Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine Symposium 2019

Drawing is having a Renaissance. People are using paper and pencil to access inner strengths.

Benefits of Meditation are now valid science.

Mindfulness is powerful medicine.

I combine these strengths in a non-traditional process. This helps one find a sustainable way to increase a sense of well being. I encourage people to let go of the expectations around the usual drawing skills to find freedom in making a line. The drawing is paired with a guided journey I lead. This gives the participant a story that will take them out of their usual mindset and a structure to the drawing. Everyone begins from the same point.

My life’s purpose is to help people come alive and find more within themselves by engaging with art. In this workshop, we focus on the magic of pencil and paper. Simple tools for profound results.

I will present my MEDITATION DRAWING WORKSHOP at Mayo Clinic on October 25th as part of

My self-portrait drawing was created for this symposium. It accompanies a Pecha Kucha style powerpoint that tells the story of my Meditation Drawing process. My slide show illustrates how medical professionals and students can better sustain a balance of mind, body and spirit using this process. I stress how one can experience drawing in a unique, out-of-the-box way with eyes closed and pencil in the unaccustomed hand. This puts the drawer in the unfamiliar which is where mindfulness opens wider. The drawing is purposefully loose, more like a scribble than a sketch. The self-critic is held at bay.

B E N E F I T S 

Experience slowing down to find flow and rejuvenation.

Have more clarity by shifting from a narrow to a wider viewpoint   

Find more capacity for empathy and understanding of our human nature

Transform the act of seeing by touching base with one’s inner artist

Symbols – Historical Meaning

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“Echo” mixed media painting detail by Jennifer Ewing

An interesting history of the word symbol can be found in Clare Gibson’s book, Signs and Symbols.  She writes that the word symbol “derives from the ancient Greek custom of breaking a clay slate into pieces and giving a piece to each member of a group before their dispersal; when they reconvened, the pieces would be re-assembled- sumballerin, “to throw together”- like a jigsaw puzzle, and the individual’s group identity would thus be confirmed. So it was that the Greek word sumbolon, “a mark of recognition” came into being, from which the Latin, symbolum evolved.” You can find more of Clare’s on-going work with symbols at
This sparks the idea that our boat making workshops can be very effective for team building on many levels.  People are introduced to ideas around the theme of boats and navigation with the intention that this symbol can represent  transition to a desired state of being. “Clay” is the metaphor of the the boat being formed as a physical structure. Individual’s break off a hunk of this “clay” to work on their own boat making process imbuing this with what has importance for them. After they have made their boat, they bring it to the dock, the common meeting place, where they are reaffirmed as fellow boat makers  who find new purpose to guide future actions. Their boat also arouses an emotional response as a trigger and reminder of the intention:  to move towards what is desired, and feel supported by the group.

Our boat programs began as a way to turn the symbol of a little boat into a tool for staying the course. The way the Ancient Greeks used this as a group exercise carries over into today in that the group’s identity is enhanced by each piece being important and contributing to the whole.

4867_Echo I

Confidence as a Bank Account

How do we build confidence in our workshops? This is an internal process that is felt inside of a person. You just know when you have it and feel it keenly when you don’t. It is like a surge that propels  you forward with ease. Just like a boat launched into the water- it goes smoothly into the flow of the current. When one makes a boat- they feel the surge that comes from doing something meaningful. The symbolism of the boat and the action combines to go deep into the person and finds that place where a special kind of knowledge is stored. It is like having an internal confidence bank account and our boat making time is a deposit in that account. And you can make a withdrawal when you need to.

Speaking of bank accounts, we recently toured the Old San Francisco Mint, a historic building that is now a museum. It was the venue for the graduating class of the SF Art Institute so we enjoyed art in combination with architecture.  It was great to get close to some beautiful details on the metal of the vault doors.  The hardware and the locks were crafted at a time when attention to decoration was significant. This was around the time of the Gold Rush and money was being minted in this place. Looking at these decorated mechanisms made us aware how this hardware helped to protected the money inside.  At this time, this mint held one third of the gold in the United States.

