Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sketchnoting at Hill House

8/4/17 sketches and notes made with a brush pen

On our second day in the Twin Cities when it rained, we toured the James J. Hill House, an enormous historic mansion in St. Paul. As a preface, I have to say that I generally don’t do well on tours involving a guide who walks a large group through some facility, pointing out various artifacts while rattling off a stream of amusing anecdotes and historic dates. Even before I was sketching, these types of tours made me glaze over. Now it’s even worse because if I don’t glaze over, I’m seeing something I’d like to sketch, but the guide is already rushing us onward.

Hill house exterior
Wanting to avoid that frustrating experience on the Hill House tour, I tried something new. Initially I thought I would simply make small sketches as quickly as I could. I started doing that, but as the guide spoke, I found myself writing some of what she said next to my sketches, whether they related or not. Eventually I was taking notes and sketching simultaneously, so that the writing related to the sketches. I’ve heard the term sketchnoting, and I’m not exactly sure what that is, but whatever I was doing that day felt like sketchnoting – using sketches and notes to supplement each other. I filled six pages of my sketchbook (two pages shown above).

As our guide talked continuously, there were times when I might have glazed over ordinarily, but sketching keeps me focused so I could listen and retain more information than I otherwise would have. Later when I looked through my sketches and notes, I realized I had remembered more. If I were a student, I think I would learn more using some form of sketchnoting instead of just writing.

I wish Id taken more photos inside of this impressive, formidable house built in 1891, but I guess I havent learned to sketchnotephotograph. Here are a few.

Pipe organ
Stained-glass windows


  1. Fun idea to combine the sketches with the words. I had to laugh that you sketched the toilet too. I'm not good at doing tours...I'm always lagging behind wanting to sketch...and sneaking off when I can. lol

    1. Ha-ha! How did I know that you wouldn't like tours, either! ;-)

      - Tina


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