Category Archives: Work

Drawing on the Job: Ever Wonder Who Draws Those Cool Hand-Made Signs in Restaurants and Grocery Stores?

Originally posted 8/19:
Hand-drawn, artistic signs make our wait at the deli counter or navigating the produce department a more pleasurable experience. But who are the unknown artists behind the countless chalkboard and ink signs we see in our neighborhood grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops?

Above photo: Erin Piester draws signs that are functional and fun to look at

Combining the Love for Drawing, Lettering, and Retail Service
Sometimes incorporating elaborate drawings of vines and veggies or just a simple flourish of lettering for the day’s price on tomatoes, Erin Piester’s signage abounds in the isles of Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The 30-year-old pastel artist studied nutrition and dietetics and works as a landscaper, but her drawing skills come to life during mornings spent creating the colorful signs at Guido’s.

Above: Erin’s thoughtfully drawn, creative signs can bring a smile to a customer’s face.

Author Steven Heller writes, on the New York Times blog, that Erin “has raised a mundane craft to alluring art.” He goes on to say that her soothingly naturalistic yet engagingly abstract signs “are so joyful and jolly that you don’t mind the often high prices — which are usually rendered in white chalk.”

Chalk It Up to Success

Above: Claire Watson’s menu boards display the power of solid drawing skills.

Claire Watson has taken her love of chalk art to a delightful extreme. While working in restaurants Claire started drawing chalkboard menus. What started as a side job became a bustling little enterprise called Chalk It Up Signs and Graphics, located in British Columbia. Her husband crafts the wooden frames on the smudge-proof, hand-illustrated menu boards hanging in markets, pubs, and retail establishments across the globe.

According to her company website, Claire recalls, “I’ve been pumpin’ out signs full time for about five years now, about 400 in total. But it started about 12 years ago. Working in the food and beverage industry, I was the one who wrote out the menu boards.”

Nowadays, in her busy studio, music plays and the espresso machine is always on as the self-taught artist has diversified with new projects such as fabric banners, brochures for clients, illustrated ESL children’s books, and her own pastel art exhibits. Focused on balancing family and work, Claire Watson has attained a lifestyle that many of us sketchers only dream of. She says with confidence, “I get to design and draw every day.”

So, next time you’re waiting for the morning brew at the local java house, toss an extra tip in the jar to show your appreciation for those whimsical hand-crafted signs on the counter; they may have been created by an enterprising young employee, honing their drawing skills for a colorful future.

I’m always looking for examples of how people use drawing in their everyday work life. If you use drawing on the job please contact me, I’d like to post your story on this blog. –Rob

Doodling as Performance Art

Originally posted 4/09:

We’ve all, at one time or another, found ourselves doodling during class or a company meeting. But for most of us, the thought of sharing our cute little doodles with a public audience is something that… well… grownups just don’t do. Try telling that to the crew of scribbling bohemians called WeeWillDoodle. Armed with ink pens and perpetual kid-like imaginations, their large scale doodles are taking the Filipino cultural scene by storm.

Based in the city of Baguio, Phillippines, WeeWillDoodle is an energized group of eight hardcore doodlists. Their orchestrations of lines, geometric motifs, and cute little characters–monsters, smiling skulls, cows, and robots–are inked on the walls of cafes and galleries. Their live improv doodling is featured at music venues and crowded shopping mall events. They transform the seemingly inane process of doodling into a hybrid blend of performance art, street art, and Saturday morning cartoons. According to the group website, “You basically start out with nothing in mind, letting thoughts and imaginations flow through the pen and letting it take you to wherever it wants at that point in time. You may call it mindless, if you compare it to other kinds of artwork, and that’s the beauty of doodling.”

Collaboration is the Key
Back in 2007, during casual doodle sessions with friends, Neiz Yumul would start a doodle on scratch paper then pass it to everyone. As the paper went around, each member would add more and more doodles to the picture. The pleasure of collaborative doodling became a regular pastime, which lead Neiz to formalizing the group into a team. “I introduced the idea of having a doodle show after my last solo exhibit to contrast my digital artwork with traditional doodles,” says Neiz. “I coined the name WeeWillDoodle. The ‘ee’ signifies fun, which is key to our work.”

