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THE FEATURED IMAGE
 

 

Welcome to the seventh issue of The Featured Image newsletter, a place where writing meets art. As a reminder, the goal here is to add visual creativity to our work and gain inspiration from those already doing it.
 
This week I'm excited to feature an interview about sketchnoting. I've dabbled with drawing pictures and words together in a notebook, but never in any kind of structured way. I'm always a little bit jealous of how effortless and fun a good sketchnote looks. I believe the interview below is just the antidote for anyone who could use a little guidance (like me).

I met Chad Moore through the Ness Labs community, and quickly became intrigued by his experience with sketchnoting. He was kind enough to share his journey with us below. You can keep up with Chad and his visuals on his website, on Twitter, and via his monthly newsletter.
Creator Interview

Chad Moore on Getting Started with Sketchnoting

Turn on images to see
Drawing by Chad Moore

Tell us about the creative work you do.


I am a Scrum Master in Software Development/IT. I’m not making art in my day job so to speak, but there is a lot of room for creative thinking in my role. I do a lot of coaching, and help teams solve problems, so there are elements of creativity throughout the day.

I’ve been a writer and doodler off and on for years, and a couple years ago started putting these things together. I add my drawings to blog posts, and have formalized my sketchnoting practices.

Over the last couple years I started to study and mindfully practice sketchnoting.
 

How long have you been visually creative?


Ever since I can remember I have taken visual notes of some kind. I made stop motion animations with the family camera and legos when I was younger. I studied photography in high school and college for a while. My teacher showed me photoshop and I got into the digital side.

I worked in game dev for a long time as an animator and technical artist. Then in the design field as a scrum master and project manager, where I assisted with facilitation of all sorts of activities for people and organizations to better understand themselves and their customers.
 

What went into the decision to start including original visuals with your work?


I don’t remember it being a conscious decision. It just kind of happened along the way. Now I am more purposeful.
 

What have you found to be the benefits of sketchnoting?


I’m more prone to distractions than I’d like, and have taken on several activities to be more present and focused. I’m building a meditation practice. I was studying improv comedy before covid. You have to be absolutely in the moment when you’re improvising. And sketchnoting is another one of these activities.

There’s certainly pre and post work one can do for a sketchnote, but being absolutely engaged in what you’re hearing and seeing, and trying to represent it visually in the moment feels like magic.
 

What tools do you like to use for creation and publishing?


For sketchnoting, I like to think “something to write/draw with and something to draw on”.
Turn on images to see
Drawing by Chad Moore
There is no perfect pen, marker, or drawing app, etc. I think to myself: What pen is closest to you right now? Use that one.

That said, most folks go with a black archival ink pen. Any brand will do, really. I like Pigma micron and Copic multiliners, personally. Copic also makes nice water based markers too. They have ones with chisel tips on one end, and a brush on the other.

As for paper, I use a stack of cheap printer paper for the day-to-day doodling and notes. I have a trusty Leuchtturm1917 notebook for bullet journaling and a 5×5 sketchbook for sketchnoting.

I typically start analog, take a picture of my sketchnote, and then go digital.

I have an iPad with the second gen Apple Pencil. It’s my primary computer and my entire digital studio. I draw and animate in Procreate. It is a really feature rich app that I’m still growing into. That said, sometimes I like the simplicity of the Paper app too.

My latest work has me making small animations in Procreate, and putting them together (arranging them on the screen, and controlling when they start) in Keynote. You can do what I’m doing on iPad in Keynote, but it’s frustrating to use, so I borrow my wife’s MacBook Air when I need to do that work in Keynote.

Here’s an example. I made a sketchnote on paper to represent what I wanted the final piece to look like. Then, I created six different animations in Procreate. I brought them all into Keynote to place on the screen, and control their appearance.

