Gallery Improvisation

Reilly Dow | Art of the Scribe

Cover Image | Series of Seven Dialogues (No. 7) (digital image created during the online Series of Seven dialogues with Dialogos, July 2020)

Series of Seven Dialogues (No. 6) (digital image created during the online Series of Seven dialogues with Dialogos, June 2020)

Series of Seven Dialogues (No. 4) (digital image created during the online Series of Seven dialogues with Dialogos, May 2020)

In my work as a scribe, I get to spend a lot of time listening, sensing, and weaving visual stories using quick drawing. I try to be careful not to name, package, or fix anything – holding the door open to possibility. This blurs the line somewhat between what can be a highly strategic and purposeful visual method, and scribing as a more open-ended, generative social art[1].

My work has been influenced over the last few years by training in generative scribing with Kelvy Bird; studying systems thinking and complexity, particularly Warm Data and the work of Nora Bateson; practicing intuitive painting with teacher Julie Claire; working alongside poets and musicians at the intersection of artistic and leadership practice with Mary Stacey; and supporting dialogue as a “living system” organizational practice with Dialogos.

When scribing, I often wonder, whose voice might be missing? What is coming to the surface, and are we not seeing? What is possible at this time, for these people and their families and communities? What is at stake?

We are each part of any system or situation we want to shift, and I think keeping that sense of rootedness in the first person while also reaching outward is really important. As a scribe, I want to be careful not to objectify — language, and information in its many forms, pass through us physically in this work. Listening, perception and feeling take place as we make marks, write, and draw. The intention, for me, is not necessarily for people to grasp more things at a faster rate, aided by the display of those things in a visual format. Nor is it to “capture the content,” which sounds something like hunting or trapping ideas. Even the language of “harvesting,” as it is often used by facilitators and scribes, can have an extractive connotation.

My aim is to show up as an artist and human being, with care, and to be openly and rigorously subjective.

[1] Bird, K. (2018). Generative Scribing: A Social Art of the 21st Century. PI Press: Cambridge, MA.


What is essential now in leadership? (digital image created during the online Burren Burren Leadership Retreat Community Call, March 2020)

These days, I’m especially curious how our practice as listeners and social artists can feed into ways of being, doing, working, and communicating that enact both a refusal to stay silent about injustice, and a continual awareness of not placing ourselves at the center.

Until a recent dialogue session, I had never (knowingly) included my own words in a scribed image. On that occasion, I crossed a small threshold and engaged as participant-scribe. What are those moments when it is right to break a previously held boundary? Who am I to withhold, anyway?

For me, painting can be a practice of listening to the self, to the moment, and following threads of inquiry that may not live in language. If we are going to survive collectively and sustain life on this planet, I think we will need to be highly creative; continually learning and in dialogue with each other; and, deeply honest about what we know, and curious about what we don’t. As an artist, I’m trying to do the work of listening, not-knowing, and caring, moment to moment.

Illustrated Quote (digital image created during the online Burren Leadership Gatherings, August 2020)

More by Reilly Dow

Measurement (ink and acrylic on tracing paper, kraft paper, cardboard and masking tape, created during episode 7 of the Warm Data Podcast)


About Reilly Dow

Reilly is an artist and scribe based in Mexico City. She grew up on Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada, spending a lot of time in the woods and freshwater, before moving to Mexico at the age of 18.

Since 2008, she has supported groups and organizations on four continents, creating visual artifacts in the room or during virtual gatherings to add texture and colour, and to invite creativity, depth, and relationship – both with the here and now, and with the unknown. She is fascinated by the unplanned, improvisational and unfolding aspects of group dialogue and collective learning.

Reilly has been a member of the facilitation team for the Burren Leadership Retreat since 2016, and she is part of the global delivery network for Visual Practice Workshop, led by Kelvy Bird and Alfredo Carlo. She is a certified Warm Data Lab Host, a member of the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP), and holds a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies.

She lives in Colonia Roma with her boyfriend and their dog. You can find more of her work at, and on Twitter and Instagram.

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