Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Random Act of Kindness

Random Act of Kindness Coloring book donation Red Door Family Shelter Toronto

I've always like the concept of the random act of kindness, the kind that pushes you out of your comfort zone. A couple years ago I created mini artwork pieces and left them on the bulletin board for people to have.  Recently I decided to donate coloring books to a women shelter and then extended that offer to a local family shelter by creating a Go Fund Me Campaign. It was a little nerve racking because I'm not the kind of person who asks for help, let alone donations, but I figured it would enable me to give a little more. So I ran the campaign and was able to raise $210 to go towards more coloring books, a little handwritten note from me as well as colored pencils and sharpeners. I just sent the first packaged to the shelter in Toronto and will be sending the second one on its way to Ottawa shortly. I really hope this brings whoever receives them some joy and positive energy, but it's out of my hands now. I did my part and I'm glad I didn't listen to that voice that always tries to dissuade me from doing something different, even though it's a nice thing to do. How silly is that? 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

What I Use to Record my YouTube Videos


One of the first things on my list of to do's when I decided to embark on my YouTuber journey with the Toronto Real podcast was to figure out what kind of camera I needed. I was looking for something simple, that was easy to use, that could be operated by only one person and relatively inexpensive. I did a bit of research on YouTube to see what some of the prominent YouTubers were using, and although most of them were using cameras in the $1000 range, many of them made sure to say that gears didn't matter. The best camera is the one you have. Casey Neistat, a prominent filmmaker and YouTuber, recently did a really neat video called Casey Neistat's Guide to Filmmaking where he explains and shows the differences between various cameras ranging from about a hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars. You can see the different results from each, but they all do a good job, enabling the creators to tell a story, which is the most important thing and requires the most attention.

In my case I had (still have) an iPhone 5c. Studying the scenes on London Real TV, I noticed that they use at least 3 cameras (one of the host, one on the guest and one on both of them at the same time). So I figured I probably needed at least one more camera so that I could have one to capture the guest and one to capture both of us. I think it's a good idea to have at least two cameras, not only to be able to capture different angles, but also as a back up in case on of them fail during the interview. This is something that has helped me from the very first interview. When I was recording my conversation with Jade, the alarm on my phone when on and as a result it stop recording. But since there were two cameras recording at the same time, the other one kept going while I restarted the phone.

Using the phone for long movies is a little tricky. There's only so much space your phone can take. Being that I didn't have plans to record videos with my phone at the time I purchased it, I chose the one with  16GB of storage as opposed to 32GB. I quickly realized that I had to make sure I took out all my songs and images from the phone so that it can record for a long period of time. With about 10GB of space, I can record about 2 hours. When I have an interview coming up, I typically un-sync all my songs, audiobooks, apps that I don't use and photos to have the required amount of space to record my conversation. Another important tip is to turn on the Airplane Mode before recording so you don't get a phone call during the interview, which will automatically stop the recording if the phone does ring. I put the phone in selfie mode so it's easy to see what will be recorded and the phone is held by a GripTight Mount on top of an Action Clamp and GorillaPod Arm attached to the table. This was my set up for the first couple interviews. But I wanted it to be a little higher so I got a inexpensive mid-Size Tripod to hold the camera instead. I recently learned that the quality of the image on the selfie side is not as good as the one on the back of the phone, so I plan to start recording the other way the next time around and see if I can get a better image.

The camcorder is a little more complex to operate than the iPhone but offers more recording time, provided that you get a good memory card because the one that came with the one I bought didn't have a lot of storage so I bought a 32GB memory card to be able to record in HD. The camcorder is located on the conference table facing both of us on  the same tripod I got from a local store.

One thing I noticed about using different cameras is that the image is not the same. The colors don't look quite the same. I'm still playing around with the various settings on the camcorder and also while editing to correct it as much as possible, but I imagine having two similar cameras would eliminate that issue. Something to keep in mind.