The group’s collective efforts are bound together by their childhood love of drawing. The team recalls drawing with schoolchildren during a recent event: “Kids are the undisputed masters of doodling, they have so much energy and so many raw ideas that are free from all the insecurities and limitations that we adults have. It was so much fun to draw with them. The characters they made were off the wall!” Ramil Escorda says, “Doodling has always been a part of me. Ever since I was small there’s no notebook that I didn’t doodle on! Whenever I’m bored or stressed out, there’s always a blank paper for the taking.”

Doodling is important to WeeWillDoodle member Tioan Medrano, who works as an illustrator and graphic designer. “This unique creative impulse helps inspire my creative thinking process. Every design I make starts with doodling,” says Tioan. For her doodling is just part of the adventure. “I was a finance person in my past life, am an artist today, and will be a musician in my next life.” But she says that art is “still my first love.”

So, the next time you’re bored during a lecture or business meeting, why not turn that little doodle into an idea that could change your future? Try following Neiz’s lead: “I get inspired by anything, it might be as simple as a drop of rain or as complex as the cross-section of an airplane.”

Lots more at the WeeWillDoodle website: Click here.

Clara Charlotte: Girl with an Attitude About Drawing

Originally posted 3/09


The first line in her bio says it all: “Clara Charlotte Roethe is an illustrator and guerrilla artist.” Upon visiting her sketchblog, I get a sense that Clara is always ready to draw–anywhere, anytime!

Clara draws while watching the news. She tries to draw on every scrap of paper to help the environment. She loves to draw in moleskins (high-quality sketchbooks) and enjoys portrait parties (where people draw each other).

While growing up in the small German town of Hessen, Clara’s grandfather taught her how to draw and use watercolors. As a graphic designer, drawing continues to be her main creative outlet. She says, “her work has been showcased on the lampposts and forgotten corners of Krefeld (Germany).”

Her work has been published in the Latvian comic magazine Kush and the international street art magazine, Masta. Whether she’s sketching “cool shots of purses filled with exclusive makeup” found in Flickr albums, or expressing how much she misses her boyfriend–“I feel like a single sock”–Carla’s straight-from-the-core linework is simply refreshing. She manages to combine the innocence of childhood drawing with an edgy awareness needed for investigating the world around her. The musings that accompany her blog sketches are an added treat.

There’s only one thing lacking in the work on Clara Charlotte’s sketchblog: MORE of it!

Graphic Recording: Sharing Complex Ideas Through Drawing

Originally posted 2/09:
Are you one of those people who likes to solve problems on the job by sketching your ideas for coworkers? Are you a visual communicator interested in putting your drawing skills to work for businesses and organizations? Check out what these sketchers are doing to answer the call of duty as graphic recorders and graphic facilitators.

Increasingly, corporations and organizations are using visual communication during brainstorming sessions between executives, managers, and employees. Graphic recorders, according to Reilly Dow (pictured above), draw large murals that “act as a public memory, and help participants in any meeting or conversation share complex ideas.” Reilly says that “Graphic recording is a powerful tool for synthesizing conversations, dialogs, meetings and events. The recorder creates large-format visuals in real time, tapping into the collective intelligence and wisdom of a group and bringing it to life with graphics.” View Reilly Dow’s website called Pinkfish.

Brandy Agerbeck (pictured above) refers to graphic facilitation as creating “conceptual maps of conversations.” She says that conceptual maps focus “the group as they work, aiding concentration by capturing and organizing their ideas.”

View Brandy Agerbeck’s graphic facilitation of President Obama’s Inauguration Speech

Christina Merkley uses her artistic skills (shown above) to help groups visualize the decision-making process. She says that “organizations are discovering the power of graphic facilitation to get participants with diverse views on the same page.”

View Christina Merkley’s portfolio

Christina has an excellent selection of articles about the history of graphic recording/facilitation and tips on how to get started. View Christina Merkley’s articles

Here’s the place to go for info about graphic recording and graphic facilitation: Visual

The Center for Graphic Facilitation: Blog

Archive: Originally posted March, 2009: