There's nothing like getting together with creative people to spark your own creativity.
Over the past couple of years, family commitments have kept me (and continue to keep me) from a lot of the cool creative stuff going on around town. Good for the proverbial soul as such cultured events are, one needs to keep one's priorities straight. Making sure the kids are fed and the bills are paid is arguably more important than any of that mushy artsy soul-feeding stuff.
I have a feeling this little group get-together might be the start of something bigger, so I wanted to tell the story. Which, for me, is always about the people. So here goes...
Jill Langer is a local facilitator who, together with her colleague Ben Smith, has been organizing a meet-up group for Calgary "visual practitioners." This general moniker (which is widely used around the world) is meant to include anybody who uses visuals in their practice - hence, not just artists.
So, we also had Susan Merchant at this meet-up, who's on the lookout for ways to define her facilitation practice, and wondering what role visuals might play in that. I have been fortunate to meet Susan a few times at facilitation get-togethers and I think it's pretty cool that, despite the fact that she doesn't identify as an "artsy" type, she came out to this! She clearly gets what many people still don't - that graphic recording/graphic facilitation is not about art per se, but about using visuals as tools for learning and memory. In an interview with Aaron Chatha of Calgary's Metro newspaper (from a couple of weeks ago), I tried to stress that point, and was really pleased at how well the article expressed that (thanks, Metro!). You don't have to be an artist - really!
Oh, and speaking of the IFVP, a group that acts as a great worldwide resource for both practitioners and clients looking to find people who do this kind of thing: we also had Rob and Laurie Benn at our meet-up. Rob is a past president of the IFVP and was its first Canadian member. Rob and Laurie are unique in an already unique crowd, in that they work as a tag team, doing graphic recording and facilitation together, in tandem - and sometimes with their grown-up daughter, too!
Yes, organizations really want these kinds of cool visual contributions! But people often don't know where to look for the skilled practitioners who can do these things... or what the options even are.
For example, if you wanted some really beautiful sketchnotes about your event, would you know that the person to talk to in Calgary was Kipling West? Maybe not, since she herself didn't even know "sketchnoting" was a thing that went by that name, until recently. She's just always taken notes that way. And I really think it's a way that more people should try! It was great to have her out at this meet-up, representing the hide-in-the- corner-and-silently-draw side of graphic recording.
That's probably my favourite way of graphic recording, too. I've always taken notes that way, too, and I also didn't know it was a "thing" until Jeff Mason of Alternative Comics told me at the San Diego Comic Con in 2001 that there was such a thing as autobiographical comics. I wrote comics about what was going on in my life for years, taking notes at all sorts of interesting events, before I ever heard of sketchnotes or graphic recording. But I've kind of put comics on the back burner over the past couple of years while getting my head around this graphic recording business. Kind of funny, then, that at the end of this visual practitioners' networking chat, I felt super inspired about comics once more... mostly thanks to the presence of Lethbridge comics creator Eric Dyck!
Eric (depicted here commenting on the popularity of Twitter in Alberta as a means of spreading the word about most anything) came all the way to Calgary to ponder the crossovers between art, sketchnotes, comics, storytelling, graphic recording, etc. I was delighted to meet him in person after having seen his comics online (Twitter, again!) for a while. Eric writes comics inspired by real-life local stories and it sounds like this constitutes a significant component of his work as a full-time artist.
Wow! Writing real-life local stories in comics form is one of my favourite things in the world. This is its own form of graphic recording.
Although I still try to keep this up through my monthly strip for the Ramsay community newsletter, writing comics is something I haven't had time to do in a long while. And in the past few years, the real-life comics I've written (like my live tweets for the Calgary Expo and the quick sketchy strips for my little Alec's Year Book series) have been done so quickly in the limited free time I've had, that I haven't had the chance to treat myself to the opportunity of making really nice art befitting the comics.
My comics look hastily made (which they are). Eric is making no such compromises with his art - his comics, whether made in haste or not, look awesome!
Indy Comics in Alberta???
And if I can keep up this blogging trend, I will put something up here soon about the project I'm hoping to bring to that event myself. How's that for a tease.
So basically, we met, we drank a lot of coffee and we went our separate ways... but I'm pretty sure more is going to happen with this group. Stay tuned.
Let me leave the last word to the final member of our meet-up, whom I haven't mentioned yet: Carolina Pelaez, a local facilitator who specializes in Change Management (just the expertise we need around here). Carolina is also a contributor to Newscoop, a new media platform for telling local stories which is also a cooperative (hm... another collaborative group... this is really a trend!).
Carolina mused, "We could tell stories about this group." We should. And we will!