Today, I leaped off a bridge into the Serpentine, at Hyde Park in London.
Well, I didn’t really leap off the bridge. But I drew myself doing it, which gave me at least a mild sense of doing it. I drew myself in mid-leap, following a suggestion by Quentin Blake1. This took place in a collaborative online drawing session. While I drew myself, others sitting at computers far away drew with me at exactly the same time, on the same drawing.
Not really. It’s something I’ve done quite a lot during lockdown. Here’s me, drawing the Oscar-winning actor Olivia Colman:
The difference in this workshop is that we all draw – together.
Learning to use the tools
But the online workshops don’t use paper and pen. With an online drawing app, participants can draw on the very same image, wherever we are.
As ever, in the leaping-into-the-Serpentine session, we started by working on an image of the online platform itself, to practice using the various tools: pencil, brush, eraser, colour picker and so on.
Gradually, we add to it, and eventually the image is totally blitzed:
What We Do
After participants had got the hang of it, we moved on to an entirely new image: a map of the world. I asked participants to draw a dot to mark their current location, then add lines, variously straight and wiggly, to indicate places visited.
After a short while, I asked people to remember things about the travels they logged.
One woman remembered going to Universal Studios. Another said she had “run away” to Goa. A third recalled the sheer heat, and frequent damp, of living in Singapore.
It was easy and pleasant to recall these places – but we need to give ourselves an opportunity (such as this workshop) to do so.
The Chamber of Wellbeing
Next, I asked participants to draw a self-portrait, and I put labels at the top of the virtual room in which we found ourselves, indicating “superb”, “fine” and “awful”.
I asked participants to move their self-portrait around the room depending on how they felt doing, on an assortment of measures: diet, sleep, keeping in touch with the people who matter:
The Grid of Happiness
For the next exercise, we drew things that have given us pleasure. I asked participants to reflect not only on the thing they were drawing, but also what it actually feels like to draw it.
And as the hour drew to a close, we gathered at the bridge in Hyde Park, to leap into the warm waters of the Serpentine.
“Thank you so much John-Paul for your fantastic, fun and playful hour. What I took away from the session is how much I enjoy being playful and that I should be incorporating that into my work more often. You don’t have to be serious to be a lawyer.” – Bianca Chouls, Google
Here’s what participants said afterwards:
- “A fun team-building exercise”
- “Calmed me for an hour, nice escape”
- “Took some stress off”
- “Helped me relax, great fun”
- “Brightened my day”
- “A really fun and enjoyable session that gave a mental break from current high workload and made me step back and appreciate being creative for a little while”
- “I will try to take the time to escape into drawing again”
- “I’ve been putting off being creative because I want what I produce to be perfect. Thinking about it, I should take time to have a scribble as it’s soothing”
- “I really enjoyed it, all the different parts of the session. Have come out wondering how so much got fitted in!”
- “One of the best sessions I’ve been to in terms of getting people to engage and ensuring that everyone felt included”
J. P. Marshall Literary Agency
Send an email
1 Quentin Blake. It’s often more exciting, Blake writes in a book about his career as an illustrator, to show a moment just before it reaches resolution, because this creates a sense of expectation – allows a place for the viewer to imagine what might happen next.