Welcome to Sunday Sketchnotes!
Every Sunday I’m going to attempt to share different sketchnotes I’ve completed. I’ve posted many of these on my personal Facebook account as well as Instagram, and they always get a lot of positive feedback and many questions. I’ll try my best to share my thought process as I complete these.
Links: The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20)
This week I’m sharing an older sketchnote. In fact, this one dates back to April 2016. Our pastor was preaching a series titled “Links.” I think this is one of my favorite sketchnotes I’ve completed recently.
The sermon is about Mark 4:1-9, 13-20. Click here to listen to the sermon online. If you are familiar with the New Testament, then you’ve probably heard and/or read about the Parable of the Sower. If not (or if you need a refresher), read the text below (I’ve included verses 10-12 so you can read the passage in its entire context):
Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed
1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still, other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they see what I do,
they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say,
they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me
and be forgiven.’[b]”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Footnotes: [a] 4:11 Greek mystery. [b] 4:12 Isa 6:9-10 (Greek version).
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
How I Sketchnote: My Thought Process
The first thing I always do when I begin a sketchnote is determining how to illustrate the title. I always like the sketchnote title to include the title of the sermon, the scripture reference, the preacher’s name, the date, and the location of the sermon. Most preachers spend a little time on an introduction, most of which I do not include in my sketchnote. This allows me time to illustrate my title. I try to draw my inspiration from the name of the sermon and the illustration on the bulletin cover. I try to mimic the font chosen, though not always easy since I’m not a font expert. Sometimes the title is only a font. However, this title was fun to do! Since the series was called “Links,” I knew I could include an illustration of chain links.
Determining the Layout
Because I was familiar with the passage, I knew there would be four different types of soils mentioned. I also knew I wanted to include an image of a farmer sowing his seed. When I’m illustrating people from the Bible, I try to keep it as simple as possible. I don’t worry so much about historical accuracies with clothing. Since time is of the essence when sketchnoting during a sermon, I draw a simple tunic with a sash. From there I split the page into four pieces.
After dividing the paper into four sections, I titled each section after the type of soil. To create consistency, I matched the font I used to the font of the title. While I’m no design expert, I do understand the importance of consistency. Too many fonts, too many colors, too many of anything can be distracting to the viewer.
Adding the illustrations was a no brainer. Sometimes I struggle with adding illustrations. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) Illustrations can be time-consuming and require a lot of attention to detail. If I spend too much time on an illustration, I’ll miss the whole point of the sermon. Sketchnoting provides a way for me to creatively jot notes about the sermon while staying focused. It’s not supposed to distract me from the message. 2) Some sermons are too abstract for illustrations. Sometimes the concept discussed isn’t easily illustrated through an image. 3) Sometimes the sermon moves so quickly I don’t have time to think of a cool illustration to go along with my notes. As I mentioned earlier, my main goal is to connect with the sermon, not waste time on artistic details.
Since I began my sketchnote with an image of a farmer sowing seed, I knew my illustrations could be about the plants produced.
There are several questions I get asked over and over when I share my sketchnotes.
Do you do this while the preacher is preaching?
Yes, most of the sketchnote is completed during the actual sermon. There are times that I don’t complete the sketchnote. Sometimes my child is acting like a fool, and I miss some of what is said. That is always a struggle because I never know how much space to leave for the missed information. Sometimes my brain is mostly dead and I struggle to make a connection, much less draw about it. I don’t freak out in those instances because my church puts the Sunday and Wednesday messages online. I know I can always go back to get stuff I missed.
Do you color as you sketchnote?
No, I do not color the sketchnote during the sermon. First of all, there is no way I could get the sketchnote completed and colored in the amount of time it takes the preacher to preach. I would run out of time. Secondly, colored pencils are rather loud when you are digging around trying to find the right color. I don’t want to distract anyone with the noise. Furthermore, I like to have my colored pencils out where I can see all the colors so I can easily make a choice about which one I want. There’s no way I would have room to spread out my supplies.
I color the sketchnote later. Sometimes I color them that evening and sometimes later in the week. Either way, coloring is a relaxing activity and I enjoy adding a splash of color to the page.
Do you sketch anything in pencil first?
I always sketch the title and general layout in pencil first. (BTW, this is my favorite pencil and THE ONLY pencil I use on my sketchnotes.) If I’m completing an illustration or title, I usually sketch those out. I go back and trace any sketches with a Uni-ball Vision Rollerball Stick Pen. I’m a bit of a pen snob – there aren’t many that I like. I have tried so many pens that artists and illustrators recommend, and I usually end up hating them. I’m incredibly picky about the point. I like a round point and a lot of recommended pens for drawing have a squarish point. That drives me crazy!
Other reasons I like the pen mentioned above: I like that it is a fine point but not too thin; it’s waterproof so I can use watercolors with it; it doesn’t bleed through my mixed media sketchbook papers like a permanent marker would; I can color small areas with it; and, I can easily replace it because I can find these at local discount stores and local pharmacies.
What do you use to color your sketchnotes?
I have used a variety of things to color my sketchnotes. Right now I’m not using anything fancy, just some Crayola colored pencils. Because I carry my sketchnote supplies with me, I wasn’t comfortable carrying my expensive artist-grade colored pencils. So, I picked up something cheap and easy to replace if lost or stolen. I wouldn’t recommend the Twistables; the color breaks and doesn’t work well once that happens.
However, when at home I use Prismacolor colored pencils to color my sketches. The quality is amazing; they glide on the paper and blend well. They aren’t cheap, so if you are looking to invest in some I recommend purchasing them with a 40% coupon from Michaels or Hobby Lobby (or whatever coupon your local arts & crafts store has). I’ve also sketchnoted with watercolors. They are much more difficult to use, but I enjoyed the look. Because I was new to watercoloring, I used a student-grade set of watercolors that I picked up at my local arts and crafts store. They are great for learning, but because they are student-grade watercolors, the quality is less than stellar. They leave a chalky finish over black ink. I found that if I tried to trace over the illustrations, the dried watercolor caused the ink to spread. This left me very unhappy as the black ink wasn’t as crisp as I prefer.
I’ve also sketchnoted with watercolors. They are much more difficult to use, but I enjoyed the look. Because I was new to watercoloring, I used a student-grade set of watercolors that I picked up at my local arts and crafts store. They are great for learning, but because they are student-grade watercolors, the quality is less than stellar. They leave a chalky finish over black ink. I found that if I tried to trace over the illustrations, the dried watercolor caused the ink to spread. This left me very unhappy as the black ink wasn’t as crisp as I prefer. Since I still consider myself a newbie to watercoloring, I don’t have a brand of watercolors I feel comfortable recommending.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s look at sketchnoting. If you have any questions that I didn’t answer above, leave them in the comments below and I’ll address them in next week’s post.