Our History

Sketch Academy was founded by Emily Mills, professional illustrator and author of “The Art of Visual Notetaking.” Emily works as a professional sketchnoter and graphic recorder for clients all over the US, including Delta, Subway, Passion Church, and Barkbox. After teaching in-person workshops, demand grew for an wider audience and workshops were moved online.

In 2023, Emily changed the name from “Sketchnote Academy” to “Sketch Academy” after noticing a growing trend of students who were interested in awakening their imagination, but didn’t necessarily want to become sketchnoters but maintained interests in other creative fields like watercolor, bullet journaling, and urban sketching. Sketch Academy now serves as a place to find your creativity and learn new skills to visually express yourself.

  • 2016: Domain purchased
  • 2017: First in-person workshop taught
  • 2018: First online course launched
  • 2019: First free course launched
  • 2020: Multiple courses and live online workshops launched
  • 2023: Name changed to “Sketch Academy”

Emily Mills

Founder of Sketch Academy

Follow Sketch Academy:

Emily Mills: My Story 

Hi! I’m Emily Mills, and I created Sketch Academy. In 2015 I began working as a contract illustrator to do sketchnotes and graphic recording for clients all over the country. I was excited about the job and the chance to be a professional visual notetaker, but I hadn’t been sketchnoting for very long- just a few months! I was really embarrassed about the quality of my sketchnotes… all I saw were bad drawings and illegible writing!

I needed a way to get better at sketchnotes FAST because I was scared of showing up to a job and the client being unhappy with the quality. I had taken workshops and got some basic training, thinking I had all the tools I needed to improve fast… but I was wrong. I quickly discovered that there is no shortcut to improve your sketchnotes. To get better at sketchnoting, you have to practice regularly!

I began sketchnoting multiple times per week. One month I even challenged myself to do a sketchnote every day. When I put in the work to practice regularly, I saw dramatic results. Maybe not from page to page, but the beginning of my sketchbook looked a lot different than the end… I was getting better!

My very first sketchnote
from March 2015!

Sharing My Work

I posted every sketchnote on Instagram, even if I wasn’t proud of them. Even today, you can scroll back and see my first sketchnotes and how far I’ve come. Sharing my work had 3 main benefits:

✅  I had an easy way to see my work all at once. I could scroll back on Instagram and notice my progress in skills.

✅  Clients started to find me online! Sharing my process led to paid project inquiries. My publisher also found my work on Instagram and my book, The Art of Visual Notetaking was published!

✅  I started getting plugged into the sketchnoting community. I loved commenting on others’ work and asking questions about how they did certain things. I was asked to be a guest on podcasts, I joined groups, and I began writing articles to help others with their own sketchnoting.

My first workshop in Chattanooga, TN January 2017

Teaching a workshop for high school students in Louieville, KY

Teaching Begins

Eventually, my articles turned into full-blown lessons. I realized I could never teach sketchnoting completely in articles online, so I began to teach workshops. In 2017, I taught 7 sketchnoting and illustration workshops in Tennessee, Georgia, and Kentucky, working to create a curriculum that was easy to follow and produced real results. But there was one problem…

With every in-person workshop I announced, I got more messages from people in other states and countries who were really disappointed they couldn’t come. I hated that people were missing out on learning about sketchnotes just because of their location, so I moved my courses online.

Online Courses Launch

The first official online course launched in October 2018. Online courses focused on specific aspects of sketchnoting, like drawing or developing your Visual Library. Eventually, a comprehensive course on Visual Notetaking was added. During the pandemic, I taught live workshops each month that were really popular.

Teaching sketchnoting to Metro Nashville Public Schools art teachers




Name Change!

I decided to change the name to Sketch Academy and expand from sketchnoting to other creative expressions. I also wanted to expand the offerings and include other artist instructors so I wouldn’t be doing everything alone where there are so many talented teachers out there!

Sketch Academy is the place to reconnect to creativity, awaken imagination, and learn new creative skills.