Visual Practices

Because folks often ask for ways to develop their scribing practice, and because the field of graphic facilitation seems RIPE for learning, i’m taking a turn to share some suggested processes in a do-it-yourself kind of way. These can be self-guided, in solo or group contexts, and mainly offer ways to explore an intersection of why, how, and what. The when & where, that’s up to you! Hope this is useful. Feedback very welcome. More to come as i refine chicken scratch workshop notes…

All Visual Practices below relate to A Practice Model for Scribing as a primary framework, and of course relate to each other.



Being: Identifying Presence
Click here for .pdf download – Group process, 30-40 minutes

5 Personal Story: Guide Share an experience accessing your “presence” to get through a challenging situation. Explain: What was difficult? What were you called to do? What did you access internally to find the necessary resource and navigation? How did you feel throughout the experience? What did activating your presence enable?
5 The “Zone” Explore why presence matters in a systemic context. Refer to post: Presence and the Reciprocal Zone.
10 Personal Story: Learner Suggest people get comfortable in their seats and close their eyes.“Notice your feet firmly planted on the ground, your torso straight, your head reaching the sky. Breathe in and out, and settle into your body and the moment.

Recall an experience where you felt most alive and connected with the world and put yourself back in that picture. What was the scene – what does it look like, smell like, what is the temperature, what colors are around you, what textures? How do you feel? Where is that experience located in your body, if at all?

Considering this scene, imagine your sense of awareness increasing. What are you noticing as you take in all that is around you and become one with this time and place?

When you are ready, slowly come back to the current moment and open your eyes.”

Take a few minutes to write about this experience in your journal. Then turn to a neighbor and each share your story while your partner listens.

5 Practice Now at a board or with a page of paper, take a minute to get centered again. Recall your scene, get rooted, connect to the room (and system at large) and breathe. Notice when you are in a zone and not, without judgment. This practice is less about what your drawing will look like and more about your quality of being as you hold the pen, approach the blank surface, and let content come through your hand while you draw.

In this video, we have someone connecting profoundly with the earth, which is how he feels most alive. Listen to his story without over-thinking it, take it all in, be completely present in a field of awareness for yourself and for him, attend to your state of being, identify what wants to be named, and with that knowledge, draw.

Native Perspective on Sustainability –

5 Reflect As a whole group, gather and reflect on the experience (before spending time looking at any drawings.)

Possible questions to ask: What did you hear? What was this man describing? How might it relate to scribing? Were you able to find access your presence? Were you distracted, and by what? Where might you find windows of opportunity to deepen your presence in relation to your practice?

Presence and the Reciprocal Zone

The Reciprocal Zone of Scribing

When we scribe, on the best of days, we connect with a zone. I call it a reciprocal zone, because it’s not only about how we relate to a certain sense of flow that might come through the air, like fine magical mist to our senses, that we relate to as an individual – but it is also about a web of connection we find ourselves in, inescapably, with our minds, hearts, hands, our drawing surface, our markers, with the people behind us and around us, with the parameter of the room, with the system known to be represented by what’s inside the walls, sometimes with the system at large. All points of connection manifest into a series of positive reinforcing loops, where the insight of one touches the insight of another. While drawing, we know, we sense, this activation – on the best of days.

We are a micro-system that represents a macro-system, and the quality of being we bring to the moment when we face a blank page or wall – that quality ripples out into the mist, reinforcing the enchantment of the surround. This is not to say we are magicians that weave some sort of spell – absolutely not. We are bystanders, and then active participants, WITH the activity of the room and the system, that functions as a path for something ELSE to come into existence and light.

We are not channels or mediums. We are artists. We connect to an inner place of wonder, and thus we are open to recognizing the spirit of wonder in the world around us.

Our presence, our quality of being, allows us to show up for a group at any phase of their process, holding a space of possibility for what might emerge. Part of locating our presence has to do with suspending our thoughts and habits of judgment, letting go of the past and also of the projections of the future, so we can be completely in the moment and show up to join a group where they are and co-create.

To explore presence is to learn another language that is not literal, but IS internal and very much embodied, if initially faintly seen or heard. We might ask ourselves: What is the barrier, the frontier, between fear and fluency? How do we feel differently when we are fluent? When we are in a position to express, what language do we choose to let sing?

This piece of the practice is not about the aesthetics. This is the intangible dimension, where we are in touch with ourselves at the most true level and in a position to let that truth meet the truth in the room THROUGH what we draw.

It is an honorable and breathtaking thing to sense, the flow, the presence of many. To work in that place, to help shape it, to give form to the unexpressed – THAT is the magic. It is a magic of the reciprocal zone that our presence merely meets.

A Practice Model for Scribing


Haga clic aquí para ver este blog en español, gracias a Zulma Patarroyo!

