TGIM Sketchnotes 2013 : Mission Accomplished

Towards the end of 2012, I discovered ET's videos about the guru. And like most people who discovered ET, I was hooked. I found his channel and saw a whole list of TGIMs videos and started listening to them and taking notes. Trying to catch up from the very beginning. It was great because I was seeing his evolution as I was watching the videos and the various stages of success. I couldn't help but being inspired. And then I saw the Egypt video. "Woot!" I thought,  "I need to take this a little more seriously".  So I made a commitment to myself at the end of  2012 to not only watch all the new TGIMs for 2013 but to also take notes so that I absorb the information better and apply what ET suggests. 

Since I'm more of a visual person, my notes looked more like sketchnotes. I thought if I cleaned them up a bit I could post them online and share my thoughts at the same time. So I did. To my surprised ET saw it and retweeted it. The following week, another sketchnote posted online, another retweet by ET and people telling me that they really like my sketchnotes and are looking forward to the next one. Not only had I made a commitment, but now I had unknowingly found virtual accountability partners. So I happily obliged. I started using a new drawing program and the sketches got better. ET's portrait evolution below can attest to that. 

A lot has improved for me since I started this project earlier this year. I put myself in "miracle territory" and move to Toronto, read more books, met a bunch of great artists in the city, started the Toronto chapters of Urban Sketchers, participated to the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Barcelona, adopted my first puppy, and got a couple illustration contracts. It's great to see what you can do when you put your mind into it. There's still much more for me to do. I have tons of project ideas in mind as I'm narrowing toward what I'm supposed to do and how I can contribute. This year has been a great one and I'm looking forward to make 2014 even better. 

52 Portraits Project Review

I found out about the 52 Portrait Project almost at the same time we welcomed our first dog home. Naturally, I thought Newton would be the perfect subject to capture during the year. I've wanted to a dog for the longest time but the time never seemed right for whatever reason. During the past two years, I was determined to get one and event started volunteering at a the local humane society to get used to the idea, while doing something good in the community. Finally the day came when we got an opportunity to adopt an italian greyhound. I wasn't familiar with this breed at the time, but it seem to fit our lifestyle so we jumped at the occasion and were matched with this smart little puppy.

It's crazy to see how much he's grown. I can't believe he's already going to be 1 year old next month. He's got such an amazing personality and been such a great addition in our lives, opening new doors and giving us new perspectives on life. I knew it was going to be great bring a dog in our lives, but never imagined how much he would add to it. 


Newton being taunted by one of the new toys he got over the holidays. He really likes it.


Apparently elves used to be depicted on Christmas cards with the Amanita mushroom as a sign of good luck for the new year. They just so happen to also be Santa's little helpers in Christmas folklore.  I didn't find any particular information as to the possible connection with the Shaman legend, but they remind me of the garden gnomes who are also often depicted with the mushroom. 

Wayne and Blunt now on Cafe Press

Here's another one of my designs available at Cafe Press. I drew this a little while ago and thought it would look neat on certain items. For the full range of product, click here. 

The Legend of Santa Claus

There are many legends when it comes to the possible origin of Santa Claus. One of them states that he is the representation of the nordic shaman who used to bring the magic mushrooms to the villagers. The main entrance of the villagers' yurt would most likely be snowed in during this time of the year, so the shaman would come to their home through the fire opening on the roof, their chimney, to bring them their gifts. Even the concept of naughty or nice has it's place in this legend. A "nice" villager would have a good trip while a "naughty" villager would have a bad trip, so the Shaman would "know" if they been naughty or nice. 

Mysterious in Pink now available at Cafe Press

I recently uploaded one of my latest watercolors on Cafe Press' site and it turned out pretty good. Shown above are the notebook, the iPhone wallet case, the large luggage tag, the oval keychain, and the dog tags. There are a couple more other items available on the site, but these are my favourites from the bunch. 

The Legend of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer

According to the Christmas folklore, Santa had a very special reindeer. Rudolf was his name and he was different from the other reindeers because he had a red nose. That nose allowed him to illuminate the night and guide Santa and the other reindeers during their trip around the world. 

