• Emily Powell

Drawing With Purpose

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

I have always loved to draw. Drawing to engage and solve problems, drawing to share thoughts and feelings, drawing to capture a moment, a character, someone loved.

"Feed Your Creativity" - Drawn for Solent NHS Trust

I’ve spent many years creating portraits as precious gifts for family and friends and using my skills to facilitate workshops or help explain complicated policies and plans through engaging imagery. I’ve come to realise that drawing isn’t just something I love to do, it’s something people love to see, discuss and share, and it’s that connection that led me to my most exciting creation to date; the launch of Thomkat Illustrations.

I’ve seen my work help colleagues and groups solve challenging problems or make sense of complex plans and bring to life the experiences of people who simply couldn’t put their thoughts and ideas into words. It’s so powerful to see someone’s face light up when they see a drawing and they instantly fall in love, they finally make sense of a concept, or get the clarity they were struggling to achieve before.

My dream is to keep doing what I love and to build my business, by sharing my skills with more patients, more people, more businesses, more families

Thomkat Illustrations

My business name, Thomkat Illustrations, has come from a very personal and simple source; my two beautiful children Thomas and Katelyn. Children take over your life and your heart, and they are connected to every aspect of my day to day, so of course they are part of my business journey too, and they love to see the different projects and drawings I create.

my beautiful children, my inspiration for Thomkat Illustrations
Thomas and Katelyn

Bringing up children has also helped me to see how they engage and learn better with visuals, and my experience on corporate projects has shown that the same goes for adults as well. People can connect more quickly with images and will retain information for longer if they can see it rather than read it. There have been countless studies exploring this and it’s estimated that our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text, so the science bears that out too.

Consider how you communicate on a daily basis, perhaps with your partner, family, children, your colleagues or customers. If you are giving directions it’s easier to draw a map, if you are telling someone with dementia where to sit for dinner you can draw a picture of a place setting at a table they will understand where words can get muddled, if you put pictures of plates, cups and canned foods on the kitchen cupboards your children will know where to put things away rather than having to remember. It’s an incredibly simple concept that makes a huge difference to how well we communicate in many different ways.

I hear so many people say, ‘I can’t draw like that’ and often they know how they want to use illustration but aren’t sure where to start; that’s exactly where I come in. Not only can I draw in an engaging, easy to understand style, but I enjoy the process too.

I have worked with hundreds of people in different situations and I know the art of listening carefully to what people say, noting the emotion in how they say it, and often the context around it that all comes together to create a drawing that sums it up perfectly.

How Thomkat Illustrations can help you

Here are some examples of how my work has helped support business processes in the NHS over the last five or so years, transforming what can sometimes be a dull or frustrating process into more engaging, interesting and effective communication.

Plan on a page – working with senior managers to illustrate key highlights for staff to read and understand, including the annual achievements for the finance team, the mission statement of a department, and the full strategy of the Trust to be shared with 6000 staff

Bringing service user voices to life – illustrating patient feedback on ward rounds, ward notice boards and what it means to truly listen, to inspire patients and help staff understand different experiences, and encourage positive practice. Capturing student voices from youth mental health summits, listening to young people about their experiences and illustrating the outcomes from the events

Promoting mental wellbeing, positivity and kindness – for virtual pride in 2020, the Action for Happiness 10 days of happiness campaign, Be Kind as part of mental health awareness week and 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing

Explaining complex information through graphics – creating illustrations to support understanding of the independent mental health review, complaints processes, civil detention orders and quality improvement techniques

Graphics for team development, leadership development, and workshop facilitation – I’ve worked with various groups on different themes, including 'Work Smarter Not Harder' and 'Smart Finance', capturing learnings from staff leadership programmes, team purpose workshops, and creating engaging posts for events such as world café workshops

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a pretty good overview of the different work I’ve been involved in so far, and the beauty of what I do means that whatever your brief, I can create something to deliver it. Illustration is creative and flexible and certainly doesn’t fit into rigid categories. I love hearing new ideas or projects where I can work with people to draw something that works for them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about me – I’ve really enjoyed telling my story and getting started with Thomkat Illustrations! If you want to learn more just drop me a line at thomkatillustrations@gmail.com or head over to my website gallery and my pages on Facebook and Instagram to see more of my work.

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