Below are affiliate links to the equipments I use :

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge

Reading Challenge 2016 Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert Open Andre Agassi The Seven Secrets to Becoming a multi-millionaire Bill Straton the Body Book Cameron Diaz Andy Warhol Susan Goldman Rubin Leonardo DaVinci Isaac Newton Kathleen Krull

It's interesting to see how things change over the years. About four years ago, I got a glimpse of one of Bob Proctor's video online and heard him talk about the importance of reading to get to know ourselves better. When he said that, something clicked. I had never thought about reading books that would directly benefit me in my day to day life before. How crazy is that!? I always thought books were for fun or to pass my engineering exams. And since I wasn't interested in fiction books, I  was done with books after graduating from university. I just didn't read much except for what was required from my job at the time and occasional magazines. Fast forward a couple years later, after getting this new insight from Proctor, a new reason to start reading, I'm planning to read a new book every week in 2016. I went from about 6 books in 2013, to 12 books in 2014 and 24 books in 2015 and now I'm planning to read 52 books this year, something I never would have even considered just a couple years ago. 

Why so many books? First because there's so much to learn from so many amazing people who've gone through various experiences and took the time to pass on their information to anyone interested. Second, because the more I hear various concepts I'm not familiar with, the better I understand them. I get to view them from various perspectives which gives me a wider perspective on everything.  

When it comes to deciding on what books to read, I have a list composed from recommendations and suggestions based on what I read and people I follow, but I'm also open to whatever falls into my lap when I look for books. Sometimes, random books catch my attention at the right time and that's something I'm very open to. Having access to audiobooks from the Toronto Public Library is also a major factor in my ability to go through so many books. It's great to see that libraries are evolving with our times. You can still get physical copies of book in various locations (which is great), but you can also borrow ebooks and audiobooks from the comfort of your home and even directly from your phone. If there's something you'd like to fix, change or better understand in your life, chances are there's a book for that. I encourage you to start reading books that will benefit you in your day to day life. It's definitely one of the best habit I picked up a couple years ago.

So far this year, I've read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Open by Andre Agassi, The Body book by Cameron Diaz, Andy Warhol Pop Art Painter by Susan Goldman Rubin, The Seven Secrets to Becoming a multi-millionaire by Bill Straton, Leonardo DaVinci and Isaac Newton both by Kathleen Krull. I might write a couple reviews in the future. But Big Magic had some great concept about ideas and creativity, Agassi gave me a glimpse of what it takes to be number 1 in the world, Cameron Diaz had some neat little tricks that I started to integrate in my days sparked my curiosity about health and fitness. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Urban Sketching Disappearing Landmarks in Toronto

Urban Sketching Disappearing Landmarks in Toronto Book on Amazon Urban Sketchers

Toronto is said to be one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. Consequently, you’ll see a lot of construction year round in the city. Old small buildings are being replaced by new tall buildings in every corners of the city. I’ve only been living in Toronto for a little over two years, and already many areas don’t look the same as they did only two years ago. This growth often comes at the expense of the architectural history of the city often to the sadness of long time residents who have a history with some of these buildings. This gave  the Toronto Urban Sketchers the idea of creating a book capturing some of the landmarks of the city before they disappear, as a way to commemorate them in a creative way. So over the past couple months, we gathered around places like Honest Ed’s, the Cookbook Store, Captain John’s Restaurant Boat and more, to capture their portrait while we still had time.

21 sketchers collaborated in putting together our first book : Urban Sketching Disappearing Landmarks in Toronto. We self published the book. Towards the end of 2015, I got invited by CBC Radio to talk about the book. The interview inspired me to create a little video montage of our journey thus far.  It’s a great little memento that you can see below. 

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, it is currently available on Amazon. I’m looking into the possibility of having the book available in local bookstores and libraries. It’s a first for me so we’ll see how that goes. But it was a great experience for myself and for the group and we’ll probably try to create another one this year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Becoming a YouTuber

As some of you already know, I recently started a YouTube channel called Toronto Real. It was not in my plans. It was one of these surprise opportunities that essentially fell on my lap and I decided to just go for it. So now I'm also a YouTuber, albeit a very novice YouTuber at the moment. Here's the story behind how it all started. 