But why a red light? Wouldn't it be easier to see through the night with a bright white light instead? Unless perhaps, the red nose would be a symbol for the Fly Agaric mushroom. It just so happens that reindeers love to eat these mushrooms and are really good at finding them, sniffing the snow covered ground. Rudolf, the reindeer with the red nose would then be one who finds the mushroom. He would guide Santa (aka the Shaman) as well as the other reindeers on their mushroom trip, flying in the sky. 

Cell Phone Focus

One of the way to ease your way into getting comfortable sketching people in the subway is to look for people on their cell. They typically barely move so you get a chance to draw more detail. This lady had a really neat look and stayed in the exact same position for several minute, looking at her phone. I had enough time to draw quite a bit of details and write down the colors so I can paint it later that day. 


My attempt to get Newton into the holiday spirit... Fail. lol.

The Legend of the Christmas Stockings

Here's another interesting bit about the potential reason behind hanging stockings on a mantle during the holidays. Apparently, villagers would buy mushrooms from the Shaman (the bringer of gifts) and further dry them in their hut near the fire (their fireplace). They would put them in their socks in order to dry them. I imagine, native socks from Siberia would look like Christmas stockings.

The Legend of the Christmas Tree

One of the major symbols of Christmas is the Christmas tree, decorated with all kinds of pretty things and towering over gifts. Legend has it that this annual ritual has its origin from the natives traditions of Northern Europe (where Santa comes from). The gift under the tree are said to represent the Fly Agaric mushrooms that are typically found only under these kinds of trees. So I guess that would be a reason why they are so special during this time of the year. The shaman, or medicine man, of the tribe would find these natural gifts under the tree and hang them on the trees (like ornaments) to start drying them under the sun, while he would look for more. This is why, some say, that the traditional colors of Christmas are red, white and green and why, not that long ago, these trees were decorated with edible ornaments like apples. It's fascinating to see how seemingly different beliefs have more in common than most realize. 

The Smurfs' Mushroom Houses

Interestingly enough, it seems there's often a link between magic, gnomes and the amanita mushroom. The Smurfs comic is another great example of the presence of the amanita muscaria in popular culture. In this storyline, the little blue gnomes-like creature live inside the mushrooms somewhere deep in the forest.  Gargamel, a wizard, is always trying to catch them. 

Holiday Art Battle

I attended the Holiday Art Battle and did a little urban sketching while on site. The event took place at the Steam Whistle Roundhouse, which is a beautiful space. The canvas were bigger than the ones in the previous Art Battle event I attended a couple weeks before, so we only got to vote once. Once again, it was great to see live painting and how each artist had their own painting strategies to tackle such a bit canvas in 45 minutes. Some started by tracing an outline, some started with shading and others went straight for the background first. After the painting session, the artwork were auctioned off to the public. The winning art piece sold for $1100. 

Serious Reading and Chinese Numbers

On the subway the other day I started sketching this man who was seriously reading the newspaper right in front of me. As I was drawing, a Chinese girl sitting beside me, complemented me on the drawing and we started talking about what we do, and languages we speak. I told her that I used to know how to write all the numbers from 1 to 10 in Chinese, but I forgot most of it. I went on to draw numbers 1 to 5 and wasn't too sure after that. She showed me the rest of the number sequence and then she showed me how she could draw an old man based on various Chinese characters. How cool is that! You never know what you can learn from people around you in the subway :) 

Snow White's Poisonous Apple

In the original Snow White story by The Brothers Grimm, the poisonous apple was red and white. The witch ate the white part and the Snow White ate the red part, that made her unconscious. There has been some associations between the Amanita muscaria mushroom and the apple in stories like that of Adam and Eve. Perhaps, this could be another example, specially considering the presence of the 7 dwarfs in the story, reminiscent of gnomes often depicted around this mushroom. 

Toronto Holiday Comicon

I found out through a fellow sketcher that there was going to be a Toronto mini Comicon for the holidays, so a couple of us went out on Sunday to check it out. I figured it would be a great opportunity to sketch fun costumes, and it was. There was all kinds of costumes from the very simple to the intricate. I saw many known characters like Sailor Moon, Batman (he was uber tall), Dr Zoidberg, Picard, Poison Ivy and a couple unique and personalized characters like pink spiderman and a creepy realistic zombie in a wheel chair. It was fun to see various characters walking around the convention centre, checking out the items for sale and taking pictures. It's impressive to see their level of creativity especially considering those made by hand. 

