Drawing on Art to Develop Business Skills

Posted by: on Apr 4, 2014 | 2 Comments

All images by Martin Pickard

For years businesses have wrestled with the dilemma of how to successfully build their teams, inspire confidence and improve morale. Many have gone down the route of the outward bound course or hire inspirational gurus to provide the secrets of success or as is the case with companies like Google simply treat all staff to a long weekend skiing.

For Birmingham based brand and design agency Orb it was decided a rather innovative and artistic approach may be the answer to improving internal communication and team building.

Orb appointed  Creative Shift to provide a day in which their team could bond, work as a team and be tested on a number of skillsets outside of their normal environment and comfort zone. As a result, we arranged for staff from Orb to be sent to Highbury Hall in Birmingham for a day of “staff development.” Only when they arrived were they told that it was a life drawing session.Creative Shift, under the expert guidance of artist Dean Melbourne, created a life drawing course complete with a professional life model to draw. Although for many at Orb design and  illustration is a fundamental part of the day job, to be asked to produce a life drawing was a new and exhilarating experience. When asked why this session can be powerful, Dean said,

“This is a great way to challenge self limitations.  People often  say to me “I can’t draw. No, really I can’t” It is great to dispel that idea. What else do you presume you can’t do when really you just misunderstand what is required?”

The session was designed to test how working together out of the everyday environment would enhance team work, confidence, and observation skills. Set among the historic Victorian surroundings of Chamberlain’s former home, participants were asked to forget any preconceived ideas about what good drawing is and to look in a new analytical way.

The results were both astonishing and surprising. Participants were asked to make an untutored drawing at the beginning of the session and again at the end. The progress and improvement was startling in such a short time.

“In a short time we began to see beautifully observed details of hands and profiles and the drawings started to describe subtle and complex forces in the pose”.

For Helga, the life drawing session demonstrates how a basic artistic function like drawing a live model can develop skills that can be used elsewhere in business and life;

“To draw a nude model is clearly not an everyday occurrence and so both the uniqueness and indeed surprise of being asked to do so was very interesting to observe. At one point in the session we asked participants to work in pairs and this tested close observation skills and how two pairs of eyes observing the same view can build communication skills when working out how to interpret what they saw. The session was not designed to find another great artist but to show how drawing can provide exciting ways of developing communication, confidence and observation.  The way to change business culture, is culture.”

Rob Bloxham, Managing Director of Orb, was pleased that the session offered a new and innovative way of team building;

“Creative Shift has provided us with a unique opportunity to build up our team values and communication skills. To use a life drawing class was a big surprise to all the staff and certainly when they first arrived the staff were very tentative.  We were all so out of our comfort zone but as soon as Dean began the session and explained the basis behind it we all began to relax and enjoy it – it was a great experience. Creative Shift will follow up on the session and will have some solid feedback to work through and I am certain we take away from the session valuable and useful learning that we can implement within our business.”


  1. Michele Carruthers
    April 11, 2014

    I read about your life drawing sessions for business and think its a fantastic way to release creativity within a business mind – helping lateral thinking and approaches to problem solving. I’ve led similar sessions for librarians and have extensive experience across all artistic mediums, including life drawing (although this isn’t evident from my website which only shows a small selection of my work). If you need any artists to either assist or lead sessions, I would love to come and talk to you. With my best wishes. Michele

    • Emily Jayne
      April 14, 2014

      Hi Michele, thanks for your comment and for the information! We shall certainly take a look at your website.


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