Take a break next week with zines

Several years ago, I was feeling burned out and depressed when I attended the Write Speak Code Conference in Portland, Oregon.

There, I joined a zine-making workshop led by Amy Wibowo (@sailorhg) and it opened up a window into a world where my voice mattered, my technical expertise had an impact and I felt like I belonged…all with minimal effort.

If you are feeling burned out and depressed, it’s ok to give yourself a break. We are still in the middle of a catastrophic event. It’s ok to still be feeling it, because it is still happening. I invite you to join us next Tuesday for a brief respite and a reminder of how cool you and are your expertise are.

Find out more on the Eventbrite page here or listen to the podcast I released earlier this week here.

“Let’s Sketch Tech!” in the Year of the Ox

Here at “Let’s Sketch Tech” we’ve noticed that most of you fit into one (maybe two) of the categories below.

But before we get to that, did you know we are having our online meetup with professional sketch-noter Ashton Rodenhiser on Tuesday, February 16? Find out more here.

The year of the Ox

Thursday night marked the turn of the lunar year from the year of the rat to the year of the ox. What does the Year of the Ox bring for each of these people?

Find out how you fit into “Let’s Sketch Tech!” and then read what’s in store below!

Silent supporter
You’re not sure about yourself as an artist. What you DO know is that we need more of an intersection between arts and tech. You’d like to see more exploration of what that means, and be a part of getting it out into the world

The Hobbyist
You love tech and enjoy working in your tech job. Finding new ways to explore tech topics helps you keep it fresh and interesting. You also love doodling and processing what you are learning. This happens in different ways such as sketching it out.

The Shape Shifter
Although you earn money with your tech job, it’s not the core of who you are. You’re still figuring that out, but you’re pretty sure it involves doing more creative work. You might be contemplating a job change or even a career change to something that embraces more of your creative side.

What does it mean for you?

While not a wild and crazy leap into the new, (that’s next year, year of the Tiger), this year of the ox is all about building in a steady, diligent way. We are still getting each other through the Pandemic. The Ox tells us to keep calm and carry on which, although not the funnest, will see us through. We need all of the hobbies we began or continued cultivating last year.


For hobbyists, it’s a great year to take the hobbies you started last year, and continue building on them. So, do you need a friendly group where you can spend some quiet time working and then maybe share what you did? We offer monthly meetups and a weekly “Create and Connect” call to keep you engaged with a community and expose you to different ways to think about bringing your artistic self to tech. Get to know others in our cozy weekly sketch-and-connect call where we spend 30 minutes doodling, setting up our journals or finishing a sketch-note. Join our Patreon for access to the call and our monthly meetups.


We’re not gonna lie, this year is challenging for shape-shifters who are ready to break out with something daring and new. However, we suspect you were taking steps on your shape-shifting path last year. So, this is a year to stick with your plan for transformation through taking small, dedicated steps. slow and steady execution often yields larger, more consistent results on those big, beautiful plans of yours. The year of the Tiger is coming, so this is your year to prepare for it. Join our community and get the support you need to continue on your bold path.

Silent Supporter

Are you a silent supporter? We know plenty of folks who believe in what we do and support us every month. This support helps us keep putting out content to help other folks who are developing their artistic practice and how it relates to tech. Our community is all about helping people who are under-represented find and use their unique voice in tech through the arts. For silent supporters, this year means continuing the strong and steady support you’re so good at. Thanks to our supporters who make such a difference! Click here to support Let’s Sketch Tech! by joining the Patreon.

This post was written by “Let’s Sketch Tech!” organizer and CE❤️ at Appear Works, Marlena Compton. Read more about the company here.

The NOT-CODING skills

14,000+ people have looked at this tweet and there’s a very specific reason why I asked this question.

Currently, in tech, we focus SO MUCH

We focus so much on learning code, syntax, and the different pieces of tech. This is great, but it also means we are starving ourselves of many of the skills we need to build complicated systems.

Visual Communication

Even when we think of what we need to learn to advance in our careers, usually it’s the next programming language or web-development framework.

An abundance of oxygen

There is a nourishment in learning these non-coding skills. Just as sitting in a greenhouse floods our lungs with rich, nourishing oxygen, learning how to

  • connect with someone
  • find empathy with your team
  • communicate in a different style

Provides the oxygen of understanding and alignment to a team of diverse people working on a complicated problem.

This might all sound like luxury, but oxygen IS a requirement for us to live. In fact, if we want to do something strenuous, we need an abundance of it. (Try walking uphill in your Covid mask!)

Just as we require an abundance of oxygen for peak performance, we need super-powers besides just writing code fast to build complicated systems. There’s no coding it alone!

In particular and surprising no one, I’ve been reading up on the link between our brains, how we learn and communicating through drawing. There is science there!! Did you know that spatial thinking is the foundation of abstract thought? [Hat tip: Mike Jelinek who turned me onto Barbara Tversky’s book, Mind in Motion through his talk, “The Science of Sketching].

In the meantime, are you missing the white board? There are good reasons why we reach for sketching when we are trying to communicate something complicated just as Leonardo da Vinci turned to sketching as a tool for studying the human heart.

Anatomical drawings of the heart and major blood vessels, Leonardo da... | Download Scientific ...
Leonardo da Vinci sketches the heart

However, you don’t have to be Leonardo to communicate effectively using sketches. In fact, you don’t have to be an artist at all! This is a skill you can totally learn, and it’s the foundational reason why I started the Let’s Sketch Tech! community in 2018.

Join me on this journey in my half-day workshop, “Sketch the Tech.”

