As a visual practitioner, I was asked by a lifestyle magazine to create a mural to visualize how I was living this corona quarantine. Link to video

This is an abstract of an article published on a business newspaper made out of an interview to me as a creativity professional during confinement times:

“The artist and expert in “visual thinking” Elena Urizar draws live for FS during confinement caused by Covid-19. “You can use drawing to learn these days”, she says.”

“I think that imagination is the tool that we have to implement these days. We do not know what will come next, but it is clear that this will bring readjustments in the way we live, work and relate to each other and we will have to use our imagination to find new formulas”, explains this specialist in “visual thinking”, the graphic embodiment of ideas and stories.

Read the full article (in Spanish) here.

How to create a visual map during confinement

In Spain, it’s being very challenging because we live in absolute confinement and we just can go out strictly to the grocery store or to the pharmacy, so my goal was to contribute with positive reflections based on my daily activities.

Since it all started, I decided to stay calm and establish routines to reinforce personal development and invest on improving my skills for the after-pandemic times. I draw a lot more and I share my drawings to honor people and to contribute to share knowledge.

Reviewing what I was doing I discovered that many people were doing similar activities. I decided not to categorize them, just picked what resonated me the most and let ideas flow.

Also, I was looking for an overarching idea and then I remembered a story that inspired me. One dear friend who owns a small restaurant shared that he felt blocked and that his head was like a nutshell, thinking how the hospitality sector will make it through this crisis, which led me to start thinking how I saw my head.

I came up with a drawing of my head with Peta Zetas (which is a colorful popping candy that explodes in your mouth) a metaphor of uncontrolled ideas that somehow overwhelmed me, I drew it in mySketchbook, which I am using these days to draw little portraits or pictures.

I shared it with my sister and she saw it as a SUPERPOWER coming from our head and able to protect us during this difficult situation and then I found the answer: IMAGINATION.

I’ve always thought of IMAGINATION as an activator that is not so much valued in everyday life but right now I think it’s a superpower to open new doors in this undesired situation of unexpected possibilities.

How to make your own visual map to capture your learnings

My insight is that under the serious health issues we are facing is an extended concern of what will be the lessons learnt and which of these learnings will stay.

Drawing is a powerful tool to make those learnings real. When we draw things we pay attention to details and give time to ourselves to process information.

My suggestion is to start without framing the scope of your map, let creativity flow first and let ideas find their shape. This way smaller ideas have a room and maybe they’ll go bigger if you pay attention to them. Of course, if you have a main topic in which you want to work, this process will work as well, just under the umbrella of the subject.

1. Capture your thinking

Start collecting ideas of anything that makes your heart bump, either a message you hear, a reflection, a goal, a new skill … whatever is more rewarding for you. No filters at this moment, let your thinking fly free and don’t forget to number them. Small InstaCards are great for this.

2. Purpose

Make groups with the ideas and let a purpose of the visual map be inspired by your own thinking. It´s the moment of focusing, now the challenge is prioritizing and focusing.

3. Sketching

Then is the moment to start sketching your ideas and don’t forget to number them as you did on the InstaCards.

My advice is to find a notebook that makes you smile and happy to write in it, like your book of magic. For me this is the BulletProof journal because I fell in love with the paper the first time I tried it. The texture gives me confidence and I´ve developed a trust that anything I draw in it will work out, and it happens!

For sketching I normally use the SketchOne 0.5 mm combined with the FineOne regular black #100 (this time I went straight to the FineOne because it was easier for me to envision them going big size which was the next step) and for coloring I always use FineOnes with a brush nib.

Sketching in a notebook helps you start building your own visual library and preserve it and you can go back to it in the future to review or reuse it.

4. Go big

It’s the moment to put up big paper, I love going big and I have always a pinboard ready at hand. Any flat surface at home may work, doors are always in hand for this.

Note: What is working wonderfully for me – and I highly recommend it – is the Mini FlipChart paper which I am using in my drawing table for virtual graphic recordings.

5. Layout

To structure the final map I suggest to draw a layout with pencil.

(In this case, I started drawing the main element, which was the word imagination, in the lower center of the big size paper and the rest irradiated from it. I filled the paper from the left like writing on a paper and left the open question on the right.)

Here are some examples of layouts:

6. Let’s go

Now we can recover the cards of step 1 to help organize the items on the layout and visualize the overall outcome before starting to draw bigger what we have already sketched in the notebook. Placing them on the big paper will help you visualize the size of the final picture and recheck if you are happy with the layout. Play with them and move them around before drawing. Start drawing with a pencil if you need it. My suggestion is to use it at least to control the main lines of your pictures and control proportions.

Now is the moment for the Outliner, wedge nib or round nib, whatever flows better with your hand. Draw everything in black, step back, take a breath, and go with the coloring part (you can see this process in the time-lapse video).

7. Pick up the colors and have fun

Bring life to your map with your favorite colors. I am a super fan of brushes: Art markers made it all for me and now TwinOnes double the power, love spinning them in my hands. Anyway, I use all sizes and types of markers, so normally I have all of them with me.

8. Welcome any new idea

While you are transferring your design, new things will come to your mind. Why not finding them a fit in the final picture?

My favorite colors are bright and vibrant

One of the key decisions is to find your favorite palette and fall in love with it. Color will help you bring meaning to your map and of course will enhance it. It is very important to decide the colors you are going to use beforehand so your are in control on how you use them and set an intention to them. With colors you can create blocks of information, highlight connections and help readers.

Usually, I pair them first and either use one pair or all of them depending on what I want to achieve. I think pairing boosts the colors’ hues when they go together.


#202 ROSE * #600 ORANGE




Symbols are your friends

No matter if you are a skilled illustrator or a wonderful beginner – I think everyone should draw. Drawing is a super powerful tool and nobody should be afraid of using it. Now we are using drawings to process information and guide our learnings.

On step 1 we wrote ideas, so if you are not used to drawing, you can use easy-to-draw symbols based on basic shapes to represent your ideas and let your brain talk.

  • Add text to your pictures to represent ideas with combinations of text and pictures. Think about how you can gracefully mix them.
  • As an example, I have used small circular Stick-It cards to match symbols that represent the same ideas as the pictures sketched for the big visual map. Simple metaphors are wonderful to represent ideas.
  • Choosing a common shape to contain ideas works wonderfully to help structure our representation and make it more readable.
  • Among symbols it’s very important to have simple graphic resources to convey connections, emotions, and to create containers of information and to add details for decoration. Quite often I use stars, sparks (asterisks), hearts and clouds.

Let yourself be surprised by your own creativity

Be curious

Read about things that are new for you and pick sentences of images that you like.

Set your own schedule

Since we are living in a strange situation listen to your body and find your personal moments of free time – as much as your duties allow you to – and let your mind fly away.

Listen to music

Build your own playlist and have fun doing it. For me, it’s almost impossible to do anything without the energy of music.

Say goodbye to the thought “it’s been always like this …”

Even if it’s not a desired situation, it is also a chance to redefine old things that didn’t work out.

Don’t let your ideas escape

Have a pen and paper always ready to capture your ideas. Journaling is a fabulous tool for this.

Inspire yourself

Drawing your visual map will help you grab your ideas and while visualizing you will be able to connect and grow them.

Train your fantasy

One of the things we can take out of this experience is stick to new habits. Many things need practice – and creativity definitely is one of them.

Share it

The more we share the more we learn.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a link to the Spanish article that triggered the map.

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