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


Newton turned 10 months this week. ;)

Roll Play Cafe

I met up with members of the Sketching in Toronto Meetup Group at a place called Roll Play Cafe. It's an interesting concept where groups of people come together to play board games. I'd never seen something like this before. The place is relatively new, with nice modern decor and a wall filled with all kinds of board games on shelves in the back. 

Eight of us played Cards Agains Humanity, another first for me. Each round, one player asks a question from a Black Card, and everyone else answers with their funniest White Card. This is a game that definitely breaks the ice. We had a good laugh over the answers people came up with. Then some of the group continued playing other games like Jenga and Monopoly, while others pull out their sketchbook to do a little sketching and chat.

I also got to sample some of their food. Their menu looked really appetizing. I had a hard time choosing and finally decided to go for the Roll Play pizza and tea. It was really good.

The place was packed. We stayed for a couple hours but had to leave earlier than planned to let others play as well. It's probably an income thing, but. I think it would be better if they also sold alcohol so that groups that stay longer would also be lucrative for them. In any case, I had a great time and they gave us dices as parting gifts. We then moved to a coffee shop around the corner to continued our conversation for a couple more hours. 

Artists at The Only Cafe

Toronto has tons of choices of activities to do for artists. There seem to be something for everyone. A couple weeks ago I joined a group called Sketching Around the City and the other day, I met up with members of the group to sketch and hang out at The Only Cafe. It's a cozy little coffee shop and bar. The place has an eclectic style with tons of frames on the wall, stained glass, disco ball and a mix style of furniture. 

We essentially took over their little lounge area to sketch and talk. It was nice to meet more fellow artists from various backgrounds and exchange ideas, tips, information and aspirations. The place was interesting to sketch. There was a good flow of people on the coffee shop side. I wish I had a little more time but I managed to draw the space and partially draw some of the other sketchers (in the foreground). After our drawing session we went to eat in a restaurant in the Kensington Market area. It was a great night. 

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated (Part 3)

The next significant holiday that is said to be related to the mushroom is Easter. The only link I found was that the shape of the mushroom at this stage mimics the shape of the cross. The cross is then used as a camouflaged symbol. Theres also the original christian tradition to paint eggs red for the occasion and this color was specifically chosen to represent the blood of Christ. It's a little spooky, unless it was a representation of the mushroom (more on that in the next post).

I never realized that Easter, the actual day, is selected based on astrology: It's always fall on the first Sunday after a full moon. It seems a bit odd considering the fact that I've always been told that astrology is opposite of Christian beliefs, but it is what it is. I also found out that the custom of decorating eggs during that time of the year dates back from the time of ancient Sumerians and Egyptians. Celebration of Shemu (now called Sham el-Nessim, a day following Easter Sunday) is the season of harvest and rebirth, where people would write  their wishes on painted eggs and put them on windows and trees to receive the blessings of the first rays of the morning light produced by sun god Ra.  Fascinating!

hints of winter fashion in the subway

The temperature is getting a little colder now in Toronto and the fashion style of the people using the subway is reflecting the temperature change. It's not snowing yet (hurray!) so people aren't in full canadian winter gear yet but there are now hints here and there: 
  • A woman was reading her book wearing a sleeveless jacket, her burgundy shirt matched her lilac scarf quite nicely. 
  • The man wearing a nice black jacket with a baseball cap was checking his cell 
  • The young women wearing a faux fur jacket and green skirt (or dress) also had black pants underneath, probably not to be cold while traveling from one place to another. She was chatting with her friends  while sipping on a drink.
  • The women on the bottom right was reading something. I though she had large earphones at first but then realized they were earmuffs. 


Newton's turning head with his early winter gear and people want to take pictures with him. I didn't realize I adopted a celebrity. ;)


I recently saw a picture of Drake and an owl for XXL magazine and I was going to reproduce it for my series, but felt that there was something missing. He wasn't looking at the camera, neither was the owl. It was a little too serious, so I decided to make my own composition. As I was listening to Drake's music and interviews while putting it together it evolved into this. Much more fun in my opinion :) 

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated (part 2)

I figured the "birth of the mushroom" would be a good start, especially considering the fact that it would correspond to Christmas, the most celebrated holiday. What's interesting is that this time of the year is also celebrated by just about every religion and belief systems. The similarities are somewhat intriguing. After assembling various theories on the subject from Christianity, Ancient Egypt mythology and well as astrology, I came up with this rendition of the nativity scene with respect to the mushroom theory.

