Graphic Recording

Drawing events as they happen. Live face to face, or online.

Live drawing at the Wellbeing Farm, BCorp conference.

Full day event, 7 hours.

The annual firefighters conference (2 days)

Busy times and places. A few weeks back I spent 2 days live recording 'Firefit', the national UK firefighter's conference. They got in touch back in Sept via one of their speakers, the brilliant John Parkinson who coaches and mentors folks in the firefighting service.

I'm always curious so it was great to hear talks over the 2 days on Wellbeing, Fitness, and the dilemas faces by those in the fire fighting service who keep us safe. There was a brilliant talk from Dr Gile Yeo about obseity, too.

My job wasn't just to listen of course but visually record as much as I could - while it happened.

Graphic recording / Live recording / Live drawing (it has many names,) is a niche gig, and I don't mind saying I was a little mentally fried after two days of turning words into visuals as they were spoken.

It's a challenge I relish and very much feeds the same part of my brain as improv. I have to be present and adapt quickly to the visuals I'm creating. If I spend too long on one drawing, the speaker might have moved onto a new subject by the time I'm done. Writing down keywords is good, but not too many, as a sheet full of words are just words. The goal is to find the balance of words and pictures to summarise the theme of the talk.

There's a graphic design shorthand at work, connecting what speakers are saying with what images are commonly represented by the subject being spoken about. There's also humour, more my own take as I like to add appropriate humour into visuals. Just my opinion, though I think with more serious topics, using a little light humour can help with how people engage with difficult subjects.

Hard for me to be objective about my own work, but the response was very positive. Attendees were encouraged to photo the art and share it across their social media, which was a great way for them to remember the event and what was covered, but also increased the engagement and reach of the event as a whole. As a freelance illustrator, to me this was a win win.

The events team at Firefit were great. As an outside contractor coming into their space, they were very welcoming.

I've already got a few more bookings for other events in 2022, and look forward to creating new event artwork in the future.

Do you think your event could benefit from a live artist?

I’m used to using improv skills to make up scenes on the fly, and I’m used to drawing quickly for pitches and life drawing, however, I’d never had the chance to a ‘live draw’ or Graphic Recording, as it’s more commonly called.

Part of the thrill for me is not knowing what will happen ‘in the room on the day’. Will there be enough room for an easel? A2 or A1 paper? Will people be looking over my shoulder while I draw? I can only prepare so much, and the rest is about adapting to the situation as it plays out, just like improv really.

My CSz improv gang get together almost every weekend to polish our improvisation skills, so I took the opportunity to graphic record the whole 2 hour session. Here’s a timelapse video;

John Cooper, live event artist based in the North West.
live-recording, live drawing, graphic recording or live scribing, it has many names!
Design agency in Manchester creating websites, branding and illustration for over 15 years.
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