I  was able to draw a few of the people sitting around or standing long enough for me to capture them. There was so much more to draw! I saw a lot of creative and talented people in this conferences. It's definitely a feast for the eyes and something that I will do again, perhaps for the annual ComiCon in March.  


Newton : the computer whiz :)

Super Mario Magic Mushrooms

It looks like the amanita muscaria mushrooms made their appearance in the game when the world of New York sewers, from the original Mario Bros's game (1983), was replaced by the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros (1985). In the updated version, the plumber who's role was to defeat various strange creatures lurking in the pipes, changed to saving Princess Toadstool. A toadstool is a mushroom who's classic appearance is that of the amanita muscaria. So I guess the new goal is to save Princess Mushroom in the Mushroom Kingdom. Along the way to saving the princess, Mario comes in contact with various creatures including various types of mushrooms. The ones that look the most like the amanita muscaria are magic mushrooms that give Mario superpowers and allow him to grow and shrink whenever he comes in contact with them... a little like Alice in Wonderland.  

Sketching at the Hart House

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to sketch at the Hart House with a couple fellow sketchers. It was my first time in this building, which is part of the U of T campus, and I was amazed by the architecture. The Hart House was built in 1919. It was designed by architect, and master of the Gothic form, Henry Sproatt. The building is said to be of Collegiate Gothic style. Upon entering the building I could see right away that special care had been taken in designing this building because everywhere I looked, the scene was picture perfect. There is so much to draw, it was hard to settle on one place. I decided to draw a cute little sitting area and spent about two hour sketching the details of the piece above. As I was drawing, I was reminded of some of the lessons I learn during the last symposium about framing. I think it turned out well. 

Coincidently, there was a quartet called Ensemble Made in Canada performing the same day. Some of us decided to attend the concert and sketch the performers. It was a very interesting experience for me to draw while listening to music being performed live, like some sort of art inception. Definitely something I would do again. 

subway perspective

The subway stations are great locations for perspective drawings, so I attempted one the other day. It's interesting to see how the stations look like compared to the ones I was used to back in Montreal. Here in Toronto, some of the platforms like at the Union Station, are very narrow and there's not a lot of space to move around. Other stations are also really cold as they are not all fully enclosed or are essentially open to the outdoors. One the other hand there are a lot of stations, which is very convenient, and there are a lot of new ones under construction, which will be even more convenient. It will be interesting to see how the new stations are designed compared to the old ones. 

Alice in Mushroom Wonderland

Alice in Mushroom Wonderland Illustration
I thought it would be fun to explore the use of mushrooms in popular culture as a continuation of the discoveries I made so far based on John Allegro's book. One of the most obvious is the story of Alice in Wonderland when she meets the caterpillar smoking a hookah on top of a mushroom. He tells her that one side of the mushroom will make her grow while the other one will make her shrink as an effect from ingesting it.  

TOUSK Meetup #6 : Balzac Coffee

The plan for our 6th meetup was to go sketch the Christmas Market at the Distillery District, but we were so cozy and comfortable at our meeting point, Balzac Coffee Shop ,  that we decided to stay and sketch there the entire time. Despite the place being packed due to the holiday attractions all ten of us managed to find a nice spot on the second floor. It gave us a great opportunity to get a birds eye view of the space.

This coffee shop has a lot of character and interesting vignettes to sketch. I managed to capture various groups of people enjoying a hot drink after waiting in line forever. I felt bad for the staff, they were going non stop.  The coffee machine just couldn't keep up with the volume order fast enough. While I was waiting for my drink, I took the opportunity to sketch the sweets on the counter and a portion of the only coffee machine. The staff was moving too fast for me to capture them.

It was great to see all the sketches from the other artists. It always amazes me to see the variety of subjects that can come out of a single location.   


Newton's impersonation of a monk. He likes to do this from time to time.

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated (Part 6)

During easter, there's a tradition for kids to go find decorated eggs hidden mostly outdoors. Some believe that this activity originated from the search of the amanita muscaria mushroom. If that's the case, it would explain the reason for decorating the egg in the first place. 

