About the Authors

Katarina Thorsen

Katarina Thorsen is an artist and a creative engagement facilitator who is passionate in her belief that art can heal and build connections. Katarina specializes in arts-based programming for all ages, in particularly engaging vulnerable populations. The heart of her work is visual storytelling and facilitation. Her interactive art events and street art encourages participants to become part of the creative process. Katarina’s own artwork can be found in private collections in North America and Europe. She published her first book, Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges with Art, in 2013. Her next book is a true crime analysis in the form of a graphic novel. Katarina resides in Vancouver, Canada.

How mapping the genome of a fruit fly changed my life

School always made me anxious. From kindergarten to university, I fretted about tests and grades. I took linear, wordy notes. I couldn’t seem to choose what was important. I look through my old text books now and, ouch, they are one big highlighted mess. I didn’t learn as much as I memorized. Then quickly forgot it all. I only seemed to fully grasp concepts in very visual, project-based classes.

Even though I had been drawing and painting all my life, I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell Biology at the University of British Columbia. Mapping the genome of a fruit fly in 4th year genetics class changed my life. Lectures were delivered visually, with the professor encouraging us to draw in class. I grasped the concepts, I made connections, I took ownership of my learning process and I understood what we were doing and why. I felt empowered.

In the mid 90’s, my son was diagnosed with autism and severe social anxiety. His special needs preschool used storyboards to help students predict the shape of the day to help decrease anxiety. I kept a pad of paper and felt pens on me at all times after that, storyboarding before events, appointments, school… It became a habit to visually plan life through drawing and mind mapping.

After attaining my science degree, I went to art school, then studied psychology and criminal profiling. This all led me to work with vulnerable youth within custody and alternative schools using creative engagement. I found mind mapping an excellent tool to communicate better, to teach visual learners and to resolve conflicts. I now use it in all my work– personally and professionally, be it doing creative engagement, project planning, team building, professional development, graphic recording, what have you. I even used it to plan this bio.

Mind mapping is simple, fun and… life changing. It is my hope that the tools and exercises contained within this book will transform the way you learn and the way you teach.


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Drawing in Class by Jason Toal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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