Over the past couple years, I've replaced watching television with listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos. I think the seed of the idea of me starting my own podcast was planted when a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience, named Brian Rose and his then co-host Nic Gabriel, talked about the London Real podcast. They seemed like nice guys. Brian said something about how everyone should start their own version of London Real in their city and I thought it was a neat idea but that was about it. Fast forward a couple months later, I was redirected to the London Real podcast and started to pay more attention, especially when Dan Peña came along and invited Brian to his QLA Seminar in Scotland. Shortly after that, the London Real Academy was launched, and then I heard the call : "Build the best you". As soon as I got an invite to join, I signed up. 

This reminds me of a lesson I learned watching Alex Ikonn’s YouTube channel where he was explaining that people don’t buy things because of the things themselves but because of what they believe the thing will do for them. He compared it to the video game Super Mario where Mario collects magic mushrooms to become more efficient in his quest. A good business is a magic mushroom maker in a world of Super Marios looking for ways to improved themselves in their personal journey. It made sense to me. And now, thinking back about why I decided to click “buy” and join the Academy is because Brian was essentially offering one of the "magic mushrooms" I was looking for : Build the best you. Keep in mind however that it is not a quick fix. There’s work to do. A lot of work. Once Mario gets stronger after eating the mushroom, he still has to run around to various places, step on turtles, climb lathers, avoid and fight monsters to get to the princess. In my case, I still have to work but I have a better map and I get to pick up extra tools along the way.

Joining the Academy let me to meet people literally from all over the world with a similar mindset, similar goals of building their best selves and a lot are also keen to pitch in and help wherever they can. Then this idea of podcast started to marinate in my mind. First, I just thought it would be great to have one in Toronto. I put it out there to see if anyone would bite. No one did. And then Olive, from New York Real suggested I do it. "Me!!? Well... I’m not... I don’t think... I...[insert excuse here]" Why not? Perhaps it would be a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone, talk to interesting people about interesting topic and share the conversations with my viewers. 

It sounded a little crazy, totally off track, but I asked myself : "Will I regret it if I don’t try? If someone else does it instead?" The more I thought about it, the more it seems like the benefits outweighed the obstacles and fear. So within a couple days, my mind was made : "I'm going to start Toronto Real!" I signed up on Twitter and on YouTube and started planning. 

Fast forward 6 months laters, I have 6 interviews online. And more coming. It's great to see the progress in only 6 episodes and it will be even more fun when I get to 50, then 100 episodes. In this short period of time, I've learned so much already not only from creating the channel but also meeting and talking to great people. And it's great to see so many new Reals emerging from all over the world on various topics. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. In the mean time, I'll be sharing my journey whenever I can.

Toronto Real Podcast Guests Jade Jager Clark, Oliver Manalese, Jon Waterlow, Ron Tsang, Peter Assentoft, Erik Mut

If you have an opportunity in your life at the moment that has the potential of making you grow and become a better version of yourself. Do it. What do you have to lose, really? If it doesn't work, you'll become wiser and will avoid wondering "what if" for the rest of your life. If it works, you get to be more. I would say that's a win-win,  don't you think?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Urban Sketching at the Museum of Inuit Art

Toronto Urban Sketchers at the Museum of Inuit Art

It's always a bit of a challenge to find a new and interesting place to host an urban sketching event in the winter, specially as the group keeps growing. I tend to spend hours online searching for new places and planning the day around it. Fortunately I came across the Museum of Inuit Art and despite its relatively small size, it looked like there were quite a few interesting sculptures for everyone to sketch, so it was chosen as the first sketching destination for 2016.

