The Drawing Board

“Mummy, why can’t I draw like you?” Practise is what I always say; get yourself the best quality tools you can afford, and practise, practise and then practise some more. Talent and great subject matter will be absolutely nothing without practise to master your craft. Many pieces of pristine paper have been screwed up in frustration during the process. “I CAN’T do it!” I’ve said that many a time. Well this week, my daughter produced an amazing piece of art – I was truly proud, as was she.

drawing board godinMy project at Save the Children International has metaphorically ‘gone back to the drawing board’. The last few weeks have seen frustration, slow progress and frayed nerves. We’ve all been a little concerned whether or not we can really pull off an amazing global campaign for Save the Children’s centenary year.   It’s been hard, activities have needed to be put on hold and we’re frantically running out of time to get it all together. Regardless of the pressure; when we get bogged down into the fine drawn details, we have to sometimes stand back and relook at the whole picture (my arty trick is to look at it upside down or in the mirror for a different view).  We need to ask ourselves; Is it turning out as we planned? Is there some new way we want to portray our subject? Is there something we need to adjust to improve the output? Will our viewer see our subject as we intended? I didn’t choose to come on PULSE because I wanted an easy ride, or to validate what I could already do. I wanted the opportunity to learn and master a new craft, to be faced with unexpected challenges that I could tackle in new ways.

The step back inevitably means that energy and resilience takes a dip. So a few weeks ago, on a quiet afternoon (and when I personally was feeling a bit useless), I took a few hours out to visit the National Gallery which is right behind my office. I was wandering around in a contemplative mood, when … in a darkened room deep in the gallery, a throng of tourists gasped at a gloomy pencil cartoon – not quite finished, yet quite astounding. A pre-work for one of Da Vinci’s painted masterpieces – and now a masterpiece in its own right.  Two lessons for me (and Save the Children) here;

(i) All great works started out on the drawing board; brilliance doesn’t come in one sitting.

(ii) Maybe the product is good enough already, it doesn’t have to be the finished masterpiece before we put it out there to view.

Since crossing the PULSE halfway line, I’m acutely aware that my time at Save the Children is ticking away, I’m needing to continually evaluate where I can make the greatest impression and that has meant some course correction and working flexibly on ever-changing seas. All the great learning experience I wanted from PULSE, so nothing is wasted in my eyes.

My visit to the National Gallery also prompted me to ensure I make the most of being in our amazing capital every day – so I looked up what is on to fill up a few spare evenings. I noted a special Da Vinci exhibition upcoming at The Queen’s Galleries in Buckingham Palace – a must! I was intrigued that some invisible drawings from Da Vinci will be on show (see here). Another lesson;

(iii) Even when we have what appears to be a blank drawing board … there may in fact already be a picture there for us to learn from and build upon.

So, there may be more to be gained from that blank drawing board than meets the eye …. the solution nearly always lies within the problem.   For our campaign, by no means is all lost … our re-evaluation of the focus will take us to a much better place and we’ll all soon be back on track, moving faster and having learnt from what has gone before.

From drawing board to a work of art – remember to step back, persist and practise (and repeat).   No one said the route to success was easy.

My 13-year old daughter has also shown that skills x effort x resources = fantastic end result. I’m sure you’ll agree;


  1. It’s great that you share these thoughts with us Katherine! Even better that you were able to take this step back and to reflect… Thank you for your precious nuggets: “the solution often lies within the problem… look at it differently” – “go back… to the drawing board” – “refresh yourself, as you do by making the most of being in an amazing capital every day!”

    1. Thanks so much – it means a lot that people like what I write and even better if you find some nuggets of wisdom in there!

    1. Aw, thanks Ambily. Art is definitely my outlet to re-energise and look at the world in a different, more chilled out way.

  2. A brilliant post as usual Kathryn! It is always a pleasure to read you and also very instructive! Thank you 😊

    1. Thanks Corinne – it means a lot! I’m learning to love writing, and hope I will have the motivation to continue this long after PULSE.

  3. Love this post Kathryn. So proud of you and what you strive to achieve through you PULSE assignment with STC … x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s