Sketchnoting for the Non-Artistic: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Our today's guest is Pastor Abram Kielsmeier-Jones .

Sketchnoting for the Non-Artistic

Whatever book of the Bible I happen to be preaching on in a given month always seems to be "my favorite." But the book of James—full of grit and directions undergirded by theory—was one of my favorite favorites to reflect on with my congregation. The five short chapters are inspiring and practical. You can read them the first time and know what you're supposed to do (and NOT do)—and why.

Surprisingly, the book's clarity made preaching through James challenging. How can I profitably speak 2,000 words about what James has already said so well in 200?

I'm not a gifted drawer (if you don't believe me, keep scrolling). But I was desperate to know how to cover James 3, so I finally decided to try this "sketchnoting" thing I'd heard so much about.

James asks, "Who is wise and understanding among you?" And he takes his readers to a fork in the road: you can go this-a-way or that-a-way. As with much of life, he suggests, there are two ways when it comes to wisdom. There is wisdom that comes "from heaven" and wisdom that comes from... well... not heaven. Each kind of wisdom has its own fruit, good or bad. And whatever kind of wisdom is inside a person will find its way outside that person.

Seeing James's contrast—and a pencil and open page in front of me—led me to group his words into two columns on the page. As I wrote and sketched, I got a much clearer picture of each kind of wisdom: where it comes from, what it is like, and what its results are.

When I got to James's telling me that envy and ambition lead to "disorder and every evil practice," I knew there was only thing to do: sketch a tragic stick figure murder.


That's right—that giant heart full of bitter envy and selfish ambition? It led to some serious sketchnoting consequences.

I'm proud (no, actually, embarrassed) that the image above made it onto the projection screen Sunday morning. I owe my congregation better art, but sketchnoting opened up the book of James for me (and, I hope, for others) in a way that my typical linear process could not.

Mine is among some of the most rudimentary sketchnoting you'll see on this entire site, or anywhere on the Internet for that matter. But I finally decided not to allow my lack of artistic talent to keep me from engaging a method that really accessed some creative parts of my brain. I'm glad I tried! I've used the method a number of times since then, especially to get unstuck and help map out my train of thought. 9 times out of 10 my sketchnotes stay in my notebook, seen only by me.

And, hey, even if I'm still at stick figure level, I have hope for my family's artistic contributions to the world. My eight-year-old son's drawings already exceed mine in quality and detail. So when he ran off with my sketchnoting workbook, I was happy to oblige.


Author's Note: No stick figures were actually harmed in the sketchnoting process described above.

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is a pastor, writer, husband, father, and lover of life. Find more about Abram at Words on the Word

Such a good and inspiring story.

And here is a comment from Mike:


I think it illustrates how sketchnoting works even when you are not a great drawer - a huge message for so many who feel that limits them from even starting.
Thank you for sharing Abram!
- Mauro and Mike



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