As a sidebar, I used to work in video games, as an animator and technical artist. I never did conceptual art myself, but worked with a bunch of folks who did. They’d have a huge PC of course. Over time they went from drawing with a tiny little tablet connected to the computer, to these giant monitors you could draw on directly. Now, all that processing power, innovation, and WYSIWYG is on a tiny tablet. Amazing.
 

Is there one image you are particularly proud of?

Turn on images to see
Drawing by Chad Moore
I was (still am) overthinking how I do what I do. I came across this post on Metacognition from the Ness Labs blog. It really spoke to me, and helped me understand myself a bit better. So I wanted to draw it to have it sink in even further.

I’m proud of the way I represented the abstract concepts visually. Especially Energy. That lil’ guy is my hero. Let’s get his energy up!

However I’m most proud of how I was able to put myself out there and ask several different groups of people for feedback. Sketchnoters, artists, and folks who would read these kinds of articles in the first place. That depth from creators and the breadth from the readers helped me iterate on the illustration quite a bit.

Show your work, get feedback. Don’t wait!
 

Are there any creators who work at the intersection of writing and art that inspire and motivate you?


Chris Wilson is a sketchnoter, teacher, and writer. I know him personally and he’s a great collaborator too. You can find him at Learn Create Share.

Austin Kleon is inspiring to me as well. His newsletter and books are fantastic. If you have the chance, give his books Steal Like an ArtistShow Your Work, and Keep Going a read. They are fantastic resources for creative people.
 

What advice would you give anyone who wants to start (or continue) adding visual creativity to their work?


Don’t think, just do.

Don’t get caught up in what you’re trying to do and which tools are best. Just start. Doodle when you’re in a meeting. Science supports the fact that you retain information better if you take visual notes.

Start small. Put one tiny drawing or collage or some other visual you made into your writing. If you’re a blogger, maybe at the start of each heading, use an image instead of an h1 or h2, etc. Putting an image you made into your writing really can show personality and connect readers of your work in new ways.

Here’s an image I used in that context, it was the start of blog post I wrote. This image took me seconds to draw, and is far from perfect. A simple, “imperfect”, easy to make image can go a long way for you and your readers.
Turn on images to see
Drawing by Chad Moore
Have fun with sketchnotes. It’s not about realism, it’s about capturing the idea of something visually. If you’re drawing a cat, you can search for images online, and try to represent the cat. It’s even possible for concepts like “interpersonal relationships”, or “code coverage”, or “political divide”. Those concepts require you to think creatively.

Have fun with it!
Read this interview online (and share!)
Creative Juice
I was lucky enough to receive my second covid show this week, and it certainly drained me of my creative juices a bit (but duh, well worth it). I was on a roll with creating images for Twitter and it's something I'd like to double down on again now that I'm mostly 100%. 

To that end, I've signed up for the April cohort of Daily Visuals if anyone would like to join alongside me. I'm looking forward to the community and accountability more than anything.

I'm also proud of the image I created for an article I wrote for The Bello Collective about the podcast industry.

Lastly, I'd really like to jazz up this newsletter a bit too, so hold me accountable to that over the next few weeks. I mean c'mon, could a newsletter about visual content possibly have more boring headings and format?

And for some more content to get the juices flowing:

Museo. A search engine that pulls from the digital archives of museums. They are also all free to use in your work!

Wendy Macnaughton. At this point she has built a house at the intersection of writing and art. Tons of great work to look through. When I build up the courage I'll reach out to see if we could get an interview. Among so much else, she also created Women Who Draw, an open directory of illustrators who are women. 

This Is the Secret to Business and Artistic Success. An interesting read from Ryan Holiday. His argument is about cutting out the middlemen where you can. 

How to Start Sketchnoting Today. A perfect supplement to today's interview. This is from Chris Wilson, who Chad recommended his sit up above. Perfect circle.
Ok, that's it for this week. Be sure to draw something cool for something you write. 

And oh, please forward this to anyone you think would love this type of stuff. Or shoot them the link to the homepage where they can sign up. Endless gratefulness. 

Erik 
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