Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Inner Game of Sketching

Ask a group of primary school kids if they're good at drawing and you'll probably get a resounding "yes". 

Ask the same question to a group of adults and the results will be quite different, what's your response?

Inner Game

One concept to explore in relation to this effect is the "inner game",  developed by Tim Gallwey.
There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How you play this game usually makes the difference between success and failure.” -Tim Gallwey
Gallwey developed the theory whilst working as a tennis coach. He found that if pupils were given a set of complex instructions on their posture, the angle of the racquet and the ideal impact point that performance got worse.  If he asked them to only focus on the seam of the tennis ball their performance improved dramatically.


Gallwey described two entities at work in the inner game. Self 1 is 'the teller' and Self 2 is the unconscious, automatic 'doer'.  Self 1 provides a constant stream of feedback, with lots of negative, critical comments. This has a profound impact on the 'doing' as it distracts and undermines 'Self 2'.  Gallwey found that when the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2 improved and the interference from Self 1 was reduced, that the instinctual learning and natural ability from Self 2 could shine through.  

Cast your mind back to Andy Murray's performance at Wimbledon 2014.  The match which he lost is a perfect example of the Self 1 of the inner game taking control.  He was talking to himself and criticising his performance after each shot.

The Man with Two Brains

An alternative way of thinking about what is going on in the brain is to consider, if you will, that there are two brains at work, the 'thinking brain' and the 'observing brain'.

Thinking brain - it's the part of the brain that questions us, judges us, criticises us and puts doubt in our minds. Think about the thinking brain as the home of our limiting beliefs,  the labels we attach to ourselves and our inner voice which serves up doubt and fear on a 24/7 basis.

Observing brain - it observes what is happening, that's it.

So now I've outlined the concept I can get back to the topic of sketching.

Cartooning for Communicators

Last week I attended a fantastic course called 'cartooning for communicators', run by experts in the field, Martin Shovel and Martha Leyton. It is designed for those who want to develop ways to get to the essence of a message, use visual metaphors and create memorable images for complex issues.  You can read more about the course here.

This was a challenge for me.  I hadn't picked up a pencil with the serious intention of drawing for at least 30 years.  What I learned from the course was:
  • how a concept or mood can be conveyed with some very simple pencil strokes,
  • a drawing doesn't have to be perfect (whatever perfect means),
  • practice is important,
  • there is great freedom to experiment and find a style,
  • collaboration enriches the outcome,
  • the brain is brilliant at recognising patterns and making sense of images,
  • visual metaphors are powerful.
There is something quite extraordinary about taking a piece of paper,  a pencil and having a go. It's like freewheeling down a hill on your bike with the wind in your face, pure liberation. 

In terms of the inner game it is all about having a go, ignoring the thinking brain or Self 1 (I can't draw, what I have just produced is rubbish, I'm no artist etc..) and having fun.  Imagine yourself back at school confident in your ability to capture any image.

To prove it - here are some completely random sketches from me.  I'm not looking for any feedback - in the nicest possible way, I don't care what you think!




These were all done using the sketchbook express app and my finger.

Go on - get your crayons out and put your judgement back in your pencil case.

Cheers Ross