Learn to draw, dance or act: The extraordinary career-boosting benefits of mastering a new creative skill

Whether you’re a rugby player who dabbles in ballet, or a banker learning how to draw, practicing wider than your chosen discipline can be hugely rewarding to you and your work. 

We've written before how learning a musical instrument is beneficial to the field of mathematics, or learning a language can boost your confidence. And having helped everyone from architects to bankers change the way they work through drawing, we really believe that, whatever your industry, expanding your skillset in an artistic direction is a thoroughly effective way to fulfil your true potential, no matter what field you're in.

There are a whole host of disciplines out there you've yet to conquer. And there's a whole lot of proof that, if you set aside your skepticism and embrace something new, you'll reap some valuable. and possibly unexpected, rewards.

Take, for instance, the FBI agents, policemen and ER doctors taking art observation classes with art historian, Amy E. Herman. Taking her students around the museums of New York, she asks them to analyse the stories within famous artworks hanging on the gallery walls.

As she explained to the New York Times: 'It's extremely evocative and perfect for critical inquiry. What am I seeing here? How do I attach a narrative to it?

'I've had [police officers] say, "I hate art", and I say, "That's not relevant". This is not a class about Pollock versus Picasso. I'm not teaching you about art today; I'm using art as a new set of data, to help you clear the slate and use the skills you use on the job. My goal when you walk out the door is that you're thinking differently about the job.' The aim, she says, is to teach them to focus on what they see, and not what they think. 

At The University of Pennsylvania's American Academy of Ophthalmology, a study revealed how first-year medical students' diagnosis skills were dramatically improved after going to art observation classes. The study's lead author, Jaclyn Gurwin, says: 'The results of this study are incredibly encouraging, showing that art observation training can improve medical and ophthalmological observational skills. We hope that the improved observational abilities from this training will translate to improved clinical effectiveness, empathy and, ultimately, will make better physicians.'

Here at Scriberia, we often begin workshops by asking participants to draw a portrait of the person next to them. Just like the policemen studying great masterpieces, our participants are encouraged to focus, to observe accurately and articulate it clearly. And through drawing, they also get a better understanding of what they don't know, can't see, or don't yet understand. 

And drawing is not just useful for representing a concept or an object that already exists, we know it can also be the means for bringing those very things into existence. When we talk about visual thinking (which we do, a lot!) we really mean the quality of thinking that happens when you pick up your pencil. 

Once you have coaxed those ideas out of your head and into some kind of shape, the priority is often to communicate them effectively - to colleagues, to clients, to shareholders and so on.

At the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) a new programme of study called RADA in Business brings the performance and communication skills employed by actors to the boardroom. Liz Barber, client director at RADA in business, explains: 'Small changes to physicality, breath and voice can make a huge difference in getting your voice heard and improving your impact. Owning your own space, using your peripheral vision and speaking with confidence are just some of the techniques we teach actors, but the same techniques apply when communicating in a business environment.'

And The Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, New York, is founded on a similar philosophy. Established by Alan Alda (a.k.a. Hawkeye Pierce in the 1970s comedy drama, M*A*S*H), it helps scientists to better communicate the complexities of their work to new audiences, using a host of theatre skills. Alda explains: 'I think when we see scientists as human beings, the door is open for us a little bit, we can go into their lives. They're not the white-coated gurus on the mountaintop.' 

In other words, being a guru in your field isn't enough when it's your job to convince and convert. At Scriberia, though our methods differ, we share Alda's passion for making complicated things easier to understand, and communication easier for everyone. And, in our world, pictures are the key to bringing those gurus down from their mountaintops.

Though we have a studio full of talented artists and animators, through our Academy and workshop programmes, we want to help everyone to use drawing to improve the way they communicate with others. And not only that - we know that picking up a pencil and making your mark will enhance the way you observe, plan, think and work, too. 

The benefits of looking beyond what is immediately relevant to your work are almost too numerous to count. Because, when a variety of skills come together, they combine to become far greater than the sum of their parts.


Learn How to Draw Anything with our brilliant book, or contact the Academy to discover how drawing could change the way you think, work and communicate.