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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

THE VISUAL LISTENER

If you want a brief understanding of what a 45-minute-podcast is all about, take a one-minute-look at Ben’s drawings. They are not only fun and cheeky, but also fundamentally illuminating and highly informative. Few people are good at listening, drawing and interpreting at the same time. Ben is. As we found out, once he starts listening to and drawing for IWC’s podcasts, he never hits the pause button.

Benjamin Felis Graphic Recording
— Ben at work

What’s the difference between an illustrator and a graphic recorder?

The main difference is speed. As an illustrator you are often involved in a process of creation. You draw a first version, then you can change details, erase, re-think, or – when drawing on a computer – move things around. A graphic recorder has to think fast, draw fast, and above all: listen well. You dont have to be a great artist, but you do have to be an amazing listener. 

 

SO, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ART OF LISTENING…

Visual listening, to be exact. While you draw, you have to listen closely and decide in a split second what content you want to capture. You have to be there in the moment. As you need to digest so much information, you have to sort out immediately whats important and whats not. Sure, there are many illustrators that are way better at drawing than me. But Im quick. 

 

What has helped you BECOME SO QUICK?

Two factors: firstly, it’s just my personality. I’m a very fast thinker and I want to understand things quickly. I’m impulsive, intuitive, extremely curious and open-minded, and I talk quickly. I’m not a person made for bookkeeping or working on excel sheets. 

 

Secondly, my past as a graffiti artist. When you’re out there at night, working and spraying, you don’t have much time… you always have to be really fast. I even got caught once and spent one night in prison.

 

Not a nice thing to experience as a 13-year-old, but now it’s part of my success story. One local newspaper made a huge article about me leaving my city and coming back as a successful graphic recorder. Years later, I apologised to my parents for all the pain they had to go through because of me.

 

YOU SAY YOU “DRAW AND CONNECT LIFE”. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

I help people find out what the next step is. I draw strategic maps and try to organise information live on the spot, mostly at conferences or corporate meetings. I take all information in the room and map it out so that everybody talks about the same picture and interacts with the illustration. It’s a visual moderation, an interpretation. Creativity, empathy and emotion play a major role in this work. I do what a computer cannot do. 

 

DO YOU ALSO CREATE DRAWINGS IN YOUR PRIVATE LIFE?

Not really. That would drive my family crazy. The only time I can remember was after my wife and I took prenatal classes and met with the midwife. I put all information about feeding, cradling, dos and don’ts, and how to react in each situation on a piece of paper and placed it in a drawer. That helped me relax. 

Benjamin Felis graphic recording at conference
— One of Ben's drawings at a conference

DO YOU PRODUCE SKETCHES BEFORE THE FINAL DRAWING?

There’s just one final drawing.

 

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT IT?

For conferences with a set agenda, I divide the paper into different areas, each for a certain amount of time or point in the agenda. For the IWC podcasts, however, I started off with one big visual in the middle and then worked my way around it. In general, I try not to prepare too much because speakers, topics or the agenda might change last minute. So, I always try to keep a fresh and unbiased perspective. Also, I never listen to the same podcast twice. Once I hit the play button and start drawing, there’s no turning back. 

ANY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE IWC PODCASTS?

My graphic recordings for IWC were extremely personal and changed the way I look at people. Paul Ripke was so incredibly entertaining and charming. And Chris Grainger told so many fun stories that it was hard for me to choose which to illustrate. But I was most impressed by the talk with Lewis Hamilton. I didn’t know much about him and I learned what a humble, sensitive and down-to-earth guy he is. After I was done with my drawing, I started researching more about him. 

 

People are so fascinating! Since the podcasts, I’m more interested in people themselves. Before, I was just drawing topics, now I’m drawing personalities, their biographies and experiences. 

 

WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO WHILE WORKING?

I listen to old school hip hop songs, NAS, Dilated Peoples. I can't imagine a life without music. 

 

Click here to listen to Ben’s playlist on spotify. 

BEN’S BIO

Ben Felis has been a full time graphic recorder and illustrator since 2013. Originally a graffiti artist, he worked for many years as a trainer and consultant before moving on to designing flip charts in the exciting world of Graphic Recording. He is trained in graphic recording, visual facilitation and coaching, and has among other things published online tutorials, and taught his technique in live and online classes.

 

Ben also has long-standing experience with workshops and as a moderator in a variety of industries and positions. He has worked in over 17 countries, from the UAE to Brazil - and taught over 8,000 people the art of creative visualisation. He has conducted over 300 professional Graphic Recordings and drawn on several hundreds of metres of paper.

 

Fun fact: Ben used to be a guitarist in punk bands, touring all over Europe and releasing 7 albums. One of his proudest achievements? Climbing the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He "only" needed 6 hours.


Find out more about Benjamin Felis’ work here and on YouTube.  

 

To find a selection of the latest #IWCONAIR Partners in Time Podcasts, click here


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