Warming up for warmups workshop at XP Days Benelux

Tags: life, workshops, conferences, feedback,

Marc and Rob are running a workshop on warmups at XP Days Benelux. It is a workshop to share the ways we warm up for practice. This is what I learnt from drawing warmups.

The workshop makes space for warmups with and without code. I did practice some code, but thought drawing would be fun for a blog post. I should have known that this stuff works, but still am surprised by the power of small exercises.

The surprising powers of warmups.

Handwriting and drawing have not been my strong points for a long time. The trick with both, for me, is finding a practice that works, for me. One such surprise was a series of introductory videos by the Concepts apps team. One was about … doing warmups.

“Mastering it (drawing) comes straight down to the amount you practice it.” “It’s always a good idea to start by warming up first.” “When the drawing happens more or less automatically, you can put more effort in the drawing or design work you are doing”.

This warmup is surprisingly simple, and works with or without the app. It has you drawing lots of lines, circles and ellipsis. I tend to make a new layer in concepts and do a part of the warmup whenever I feel like it (sort of little and often).

Warmup template and written instructions

I find that whenever I do it, I am more likely to come up with something to draw. Sometimes I stop the warmup to draw something that pops up.

As Rob said:

It is relatively easy to come up with all kinds of coding exercises, but it is not the exercises in itself that are interesting. At the same time you focus completely on the exercise, or discovering a useful exercise. A bit of a paradox, really. It is interesting to consider both what the exercise is, what to practice on in the exercise and also how that is useful in your daily practice.

So now my circles are more circle shaped. I worry less about closing them perfectly. That means I’m more likely to draw something and have fun (a virtuous cycle). I also learnt to shade by hand, with lines. Something I hadn’t thought about, since I would pick a pattern or brush for that, ever since Microsoft Paint in windows 1.03… It’s fun, doesn’t cost much time and makes a drawing look more natural.

As a consequence, my drawing sucks less. It is good enough to be accepted by colleagues into slide decks. One went as far as to say “I can’t draw as well as you…”. Well neither could I. Until I found a warmup that clicked.

a simple cartoon person. the sloppily unclosed circle suggests a flop of hair

Not closing circles perfectly sometimes works as its’ own effect.

What I learnt about warmups in general

Warmups help with creating, maintaining and improving fluency, in whatever you practice. You focus on a particular aspect, like ‘just’ drawing a line between two pre-defined points. The first time a practice may create friction in you. After that, you can focus on different aspects, or be in the flow and ‘just do it’ without thinking about it too much.

What do you do for warmups? What do you get out of it?

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