I've always been curious to find out more about the culture and history of natives, as I find it's not a topic that is readily available to non-natives, so the fact that this museum exists definitely got my attention. What an awesome place! I love the modern minimalist design of the space which is a great backdrop for the intricate artwork in the museum. It is meant to evoke the ice flows, snow drifts and wind swept tundra of the Canadian Arctic, so that Inuit art can be appreciated with some sense of the environment in which it was created. 

As the organizer, I often only have time for one good sketch, so after greeting the participants and taking pictures and videos of the space, I chose to sketch a piece from master sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben called Beowolf, made out of Brazilian soapstone. It just captured my attention right at the entrance of the museum. The receptionist was amazed that I could stand there for an hour or so, just fixated on the sculpture. 

Toronto Urban Sketchers at the Museum of Inuit Art Marie-Judith Jean-Louis

There's something interesting that happens when you start sketching something like this, at least for me. I get in some sort of trance where only me, my thoughts and the object I'm sketching exists and I start discovering all kinds of things I wouldn't have if it wasn't for essentially interacting with that subject. In the case of Beowolf, I was intrigued  by all its intricate parts and how the openings create intense contrasts. And then I noticed all the little creatures embedded in the sculpture like a mix between a rabbit and a chameleon on top of his head, a pig nestled on his side, a dolphin and a bird closer to the front, and other animals I probably missed on the other side.

Toronto Urban Sketchers at the Museum of Inuit Art Marie-Judith Jean-Louis
I worked a little more on the contrasts and the details of my sketch, carefully noting where the darkest area were so that I could complete it later on at home, as I knew I wouldn't have enough time that day to finish it. Later on, I went over my drawing with a water soluble Inktense pencil . Using a water brush, I then increased the contrast of the sketch and added a green and blue wash over it.

We had a great turnout. A little over 20 sketchers took part in this event and many, including myself, plan to go back again in the near future. I also was made aware of two other places where we can see more native art in the city : the TD Gallery of Inuit Art and the Bay of Spirit Gallery. 

Toronto Urban Sketchers at the Museum of Inuit Art

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chapter 2016


It's been a while since I posted on this blog. Time to get back at it! I think I've been neglecting it because, for some reason, I was trying to fit into this mould of talking about only one topic. But I was doing so many different things in 2015 that my "solution" was to essentially censure myself. As a result, I didn't post much. Silly isn't it? 

Meanwhile last year I did quite a few cool things including organizing the first field trip for the Toronto Urban Sketchers and our first art show at Areej Gallery, publishing our first collective book, publishing my first coloring book, making coloring videos, joining the London Real Academy, starting my own podcast on YouTube, achieving my reading challenge for 2015, attending various workshops, taking tons of pictures of my dog Newton, and much more.

This year, I'm going to do it my way and post about all of it, mixing all kinds of topics of interest, a bit like Leonardo DaVinci's sketchbooks. Actually, reading the book Work Like DaVinci convinced me that it's a good thing mix different subjects, so I'm re-designing my blog for that, starting with a new About page. 

I hope you stick around and get something good out of this as well.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Peek Inside My Sketchbook 02

I finally took some time to record another sketchbook of mine. (I'm also getting better with the video editing portion) The sketches on this one were made between October 2013 and May 2014. I was using the previous sketchbook at the same time. This one was mostly used during our urban sketching sessions, at the beginning, then I started adding life drawing sketches, watercolor practices, and sketchnotes from various meetings. At the end I did a couple realistic portraits of local celebrities. They took around 1-2 hours. I stopped after the Keanu Reeves portrait. Perhaps I was afraid the next one wouldn't be a good. There are a couple pages left, not sure if I'll add more portraits or just leave it as is, well see. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Every Adult is an Artist, the Problem is Many Simply Forgot

