Part 2: Ideas

Exercise: Turning Words into Pictures


Choose a word for the list and draw everything that comes to mind. Don’t be concerned about the accuracy of your drawing or the prettiness of it. Use your drawings as a form of visual shorthand.

Have a broad range of materials to hand and during your visual brainstorm add swatches of colour and texture associated with your word. If the word sums up a scene try to deconstruct it into its constituent parts. Imagine you are moving around the scene with a camera and recording each element to create a visual checklist of a catalogue of images.

  • Childhood
  • Exotic
  • Destruction
  • Kitchen
  • Wild
  • Fashion
  • Travel

Be conscious of the details and qualities of each subject or object you draw to communicate its qualities and function. Adjectives are the most difficult to draw. Be aware of the mental processes you undertake to generate subjects to draw in response to these less concrete words.

Developing the ability to give tangible forms abstract concepts is important for illustration and is a skill that can be honed over time.

Note how your drawing evolves when repeating this exercise. Can you see a flavour in the way that you are beginning to document through these little drawings?

I chose the word ‘Kitchen’ as my first attempt at this exercise. I tried to visualise the room in my mind and recalled as many items as possible.

Kitchen (click on image for larger version – opens in new tab).

For my second choice of word, I selected ‘travel’, which was quite difficult and required more thought of what I felt represented the term best.

Travel (click on image for larger version – opens in new tab).

I think I chose ‘easier’ words from the selection as I was quite apprehensive about attempting the more abstract words, such as ‘childhood’ and ‘destruction’. I also found it difficult to not focus on what my drawings looked like, which I felt limited my efforts in terms of this particular exercise. I would like to come back to this exercise when I have more confidence in my abilities and have a go at one of the more abstract terms.