This week I visited Cass Art in Islington for a drawing workshop with Jake Spicer. Jake’s a friendly guy and an accomplished artist. He spoke briefly about what he thinks the important basics are to help you draw and in time, draw better. I didn’t take notes at the time and here’s what I recall of his suggestions.

Time : Find some, it doesn’t always have to be a lot, but enough to practice regularly

Subjects : Don’t get hung up on what to draw, choose something and draw it

Materials : Keep a small sketch book and pencil to hand, don’t let the absence of stuff to draw with be the excuse for not drawing

Confidence : Grows with time and practice, and part of the process is about making bad drawings and seeing what you learn from them

We then tried drawing something using a continuous line while looking at the subject all the time, not at the drawing. I found this process really enjoyable – here is a sketch of a bookcase.

I had no way of knowing what the final picture would look like until it was finished and I’m really pleased it ended up being a good size to fit one of my small mounts. I’m tempted to trace the basic shape a few times before adding some small details – I might make another small series of images in a similar way that I recently created Stained Glass.

Jake showed us the basics of how to draw a head in profile before inviting us to find a partner and draw them. I’d never made a life drawing of someone else before…there’s a first time for everything.

Woman in Profile

I can clearly see areas for improvement and at the same time I am happy with this as a first attempt. I really enjoyed Jake’s class – it helped me realise I need to make more drawings, and the basic process is simpler than I thought.


Art for Work’s Sake – Milton Keynes

After the success of Art for Work’s Sake in Euston a few weeks ago, we’re running another one in the new year. This time it will be taking place in Milton Keynes. Full details and how to buy tickets are shown below. There are a maximum of 16 places available, six have already been taken. It would be great if you can join us, and please tell your friends and colleagues.

Art For Work’s Sake

You are invited to Art for Work’s Sake, a workshop designed to help people explore art and artistry as a way of making work more effective.

During the workshop you will have the opportunity to try out a variety of drawing, sketching, painting and other art forms. These techniques will be combined into a series of methods designed to help you think more clearly and creatively about your day to day work.

A guest at our recent London workshop left saying, ‘It seems I can draw, despite 20+ years thinking I couldn’t! It only took 60 seconds to realise I can’. Despite this, the purpose of this workshop is not to turn you into an artist, it is designed simply to give you the time and space to explore a few new techniques to help you think differently at work.

Art for Work's Sake example sketch

All materials will be provided and you will get to keep all your work plus pencils, charcoal, a set of water colour paints and some high quality heavy duty cartridge paper.

You have the option to purchase a discounted set of Stop Doing Dumb Things Cards when you buy your ticket. These cards have been designed to help unlock creativity and make work better and are in use in the UK, Canada, USA and Australia. The set of 48 cards normally sell for £36 per pack inclusive of VAT and shipping. When you purchase them as part of this workshop the cost is only £23. Make sure you select the Stop Doing Dumb Things Special ticket and you’ll get your set of cards at the workshop.

Stop Doing Dumb Things Cards

I am facilitating this workshop and donating my time for free on this occasion, and the venue has kindly been provided by Boots The Chemists, thanks to Helen Amery. We will break for lunch – the cost of this is not included in the ticket price.

Tickets are available here, and I hope you will join us for a few hours of useful and enjoyable creative work.

Art for Work’s Sake

I ran an Art for Work’s Sake workshop earlier this week. There were ten of us round the table at Workhubs, and after breakfast, we talked a little about art, why it is so helpful as an aid to better work, and why most of us have come to believe that we are not artists. I’ve spoken and written about some of this as part of We Are Better Together and we looked again at the Breakpoint and Beyond research about how rapidly awful we get at divergent thinking, plus this great piece about sketching and how helpful it is.

Conversation summary

Brene Brown – 85% of the 13,000 people interviewed for her research on shame and vulnerability ‘can recall a time in school that was so shaming it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners. 50% of those recollections related to art and creativity.’

Breakpoint and Beyond. Up to 98% of very young children excel at divergent thinking, and we get progressively worse at it as we move through the education system and into work. By the time we are 25, only around 2% of people show the same ability to excel at this vital way of thinking.

When note taking and doodling, different colours are helpful for different ideas and themes – easy to pick stuff out afterwards.

Getting doodles and sketches down on paper frees up brain space and extends memory.

Sketching improves your ability to restructure ideas.

When you draw how you/your team are feeling – you will likely get different signals and results than if you just talk and write about it.

Sketching Exercise

We wanted to try our hand at sketching and with time at a premium, here’s what we did.


Choose some paper. I had brought four different types, photocopy paper, two grades of cartridge paper and water colour paper. Take a pencil, a rather lovely, brand new Staedtler B Grade in this instance (pencil nerd alert), and spend about a minute sketching something. Then review your sketch with your partner, spending a couple of minutes talking about each one. Remembering what we discussed earlier, we agreed to avoid asking judgmental questions, and instead – just explore our work together. After the conversation time, either redraw the sketch or refine it, for about a minute and a half. Discuss.

Here is a gallery of some of the work we produced.

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The coffee cup was drawn by Louise who previously told me, ‘I can’t draw’. After the session Louise tweeted, ‘It seems I can draw, despite 20+ years thinking I couldn’t’, before adding, ‘It only took 60 seconds to realise I can!’ Louise preferred cup 1 which took less time to draw than cup 2.

Phil drew the bottle, and after drawing bottle 1, he noticed the way the glass distorted shapes behind it, and modified his idea in bottle 2.

Paul drew Euston Station arch – from a photograph on the wall. Paul talked about how he could remember the station behind the arch but not the arch itself. He wanted a record of the arch so he could speak with other people about it later. Nick then told us that parts of the arch have been rediscovered, and later that day, Paul sent me this picture of what a rebuilt arch might took like. I’ve played with this exercise a few times and this is the first time I’ve seen someone do what Paul did. I really liked his creative interpretation of the exercise.

Bernie drew the salt cellar – and then added depth with shade.

Nick did something similar to Bernie with the patterned glass.

Ed captured the sphere shape in the basketball beautifully. What you see here is version 2 – version 1 got rubbed out because it wasn’t round enough. I really like the way I feel like I can reach out and grab the ball.


Louise’s post workshop tweets gave me a real lift, and then on Wednesday I received a lovely note from Paul about the workshop. Later on Wednesday evening I spotted Phil had tweeted this:

Phil's Tweet

Phil's Sketch

I like Phil’s idea – a sketch of what work looks like, and the groups and ideas you connect with. Sketching your way to better work, sketching your way to stronger connections. I’m grateful to everyone who came along to the session and participated so enthusiastically. And in the time we had together, I’m really pleased with what we covered and the different ways people embraced and interpreted the challenge, and have continued to do so. And if you missed out this time – keep a watchful eye out for further chances to take part.