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated (Part 5)

The next stage of the mushroom cycle is compared to the mythological Phoenix, a bird known to die by fire and to be reborn from its ash cyclically on its own. Some say the mushroom at this stage resembles the open wings of the bird and just like the bird, dies and is reborn again on its own. Interestingly, the phoenix was adopted as a symbol early in Christianity and its ability to die and be reborn again can be compared to resurrection. 


I'm a little late for this one, but here's last week's photo of Newton, up close, all comfy on the bed :)

TOUSK Meetup #5 : Union Station and Subway

On our 5th meetup, we first went to the Union train station. It's a beautiful space with lots of great architectural details. I could spend hours sketching in this space. We had planned to go to the Skywalk as well but it didn't work out that day. There was way too many people for our group to comfortably find a spot to sketch, so we went back to the union station for a little more sketching before heading towards the subway station to meet the Toronto Subway Sketch Group. It was really fun and we had a great turnout. It was funny to see the reaction of some people entering our cabin and seeing a couple of us with our sketchbooks sketching people.  I managed to do a couple sketches, but I always wish I had done more :) 

We're lucky to have Mei, who's also a photographer, in our group. She took quite a few awesome photos  of us during the event. Check out her facebook page ( to see more from our latest meetup as well as several other sketching events and her own sketches. 

Our next meetup will take place at the Toronto Christmas Market on December 7. Then, the next day we'll join Sketching Around the City to sketch at the University of Toronto Campus downtown.

TGIM sketchnote 29

This week's TGIM is based on football but can easily be used in any aspects of life. The one line that stuck in my head is all about giving up old habits to get to the next level. What am I doing right now that I need to stop doing? I think it's a question that needs to be answered on a regular basis. In my case, the first thing I did was to cut cable TV and spend more time being creative by drawing more. I have to say, this one decision has brought a lot of positive changes for me this year. So as far as I'm concerned, what ET says works. Now what's my next move? I really need to think about this one. There's still a lot of hidden potential that needs to come out and play :) 

jar challenge update 9

One month left to fill the second jar. It's not impossible but it's daunting. Best way to find out is to keep drawing :)

Alternative holiday supplies

Last year I was inspired to draw my own version of a Santa Claus and his reindeer after finding out what some believe the be real origins of Christmas. One of my friend who saw my drawing thought it would be a great for a Christmas card. Can you believe I hadn't even though of that at the time? Good thing there's always another Christmas. So now the art is available as cards and a couple neat little items that are sure to spark interesting conversations over the holidays! So go and get some and be sure to order them on Cyber Monday : Shipping is free worldwide. 

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated (Part 4)

There's a stage in the cycle of growth of the mushroom where it takes the shape of a cup and this has been referred to as the Holy Grail stage. The quest for the Grail itself is apparently the quest for the knowledge of the mushroom. When dew forms on the mushroom or rain collects into this newly formed cup, the water turns red (like blood) and possesses some psychedelic characteristics of the fungi. Historically, the mushroom has been the container for the juice of the ‘elixir of immortality’, or the ‘blood of God’, in many myths. This cup was thought to possess magical powers. 

Coincidently, this cup is also used during the Eucharist as it was used during the last supper and is being reenacted in every ceremony: The flesh is the meat of the mushroom, represented by bread, and the blood is the water that magically turns into wine, when poured in the proper cup, represented by red wine. Coincidence? 

subway nap

Last week, on my way to meet other urban sketchers to sketch at the Art Gallery there was an issue with the subway. It took me an hour instead of 20 minutes to get to my destination. Good thing I was planning to get there in advance, so I wasn't too late. Nevertheless,  I used this opportunity to really take my time sketching this man who got a little shut eyes while waiting for the subway to bring him to his destination. He barely moved, which was great for me.  

TGIM sketchnote 28

This week's TGIM is the continuation of last week's video. The bit about the high school basketball team really got me thinking that I need to step up my game. It makes a lot of sense : If you want to get to the next level, you have to prepare for it and practice at the level you want to be in. This means I have a lot of planning to do for next year on top of making sure I work on a high level this year! Let's see what comes out of it later on. For now, it's all about working on my skills and improving them each day. Enjoy. 


