
When I was growing up we didn’t have pumpkins, we had turnips. All I could do was draw pumpkins in the hope of one day having one. Now you can too!

2. The bat
Bats are creepy. Bat silhouettes are even creepier…

3. The web
Remember that bumpy line we used to begin our bat drawing? Use the same line multiple times to create a spooky web.

4. The ghost
This time we’re starting with a bumpy line on the horizontal – for added fright factor give your ghost two different shaped eyes.

5. The spider
What’s the difference between a regular spider and a Hallowe’en spider? Fangs of course.

Where can you sneak in a spooky Hallowe’en image today? A Welcome poster at a training session? The top sheet of a report? A handwritten note to your colleague?

Happy Hallowe’en!

Three fun ways to colour in quickly

Three fun ways to colour in quickly

You know those colouring in books that are really popular at the moment? The mindfulness ones with the intricate designs?

Well I’ve thought about getting one.

However the truth is…everytime I think about it another part of me wants to get out my biggest fattest chunkiest marker and scribble like crazy all over the beautiful designs.

There, I’ve said it.

When it comes to graphics, and especially when it comes to working live with a group, we can’t afford the luxury of painstakingly perfect colouring in. After all, we’re there to serve the group, not our artistic egos.

Here are some fun ways to colour in quickly – with each method colouring in can be done behind or around the image (often quicker) or inside the image.

1. Crosshatching

Crosshatching is a pattern. Here are some other patterns you can try:


2. Chalk pastels  – this is messy, fast and fun.

chalk paint

3. Shading – I like to use grey for shading (think: where is the sun coming from? and then you’ll know where to shade. For example if the sun is in the top right corner your shading will be left and bottom); other colours are just as effective.


I hope you enjoy these tips. Don’t forget to check out the open courses page for the next Secrets of Simple Graphics date.

Planning a training session? Go big or go home (free template)

As you may be aware I’m not only a huge advocate of drawing, I’m a huge advocate of drawing BIG.

When I say drawing big I mean drawing on the wall (tip: put paper on it first) or at the flipchart.

Here in my office/studio I have a large 8ft graphic wall and a large 5ft whiteboard. When I need to think I stand up and I draw big.

Drawing big opens up the heart and opens up the mind. Anytime you need to think something through, draw big.

Here’s a template I use when planning a training session. I like to sketch this out big on a large piece of paper.

This is the order in which to fill it out.

1. Delegates
How many delegates?
What do we know about them?
What do they know about the topic?
What needs do they have?

2. Outcomes
What are the key outcomes for the session?
What is the transformation we want to have happen as a result of the training?
If we had to narrow these down to three key points, what would these be?

3. Ideas for Exercises
At this point you move naturally into brainstorming ideas for exercises. You may need to grab a flipchart and really go to town with your ideas.
Stick your pieces of flipchart paper all over the wall and start selecting the best ideas.
Put the best ideas into a natural sequence.

4. Agenda
Jot down your agenda items and timings based down on the above.

5. Get clear on the purpose of each exercise and note these down. Make sure they tie in with the outcomes to your right.

6. Include any materials you need to prepare for the day.

7. Have a lie down.

This kind of big scale drawing and thinking is SO worth the effort. You will find yourself coming up with ideas and insights far quicker and with greater insight than if you sat in front of a laptop and started with a blank Word document in front of you.

Top tip: wear comfortable shoes 🙂

Hand drawn versus, well, not hand drawn

I’m a great believer in the power of pen and paper. Give me a slightly wonky hand drawn picture over clip art any day of the week.

As Dan Roam says in The Back of The Napkin, ‘The hand is mightier than the mouse’.

But just what is it about hand drawn images that make them so great?

Firstly, the more human our communication is the more effective it is. Hand drawn images are an outward sign of that humanity.

What an insight we receive when we see how someone draws.

How refreshing, how disarming almost, to see something that like us, is not perfect.

Secondly, when we create images on a computer we often find ourselves wrestling with a piece of software* whose functionality never quite matches up to the power of our imagination.

And it’s so small, that screen, so…confined. It can make our thinking confined too.

Thirdly (and crucially), it is the physical act of putting pen to paper that is so powerful. It engages the right hand side – the creative side – of our brain. It is that creativity that stimulates and feeds idea generation.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen delegates on my courses start with a blank sheet of paper and then think, ‘Oh hang on. Maybe we can do this. Or if we scratch that out we can do that…’ and so forth.

How powerful is it in an age where idea generation is so key to human flourishing to have a tool so cheap, so quick, so accessible.

The power is in your hands!


Do come and join me on April 26th 2019 for some in person practice. I can’t wait.

*There are software programmes which allow you to draw directly on the screen (Adobe Illustrator and SketchbookPro to name a few) which is great. Start with pen and paper though. Otherwise you’re learning how to draw and learning how to use a software programme at the same time. And despite many protests to the contrary research shows that the brain just isn’t good at multitasking!