Pablo Picasso is known for the quote “Every Child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” I’d like to change it to : Every adult is an artist, the problem is many simply forgot
Too many adults, as well as teenagers, often don’t give themselves permission to be the artist they truly are. They tend to disconnect from that part of themselves to the point of believing that they are not creative and that they are not artists. But they are. You are. Everyone is. Everyone is an artist, we just don’t all use paintbrushes to create art, and it doesn’t need to be on a canvas to be called art : 
  • Chefs use food to create beautiful and delicious dishes. 
  • Carpenters use wood to create beautiful furnitures and accessories. 
  • Writers use words to create all kinds of scenes in the mind of readers. 
  • Programmers use codes to create beautiful functional pieces of software. 
  • Farmers use their hands to create the most delicious organic food. 
  • Organizers use their skills to create a serene environment for their clients. 
  • Engineers use their skills to create beautiful and functional machines that others use everyday. 
  • And the list goes on... 
The types of “canvas” available for you to create your own art are endless. All  you need to do is allow yourself to play like you did as a child, be curious, explore and experiment in your fields of interest, create what comes to mind and see what happens. This is pretty much what I’ve been doing over the past couple years. After too many years ignoring the “child artist” in me, I started exploring my creative side. At first I started doodling a little more, then drawing and sketching, then the sketching gave way to painting and using softwares to create art and put books together. And not long after that I created a coloring book. And as I was completing my “first” book, I realized that it was in fact my second. As you can see in the picture above, a long time ago, I created my real first coloring book for kids over the holidays. What a weird coincidence! I had totally forgotten about it until recently, going over some old books, I found an original copy of my very first coloring book. I think this is what happens when you allow your inner child artist to come out and play. You get to reconnect with that inner creative child and are able to make the art you’re meant to create. 
Unlock the door and allow the artist in you to express himself or herself. It will not only make you happier but it will also give you the opportunity to create things in a way that no one else can. Who knows where this could lead. What’s your art? Do you remember? Are you still connected to it? What would you create if you gave yourself permission to express yourself creatively and manifest the artist hiding inside of you? 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Don’t Dig up in Doubt What You Planted in Faith

I can’t begin to count the number of times I thought of a great idea for a new product or a new way to solve a problem and then quickly shrug it off. Then, a couple years (and sometimes only a few months later) I discover that someone else who had that same idea and actually did something about it, turned it into reality. Has that ever happened to you? If so, you’re not alone. It is said that most people kill their dreams before they are even born. I’m definitely one of them. However, thanks to some inspiration from many people, I decided to pursue this idea of creating a coloring book. I had no valid excuses not to try. What’s the worst that could happen? I would be the only one who likes the book and I would gain experience from self publishing my first book. That’s not so bad. And what’s the best thing that could happen? On top of that, others would also be able to enjoy the benefits from coloring in a new book made by me. So I went on and produced it. I took a couple steps toward my goal and then, almost at the finish line, doubt started to creep in: Should I really do this? Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, calls it the Resistance. In fact, he said that it’s at the finish line that Resistance is the strongest. I can attest to that. I felt it. Fortunately I found a way to overcome it. 
Our ideas are in such a fragile state at the beginning of their implementation that it’s best not to talk about them too much until they are strong enough to withstand criticism : criticism from ourselves and from others who cannot possibly see our vision. When you do something for the first time, it’s easy to find all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Coincidentally, I came across this quote at the right time from Elisabeth Elliot which said “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith”. It really resonated to me and reminded me that we have to give our ideas a chance to grow. 
Our ideas are like seeds. These seeds can turn into plants that represent our vision, what we imagine will come out of those ideas. Once we’ve planted a seed, all we have to do is make sure we give it the right amount of water, sunlight and time to grow into the plant we envisioned. And just like a plant, our idea takes work, care and time. When we let doubt dictate our actions, we essentially start digging the seed out of the ground before it has a chance to grow. So I kept at it, and finished the book as planned. There’s still a lot of work for me to do, but I’m happy to say that the book is not only available on Amazon, but it’s already in the hands of people in Canada, the US and the UK!

What are some of the ideas you have that keep reoccurring in your life and that you keep killing before they get a chance to take root? How would your life change if you carved out 15-30 minutes a day until the end of the year to give that idea a chance to grow? Why don’t you give it a try?