The Practice Model for Scribing results from 20 years of collaborative efforts and framework integration, with many dear colleagues along the way. Here is a breakdown:

The Iceberg

The iceberg model, used in systems thinking, is the base note. We are familiar with seeing events, actions, and behaviors – like the exposed tip of an iceberg. But the domain we access internally as facilitators and aim to touch with our graphics is at the level of structure – that less seen, in the domain of patterns and mental models and vision. We seek to find relation between pockets of words and concepts and aspirations to intentionally reveal where there is open loop (linear, sequential, start-to-end) and closed loop (systems, integrated, interrelated) thinking.

In graphic facilitation, this requires venturing beyond the known – the tip of the iceberg – and moving into a realm of trust and sensing, listening internally and within the room to what is wanting to surface. With this in mind, the facilitator has an opportunity to recontextualize what is being said to shift levels of perception and comprehension.

References: Peter Senge, John Sterman, Leanne Grillo, indirectly Daniel Kim

The Diamond

As a scribe, the practices of listening, discerning, perceiving, and our stance of being ALL function together to ground and orient us in a decision-making process before and while we draw. This framework has tiers – i mean TIERS – of related thinking, including: dialogic principles, Jungian archetypes, ShadowWork, family systems therapy, and The Symbols Way. All speak to the nature of a whole systems approach to change, where the art of the facilitator is to dance between the domains – in ourselves and the way they outwardly manifest – to help an individual or group shift into a new life of possibility.

References: William Isaacs, Peter Garrett, The Ashland Institute, Cliff BarryDavid Kantor, indirectly David Bohm


This domain speaks to the inner stance we hold when showing up: with a person, in a room, at the board or wall. (Referring to Scharmer’s work) We seek to suspend judgment, quiet cynicism, move through fear, so that one can approach the work with an open mind, heart, and will – insuring space to receive what wants to come through into the room. This is the place where Presencing most intersects our practice, at the center of the scribe, at core, and thus as a centering device in the room and system. This relates to the container, and overall holding capacity of a scribe.

Reference: Otto Scharmer, Barbara Cecil


For me, listening is a language all in itself, a tap root of this entire visual practice. Without listening, we are isolated in our own ideas and limited in our potential to see. Forget about being able to draw anything! We listen to connect, experience the entire context in which we exist, feel, and activate the heart. It is our intake, all our sensory valves on “open”. We receive. This maps to 4 Levels of Scribing – where at Level 1 (tip of the iceberg) someone says bird and we draw a bird, and at Levels 2, 3 & 4 we process internally to sense into the essence of what is wanting to be seen and draw from that other-informed place (bottom of the iceberg.) Lover energy.

References: Beth Jandernoa, Peri Chickering, Otto Scharmer


It’s been challenging to articulate this part of the model, and I keep coming back to art, the making or art, the viewing and interpreting of art, the required multi-faceted approach to any refined process of seeing. It’s got something to do with the ability to turn in all directions and use a range of lenses for our filtering and framing capacity. It’s seeing with a suspended eye and open mind. Magician energy.

References: Eleanore Mikus, Matthew Bird, Rob LichtNorman Daly, and indirectly Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee


The domain of choice-making, clarity, and essence, where open will enters. I access a model from Dialogos here: Bypass-Name-Engage- Transform. Bypass: In the service tracking with the flow of conversation, you move over topics that might be confusing or might not yet seem to fit in the picture. Name: Bring attention to content by naming it, without judging or evaluating. You don’t have to elaborate at this point. It might feel like you should capture everything, but you don’t! Maybe the content is not yet all out in the air, and is still emerging, therefore only ready to be noted. Engage: Enter the dynamic to further surface patterns, to deepen the inquiry, and to expand the container. Transform: Make facilitative container-building moves to shift the dynamic, even if you are on the side of the room, silent. Warrior energy.

References: Glennifer Gillespie, Robert HanigDorian Baroni


Well, this is what it looks like. This is the visible, tip of the iceberg. This is the tangible result of everything we take in, process, interpret coming out through the hand. Sovereign energy.

  1. Lettering: The basic way of explaining or annotating an idea. Check out masters Alicia Bramlett and Sita Magnuson
  2. Illustration: Incredibly powerful to bring a metaphor or story or anecdote to life. Here is where simple bean people can go a long way. And here is where there is some serious talent out there. See Peter DurandChristopher Fuller, and Mike Fleisch
  3. Mind-mapping: Perhaps the most familiar part of the practice, depending on a strong ability to recognize patterns and organize threads.
  4. Modeling: Conveying spatial dynamics of parts of a whole through shapes and lines. Bryan Coffman was my mentor here. An old reference point, but a timelessly valuable one: MG Taylor Modeling Language where we can see examples of drawn and conceptual models, both – useful for ALL parts of the Practice Model.
  5. System mapping: Showing the interconnectedness of things – including system dynamics – visually, while attuning with this filter to reveal the system of the content coming into a room. It’s about drawing out the systems, literally and figuratively. (more specifically to come here, in a fresh post.)

Additional References: The Value Web, MG Taylor, and indirectly David Sibbet