5 Tips for the Sketchnoting Beginner (from a Beginner)
Sketchnotes from the pros like Sylvia Duckworth or Wanda Terral can be easily found on Twitter. Their Sketchnotes have often brought to life and summarized many trends in education, pedagogy and the cool things educators are doing. I have lived vicariously through the Sketchnotes for books I haven’t read yet or summits/workshops that I haven’t attended.
When in awe of these awesome Sketchnotes, one question I have always had is, could I do that? I’m not an artist! I can’t draw! But what I discovered is that sketchnoting is not about drawing, but it’s a way to document ideas and process information in a creative and visual way.
I decided to try something new and took on the challenge of sketchnoting, sketching one sketch per day for a month. Here is what I learned summarized as 5 tips.
Have a plan
When learning anything new, it is important to have a plan. A schedule keeps you on track and forces you to develop your skills! What I did was follow Royan Lee’s #doodleaday. In this structure, each day for 31 days, there a prompt on what to sketch and once completed it was tweeted out. For me, a major roadblock is coming up with ideas to sketch and not feeling confident in my skills, but the prompts help you hone your skills while inspiring your creativity. One of my favourite prompts was to use a coffee stain and transform that into a doodle.
Don’t do it alone
Life is busy and being an educator can be an all-consuming job. Working on your sketchnoting skills with your professional learning network (PLN) gives you some positive peer pressure and motivation to continue when you get too busy and stressed. I found that when I took the time to sketch, it was definitely a relaxing activity where I felt less stressed out after taking 5 minutes to complete a sketch. There are probably some sketchnoters in your PLN, for me, it was Jen Giffen, who was there to cheer us on, provide tips to help us get started and she even did a Google hangout! Reach out to those in your PLN to join you in a doodle challenge, to be your cheerleader or guide!
Find the tool that works for you
Not every artist uses a paint and canvas and the same goes with sketchnoting. I started with pen and paper and found it was challenging to start each sketch as I didn’t want to mess up and erase it. I felt pressure where I wanted each sketch to be perfect. Once I switched to using a tablet with a stylus, I felt more confident to sketch since I could easily press Control + Z if my sketch was going badly. Going the digital route, many of the pros use Procreate as their app of choice, as a beginner, I simply used Google Keep. There a variety of tools (pen, pencil, highlighter) as well as the ability to zoom in to capture the details (Pro-tip from Sylvia).
Listening to a podcast, reading a book, attending a conference gives you multiple opportunities to capture your learning, but sometimes there is a mention of something you can’t draw like a Caribou or Canadian Goose! A great tip is when you’re stuck on how to draw that, just Google it. Do a Google image search using keywords like “simple”, “easy”, “drawing” will provide reference examples to inspire your own creation.
Learn from the pros
Whether it is virtually through Twitter or at a summit workshop, seeing how the pros do it really is amazing to inspire you to sketchnote. I was lucky to attend a workshop by Sylvia Duckworth and there is nothing like have a sketchnoting wizard in the same room as you. The next best thing is utilizing the webinar that she has done to inspire your creativity. The exciting thing is that Sylvia is going on tour across Canada and you can be in the room with a pro too!
After the 31 days, I definitely feel more confident in my abilities and I know that sketchnoting is not just about drawing – it’s a way to share ideas. I learned there is no one way to do it and with time you will develop your own personal style. I’m glad I tried and I think the next time I come across some new ideas, I’ll jot them down as a sketchnote! Will you give it a try?
High School Teacher
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Google Certified Innovator
Get your Sketch On & join Sylvia ON TOUR!