Maker’s Grimoire: Visual Journaling

This exercise came from my encounter with Javier at Michael’s Arts and Crafts, and was inspired in part by this post from @tieandjeans (Andrew Carle), who sent me this photo from MakerFaire on September 30, 2012:

The link leads to a Picture that says, “Drawing is Thinking.” There’s more text than just that, but it’s a reminder of Dave Gray’s Forms, Fields and Flows (which if you haven’t learned it yet, please do.  It’s critical to any sort of design process to learn to draw.)

Anyway, the exercise:

Visual Journaling:

You need:

  • A Notebook
  • A small collection of pens or pencils (pens are better)

This exercise will help you:

  • Become a better artist
  • Become a better thinker
  • Develop a stronger memory
  • Improve your own personal discipline and self-control
  • Give you tools for communicating with other people visually
  • Help you think through problems in three and four dimensions

How often to do it:

  • Daily
  • 15-20 minutes


  • Take a page in your notebook.  
  • Date the page, and the time.
  • Draw a frame on it, somewhere. It must be at least one-quarter of the page, but no more than three-quarters of the page.
  • Draw something that fills the frame:
    1. An abstract design
    2. A picture of something near you
    3. A picture from a reference photograph
    4. Some event that happened in your day
    5. Something from the Drawing List
    6. A copy of a picture you like.
  • Fill the remaining page with a written description of your day:
    1. What you drew
    2. Where you were when you drew it
    3. Why you drew this object
    4. What you were feeling or thinking when you drew it.
  • Do for thirty days.

The Drawing List

If you don’t know what to draw, you can select a thing from this drawing list.  The drawing list is composed of sixty items in two columns: Sunlight and Shadow. (if it’s daylight, draw from the Sunlight column. If it’s after sunset or before dawn, draw from the Shadow list.) In your drawing journal, go to one of the last pages and draw a frame for the list.  Then write out the list in it.


  1. Bread, or pastry
  2. Your dinner
  3. A clock, stopwatch or watch
  4. A stairway
  5. A jumble of pens and pencils
  6. Inside a medicine cabinet
  7. What’s in your pocket?
  8. A person you admire (a hero)
  9. A person you hate (personal villain)
  10. Something with a sharp edge
  11. Some thing, and the mirror reflecting it.
  12. The lines in the palm of your hand.
  13. A picture in a frame
  14. A young man
  15. A middle-aged woman with a child
  16. Something in the refrigerator
  17. A man pushing a baby carriage
  18. A piece of fruit
  19. What you wore today
  20. An angry animal
  21. A tree 
  22. A young woman
  23. A wide open place, and what’s on the edges
  24. A person on a skateboard or bicycle
  25. An old man with a cane
  26. A blue-collar worker
  27. Someone crazy
  28. A single leaf
  29. A flower
  30. A piece of machinery
  31. Three’s a crowd


  1.  A shoe
  2.  A woman
  3.  A bag or purse
  4. A pet
  5. An article of clothing
  6. A chair and table
  7. A scientific or technological object
  8. An object made of glass
  9. A place with water
  10. A building
  11. A wall or a fence or a boundary
  12. A wild animal
  13. A walkway, path, trail or road
  14. A meeting between two people
  15. A solitary person thinking
  16. An accident
  17. All or part of a musical instrument
  18. A really fast car
  19. A costume you’d like to wear someday 
  20. A superhero
  21. A party
  22. A protest
  23. A solider
  24. A game in progress
  25. A white-collar worker
  26. A blue-collar worker
  27. Something dangerous
  28. A horse
  29. A box, a trunk, a shelf, or a cabinet
  30. A book, a DVD or CD case, or a magazine
  31. A couple in love
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