Newton's got a new favorite spot under the chair. He likes to pull down the throw on the floor from the chair to make it more comfortable for himself. Never a dull moment with this little one :)

TOUSK Meetup #4 : Art Gallery of Ontario

A couple of us met at the AGO for a little bit of urban sketching last night. We hung out in the basement where a lot of boat models are displayed. The level of details of these boats is really impressive. I found a nice comfortable spot in front of a large display case of British boat models from the early 1900s. The room was a little dark but it worked out alright. Time flew by, it's the only drawing I managed to complete but I would love to come back to visit the place and sketch other areas. What's interesting about this museum is that there are a lot of comfortable seats scattered around, and even portable stools, which makes it very convenient for urban sketchers :)

TGIM sketchnote 27

The TGIM videos are back. This week's episode is all about getting out of your comfort zone and not settling for less by being average. But what is average? Is it the same for everyone? I doubt it since everyones different and are at different stages in their lives. As for me, when it comes to art I think I'm slightly above average. I do feel like the bar keeps being raised as I accomplished various things, and there's always something more that can be done. But I guess it's all good, as long as I keep improving and don't stay stuck at the same level.

The two tips for this episode is to 1) Shut up and 2) Be consistent in your work. I'd like to think that I spend more time doing than talking. At least I know I have been consistent on a couple things like the sketchnotes for the TGIM episodes and sketching in general. I've created a lot more this year compare to the previous year. As ET said, you reap what you sow and it takes a little longer to get to the tree as opposed to the bush. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the work I put in this year. Will it be a bush or a tree? 

35th Annual National Business for the Arts Partnerships Awards

I had the opportunity to attend the Annual National Business for the Arts Partnership Awards. Each year, Business for the Arts (BFA) organizes this event to recognize, celebrate and thank the business and art leaders for their support of the arts across Canada. It's a very inspiring organization who is "dedicated to the proposition that any nation lives by its creative minds, and that such creativity has to be carefully nurtured.” 

The event this year consisted of the gala and a 1920s-themed after party. It took place at The Carlu, also known as Eaton's Seventh Floor and the best example of Art Moderne style in Toronto. It was designed by famed French architect and designer Jacques Carlu. The interior is stunning.

Upon arrival,  there was a photographer taking pictures of guests on a red carpet. It was great to see the various outfits of attendants. It was a black tie event, so most men were wearing black suits, while most women were wearing very creative attire inspired by the 1920s flapper girl era. 
I started to sketch right away during the cocktail hour. A pianist playing in the background created a great ambience for everyone.  There was so much I wanted to capture and managed to make three sketches during that time. It really was a feast for the eyes. I didn't really see time go by. 
After a little while, guests were then invited to the dining area for the gala for the presentation of the awards and some entertainment. The gala was hosted by Canadian Juno Award-winning Molly Johnson who also sang. I also had a great time meeting and chatting with some of the guests at my table. The food was good. We had a nice 3 course meal.  I was also able to do a quick sketch during dinner, between courses. There was a lot of glasses on the tables :) 
During the event, we had the opportunity to hear from the recipients of the various awards presented that night, which was very inspiring, especially the ones won by Gary Slaight, President & CEO of Slaight Communications Inc. and Slaight Music Inc., and Steven Delany, Senior Associate in Corporate Finance at Paradigm Capital Inc.  It was great to get to hear from them what inspires them to contributes to the art community and also to hear from others about how their contribution has help the community.
After the gala, I headed over the The Arnold party in the round room, for more music and entertainment from various artists, including Saidah Baba Talibah, who had a really neat musical style. I managed to capture her and her band on stage in my sketches. The band and DJ were good too, people were dancing and having a blast. Part of the entertainment also included a live art show, where an artist was painting a mural that would light up as her work progress. That was really neat. 
I also had fun drawing some of the 1920's inspired outfits I managed to capture. The attention to detail was really inspiring, from the haircut, to the hair accessories, and outfits. I wish I would have been able to do more, but people move a lot at a party! 
I really like this venue and took the time before leaving to do a quick sketch of the waiting area near the washrooms. I would love to come back and do more detailed architecture drawings of the space. It would be a great place to do some urban sketching with the Toronto Urban Sketchers group