There is gold inside of all of us. Our workshops are like a withdrawal from our internal deposit of gold that contributes to a sense of well being. When one gets in touch with their center of confidence, one can move ahead more swiftly with clarity.






metaphorical landscape

metaphorical landscape

I experienced a dose of empathy yesterday during a conversation with an integration manager for a corporation who is going through an intense and exciting merger. It was described to me as a David and Goliath scenario. I know people in the David camp and have worked with them over the years and now they are having to adjust to a much larger work scene. There is a lot going on and the life cycle of the project is one year. As I was listening to the background story, I made a shift to become a better listener – to hear more without my own perspective being the driver. It was freeing to be the passenger for the moment and let the fast moving scenery reveal more of the landscape. In this capacity, I could be of greater help to direct this car by providing a road map. And empathy helped me find the right map from a variety of maps that I have handy. I also thought of how this manager had become the captain of a huge ship and had to get his crew in shape to make the voyage.
In Eric Maisel’s book, Making Your Creative Mark- Nine Keys To Achieving Your Artistic Goals”, he has an entire chapter on empathy. “At its heart, it is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and fathom what is going on in human interactions”. “Sympathy and compassion have a large feeling component, but empathy is much more about thinking.”

He also asks some great questions:

• What difficulties have you experienced by not understanding where another person is coming from?

• What in you prevents you from empathizing with others?

• How will you get better at empathizing?

And thinking of the situation on the other end of the phone started my visualization process to be able to see my way to making empathy count in our workshops.


Left Brain/Right Brain – as Trees

PIne-Oak-72Right brain qualities can be seen as an oak tree- flowing and open.
Left-brain qualities can be seen as a pine tree- linear in nature, sturdy and reliable.

Houses can be built with both trees, for they each have their own strengths and qualities.
Boat making uses both.  Oak makes the form of the hull for the pine planks to be stretched over.
And pine is used for ship masts and long boards.

Our brains have both strengths.  The forest is made up of both of these and this makes our landscape richer.

We enjoy bringing together both sides of the brain so that we have tools made from both woods, rich with their own inherent resources.

Our Theme: Navigation & Change

03_JE-900pOur theme is navigation and change. From the start, we have used the boat as the container for ideas and as a vehicle for a company to move forward. It began with a Spirit Boat and how I used it in my work and life. When our coach at the Small Business Development Center saw my web site,, he got excited and said- we can build off of this for your next business. We navigated new water, taking a few years to develop strategies using boat making and other modules incorporating the heart, universal shapes and landscapes as tools. They are all based in art, an area where  we find our strengths and can guide others.

Starting with something compelling, like a landscape, or a boat or heart, we developed methods that are easy to integrate and use because they are fun. When you are having fun and are more relaxed, information gets digested faster. The spark between the right brain and the left brain is powerful. The art ignites learning and makes the experience memorable and longer lasting.

First Influences

02_ConfTableAround 1994, Chip Conley told my design group the story of how he began Joie De Vivre Hotels using magazines as the theme for each hotel’s environment. He began with one hotel, the Phoenix and used the Rolling Stone Magazine as the theme, transformed that first property as the platform from which Conley launched himself into the stratosphere. These ideas had high resonance for me, as a muralist who was always working with themes. In 2011, we begin to integrate Conley’s book, “Peak-how companies get their mojo from Maslow” into our thinking, taking action by signing on with the Small Business Development Center of San Francisco to design our creative programs.

In 2006, our friend, Cory Silver, gave us a the gift of the book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future ” by Daniel Pink.  Cory said way back then, “see- you guys are way ahead of your time- you artists will rule the world!”. He had experienced a few of our trials, bringing art classes into businesses. Having Cory sit in on several of our workshops was valuable because of his experience in the corporate world and that he believed in our tools. He wanted to see us succeed and knew Pink’s book had some great keys for us, opening up doors with concepts around design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Pink even shows an example of his self portrait that he tried after using another favorite resource for us, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”by Betty Edwards. We were in the right territory but needed time and some tools before arriving at our destination.


Genesis – The Big Idea

01a_JE-Gr01b_Leo-sIn 1988, working in an office, we experienced first hand the mind numbing aspect of a daily routine without a creative break. As artists, we know that art can be used as an antidote to these negative effects. In 2000, we asked ourselves the question- what if we had an art class available to us at lunch time or even after work? And imagined how energizing that would have been.  Many times we have heard- I would like to take an art class but I don’t have the time. We saw ourselves helping others and saving them time by bringing the art class to them at work. An idea was born and we began to do test classes. We were able to find a vacant office space downtown San Francisco that was given to us by the property manager for a mid-day drawing class. The word was spread by fliers and an elevator capture screen that attracted several people who were happy to come and draw from our set ups and the great city views. Things shifted after 9/11 so our idea was put on the back burner until we found a collaboration with another office that gave us space to use at lunchtime. The start was simple and grounded in a solid theme. How to bring art processes into the business world so that people feel better. By enjoying a creative break, one does better at work. When you are enjoying yourself, you integrate learning faster and easier.