I can’t guarantee you’ll be making sketches just like Leonardo afterward, but I can promise, you’ll be ready to share a sketch of some complicated ideas with your teammates.

August Art Therapy

August ARt therapy (1)

Hey fam. How are you?

It’s August, and we are feeling the burn of the ongoing pandemic along with other disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and explosions hitting different parts of the world. If you are feeling like we are, there are some tough days happening. We are not therapists, but we know the healing power of art and community.

This month, we bring you 3 exercises to take a quiet break for yourself. If you’d like to work through these with other people, we are hosting an art therapy meetup next Tuesday.

Exercise 1 — Your Circular Shield (15 minutes)

Using a glass or cup, outline a circle on your paper. Color it in from the inside out. 

You can choose to keep your design inside the shield or draw outside of it as well. 

Which did you choose and what does it say about your personality? Can you think of a title for it?

Exercise 2 — Peace and Serenity (15 minutes)

Draw a design that represents peace and serenity. Use colors, shapes, lines and images that resonate for you.

What does your peace feel like and like? Is there a way to attain some of the peace in your design?

Exercise 3 — Loving Breath (30 minutes)

This exercise has 2 steps.

Step 1

Listen to some soothing music. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Imagine you are being bathed in love, peace and warmth. Imagine yourself breathing in compassion/calmness and breathing out anxiety and stress. 

Step 2

Draw yourself being embraced by someone or something you love (It’s ok to write in addition to or instead of drawing).

Who is embracing you? When was the last time you felt supported? How can you support/embrace yourself? What can you do today to show yourself some self-compassion?

It can be a challenge to take time out for yourself. Join us next week for some company and sketching together.

It’s ok to feel.

There are good reasons why many of us are experiencing more depression, anxiety and stress. These exercises can be completed on your own, in your own time or, join us next Tuesday to connect and recharge a little.

These exercises are from “250 Brief, Creative & Practical Art Therapy Techniques,” by Susan I. Buchalter.

Follow the Leader

Prefer to listen? Try the audio version. Listen on your phone while you get things done!


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Do you want access to this headspace of feeling like what you are doing is enough? Learn how to use basic drawing in Procreate to tap into your own creative value and share your thoughts visually. Click here to get drawing!


In college, I took a painting/art history class where we were supposed to copy paintings produced in different styles during the 20th century. Mimic-ing ÇezannePicassoMondrian and Mark Rothko drew me into a new world of color, line and creative messiness. I worked hard at reproducing paintings that were as similar to these artists as I could make them. I made an A in the class and continued painting even after college was over.


Eventually, I decided to reproduce a Picasso for my Mom for Mother’s Day. I worked at this for weeks, painting, repainting, going back and reworking different parts of it, but the edges of the painting were causing problems because they weren’t lining up like Picasso’s. I saw this as a failure and was beating myself up for not being able to get the lines at the edges in exactly the right place.

Defeated, I took the unfinished work to my night-time, continuing-ed drawing class at the local art institute.

“You are ready to fill in the edges on your own,” my drawing teacher said. “Eventually you have to recognize that you are working your own canvas and that it’s not going to be exactly like Picasso’s or anyone else’s and it’s still going to be wonderful.”

I had reached the end of my journey with Picasso without even knowing it.

My version of Picasso’s “Woman with Pears”

Although I obviously won’t ever meet Picasso, the effort I put into mimic-ing his work could just as well have been writing javascript or building a web app. Picasso, although dead, could have been any of the fearless leaders, self-anointed or otherwise on the internet or conference speaker circuit. In fact, even though Picasso is about as far removed from me personally as anyone could be, the moment when I was ready to start doing my own thing slipped past me as these moments often do.

That’s what happens when we follow a leader.

That pedestal tho.

It’s hard to believe in yourself enough to give up on the structure and stability of someone whose work you admire or believe in. Even if it’s someone we know or are close to, someone who believes in us and tells us we should believe in ourselves, it’s easier to keep clinging to the faux security blanket of someone else’s expertise. We put them up on a pedestal and, when someone questions us, all we have to do is point upward, nevermind the fact that this robs us of living our own lives.

I’ve also found that as a woman, what I know is questioned or I am flatly dismissed so often that our social system has trained me to always have a source I can cite, a paper I can refer to or someone, usually a straight, white man whose opinions others are willing to trust since they won’t believe what I have to say or in what I’ve learned through the school of experience.

This is ultimately how the system reinforces itself, paving over people of all colors and all genders. It has taken serious effort, many therapist sessions and a ring of people in my life who constantly reinforce a message to me that I am enough on my own to do what I need to do, to try something different and to work out my own edges.

In fact, I no longer follow “leaders.” Instead, I’ve taken leaders off of the pedestal and re-framed them. These are real people who have lessons to teach but who also have their own faults and imperfections. This means I also have a healthy distrust of being told someone is a leader and that I should blindly follow them. That’s how a community winds up in the grip of someone abusive who won’t let go.

There will always be people we follow, but it’s important to recognize your own value enough to know when you’ve gotten the lesson you needed. This way you’ll be ready to see that moment when it is time to take a risk and do your own thing, even if you don’t think you’re “ready.” After all, that’s how many of the people we follow got their own start.

This is how each of us creates our own masterpiece, taking the lessons of the people in our lives and filling in with our own brushstrokes around theirs.

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Do you want access to this headspace of feeling like what you are doing is enough? Learn how to use basic drawing in Procreate to tap into your own creative value and share your thoughts visually. Click here to get drawing!