BeLoose Graphic Workshop

Part 2: Aga Artka - Why I took the BeLoose Graphic Workshop

Becoming Loose - Part 2

The reason I took the workshop

I’ve always enjoyed the arts. I used to take a sketch pad and a box of pastels on family vacations and spend afternoons drawing my surroundings. I never really understood how to draw correctly, but through observation, I was able to recreate the reality of paper.  My fascination with space, light and shadow, proportion and balance, as well as overall good design lead me to selecting interior design as my study major and receiving a degree in it. The problem was that we never really learned how to develop our design ideas through quick sketches and realistic renderings. We were lead to believe that a computer can replace the conceptual phase of design and even make it faster. As an independent designer and a business owner since Jan 2009, I have quickly come to a conclusion that having the ability to draw is golden. Seeing my ideas on paper before they are finalized in a computer software is a crucial part of my design process and should not be undervalued, no matter if you design gardens, interiors or buildings.

How I found out about the workshop

One of my favorite classes in college was Design Studio. It was a hands-on class meant to introduce students to the complex design process from programming, concept, presentation, design finalization, and specification. One of the very helpful books I purchased for this class was“Drawing and Designing with Confidence” by Mike Lin.

I did not know who he was back then. Last year I received an email from Mike Lin himself. It was an invitation to attend his workshop sent out to all ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) members, but I still took it personal and saved the message. I could not afford to leave my corporate job for two weeks, nor did I have the finances to pay for the workshop at that time. But after Nov 2008, when I was laid off, and shortly after decided to take charge of my life, I made it a goal of mine to one day meet Mike Lin in person and participate in his life changing workshop. When the same invitation went out to the ASID members last fall, I didn’t wait any longer and booked my trip immediately. It felt great. I was excited about this opportunity. And what an experience it was….

The workshop

I decided to take the two week (12days) workshop over the 2 days because I felt that it would be more productive and more beneficial. I’m glad I did that. Even though it may seem like a long time to be away from your routine life, it is nearly not enough to learn all the techniques and tricks that Mike has up his sleeves. The 12 days were heavily scheduled from 8:30 in the morning to almost midnight. We broke for 1h lunches and 2h diners every day, but we always felt hungry for more knowledge and kept pushing our limits. It took a full commitment to complete this workshop successfully but it was very much worth the effort.

Manhattan, Kansas

I’m sure you are wondering why Kansas? Manhattan used to be home for Mike Lin and his family. He taught at the Kansas State University for years before deciding to take the workshop on the road and move to a warmer climate of California. Because he owns a studio there, he continues to come back to Manhattan to teach the two-week workshop both in the summer and winter.


Proud of his surroundings, Mike took us on a scenic tour around Manhattan.


We also ventured out on our own in smaller groups, and discovered a very cute downtown area as well as the college neighborhood.



We started the workshop with a pretest – a 12-part drawing test consisting of pencil, color pencil, pen and ink, marker and pastel techniques, bubble diagram, site plan, elevation, perspective, people, trees, hands and lettering. We had very little time to draw each section, but that wasn’t what caused us all to fail miserably. It was the inability to understand how to draw and how to use the various drawing media. Below you will find a few of the pretest examples. Pretty bad, isn’t it.



After about 10 days of intense training, we were instructed to redo the 12 drawings to show our improvement. Everyone did better….and when I say better, it’s a night and day difference. No doubt.





The biggest problem with using a computer program to demonstrate your preliminary design ideas is the lack of spatial and detail thinking, that a hand-done perspective drawing otherwise requires. Computers make it very easy for us to manipulate spaces. I found that not being able to draw in perspective left me fully dependent of what a computer could do, and not what my mind could imagine. 

Mike showed us how to approach a one-point and two-point perspective in a very easy to execute way. We were also taught birds-eye view, section/elevations plan views and other angles of an exterior and interior space.


Interior Elements and Materials

Mike took the time to show us what good design really means. He is a furniture and an art collector. In his house and studio, one can find classic furnishings by the famous Charles Eames, Marcel Breuer, LeCorbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, Isamu Noguchi. We all had a chance to touch and feel many of his collectibles, which helped tremendously with drawing them and rendering in a realistic way. See for yourself:


It is important to point out that none of these drawings took more than an hour. Mike Lin teaches both designer graphics and professional illustration. My goal is to utilize the skills I just learned in creating quick but realistic drawings to convey my design solutions. Some people may choose to master their drawing skills to a point of creating photograph-quality illustrations. Illustrations take more time, skill and patience.

We also spent some time studying textures and patterns of various materials and hard to depict finishes. We learned how to render water, stone, brick and glass.

Other wisdom

Being able to draw is only half the success. Per Mike Lin, it all starts and ends with our attitude and positive thinking. We were encouraged to read both “The Secret” and “It’s not how good you are. It’s how good you want to be” to closer understand the power of our minds and the law of attraction. Mike would make it very clear that no drawing is a lost cause; you just keep working on it and if someone asks: “you are not done yet”. What a great way to approach it. We laughed every time we heard it, but it makes so much sense. Don’t ever give up. Look for a solution to a challenging situation, and you will always win.


The group

There were 27 students and 4 teacher assistants (TA aka tight ass) attending the January 2010 workshop. We all came from difference cities and even countries. It was definitely a small group compared to the recent years, but we still enjoyed it thoroughly. The studio can accommodate more than 100 students, but with a smaller group, we had more room to work, more time to practice, more attention from both the instructor and the assistants and were able to develop closer relationships with each other.

You may have noticed our workshop mascot (from the photo above). That’s Champ. The intense two weeks of learning would not be complete without this little munchkin-looking, fuzzy bundle of happiness. His actual size is slightly over-exaggerated in the group photo. In reality, he is very tiny and would fit in a palm of your hand.

The Instructor

I want to take this moment to give a shout out to Mike Lin, whom I mentioned a ton already but who deserves a great deal of appreciation for the energy, passion and effort he put into making our two week experience in Manhattan a blast. He is a great speaker, a passionate educator, a wise businessman , a loving husband (of his first wife :) , two grown children and grand children) and funny man….all in one. Don’t take me wrong. Mike will cut all the bullshit out of teaching and tell you how it is. His critique methods are plain and simple; he points out the bad and takes the time to explain ways to improve. Some people take it personally, but most turn his comments into motivators and move on.


Mike made sure everyone felt comfortable and welcomed. He would take the time to walk around and get to know his students. He would organize group dinners and social activities to give everyone an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves.


Sounds incredible, doesn’t it. It was! In case you are still hesitating whether to take this course, listen to me carefully: The Be Loose Workshop is worth every minute and every penny you spend. It is a life changing experience which you will never regret. Whether you are a student, practicing professional or just a fan of good design, you will leave enlightened and bettered by the wisdom and skills taught by Mike Lin. You will make a ton of new friends and be exposed to a different life philosophy. Amongst other topics, Mike discusses the meaning of success, money and time. He changes your attitude towards both personal and professional life. He teaches you how to “Be Loose”.


-Aga Artka






Aga is an Interior Design professional. Visit her website at 

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Before / After Drawings

"Before" drawing was done on the 1st day and "After" was done after 6 days. This can happen to you, so just show up, we will do the rest for you.

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