Subway details

Here are a couple more sketches of people I did in the subway the other day. I used a pen to work on shading. I started to focus on details without the expectation of "completing" the person because it adds an extra unwanted stress to finish in time. By doing this, I can really concentrate on making the part that I was able to capture better. It makes for a nice study of human gestures and how clothing fit various people. For some reason that day, I kept getting my view obstructed, so there are a lot of "unfinished" drawing, but I still managed to complete the guy reading his ipad on the right and I'm rather happy with the result. Mind you, I think I'm starting to draw a little faster :) 

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : Illustrated

I came across an interesting concept that really got my mind going:  John M. Allegro, an archeologist and scholar is known for linking the psychoactive Amanita muscaria mushroom to birth of Christianity. The parallels between the mushroom and the religion are fascinating and intriguing, so I decided to learn a little more about it by illustrating my findings in one of my sketchbooks. It's also a good excuse to keep practicing with my watercolors. 

The main interesting and controversial bit of information is that, according to his findings, Jesus is a code word for the Amanita muscaria mushroom and that Christianity is the product of an ancient fertility cult with visible clues and hints in the churches, the bibles, the rituals, and more. Obviously, most didn't take Allegro's discoveries very well, but there are so many interesting parallels, that I feel compelled to dig a little deeper and illustrate my own findings. 

First thing I found out about is the importance of the various stages of the life cycle of the mushroom, illustrated above. It's interesting to see the various shapes and form it takes over the course of its life. Apparently, each stages of the cycle of the life of the mushroom is represented in the stories in Bible. For example, the immaculate conception, the cross and the holy grail are representation of various stages of growth of the mushroom. Furthermore, certain religious rituals that still take place today, like eating the flesh and blood of the Son of God, are said to have everything to do with the eating the mushroom and drinking from it. (It sounds better then "cannibalistic" concept). Also, certain religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter are also said to be linked to the mushroom. It will be interesting to see where this goes. 


Newton got his PJs. He wasn't too sure about it but when the temperature drops, he tolerates it a little better.

TOUSK Meetup #3 : Toronto Reference Library

For our third sketching meeting, we went to the Toronto Reference Library. The place is huge. It is currently undergoing some renovations in various portions of the building, so there is an interesting mix of old and new. The interior structure of the building is fascinating. It has a large atrium in the centre, giving a beautiful view of the space from various locations. At one end, there are two round exposed elevators, reminiscent futuristic style of The Jetson.
The reference library seems to have many functionalities. There are various types of furniture arrangement to accommodate all kinds of need. There is event a stage where some people can sit on the floor to read a book or use their laptop, while the stage is not being used. We used it as our starting point to do some sketches.

I noticed an interesting space with several television screens showing various programs. There were two men sitting right in front of them and not moving for several minutes, as if they were in a trance. I felt compelled to draw them. The large translucent pendant lights above them were really interesting as well. 
From the third floor looking down, I noticed that some of the new furniture weren't even completely unwrapped, like the short wall on one of these custom circular desks. I assume they were created for people working in group. The way they were arranged looked like a nice giant piece of abstract art. 

Wellesley Station

I did a little bit of urban sketching on the subway on the way to Wellesley Station on Halloween night. There was a lady with a therapy dog laying on the floor and who looked really tired. He just dropped on the floor and stayed there. His handler was struggling to keep him out of the way by getting him to move closer to the benches, but he was limp. It was kind of funny to see.  

I also had a time to sketch the booth as Wellesley station and part of a news stand. It's fascinating how busy the news stand can be. You could barely see the vendor behind the pile of snack and magazines. 

jar challenge update 8

My first jar is pretty much full. Time to start a new one with two months left before the end of the year. I realized that as time passes by, it seems like the shavings at the bottom get crushed and it takes longer to fill up, but I know I've been drawing more lately so it's all good. 

The Village Annual Halloween Block Party

I couldn't pass the opportunity to go sketch some amazing halloween costumes at the Village Halloween Block Party. It was my first time attending this party and it was very inspiring to see all kinds of characters walking down the closed street. We lucked out with the weather. Despite the bits of rain here and there, it was fairly warm and we managed to get a great spot with a table and chairs outside under a little roof at a Starbucks.

We had a bit of time before the street were closed,  so I drew the store right in front of us. It had a cute little halloween window display. Soon after that all kinds of characters started to walk up and down Church streets, to the beat of the music playing from the next door commerce by a DJ disguised as Superman.

The types characters parading on Church street were very diverse. The sketches I managed to complete are a very little portion of the range costumes I saw while we were there. This is a collection of the most completed sketches for the night. There was a pregnant Kim Kardashian in a catsuit version of her famous flower dress, a giant lego character, a fun lady in a mask dancing to the beat of "DJ Superman", a really well put together Robin, Batman' sidekick, some sort of Sasquatch angel, and a cute little boy in a spiderweb cape, also dancing to the DJ's tunes. There were very simple costumes and very elaborate costumes. The attention to details of some of these costume was unreal. At one point, a guy in a very believable zombie costume, came to our table to fix his contact lens and complete his outfit with fake blood oozing out of his mouth with fake maggots. It was very creepy. Some of the fake blood he used to complete his character feel on the ground and most people passing by it after were freaking out and wondering if it was real before it slowly got washed away by the rain.

The overall ambiance was great. Many people were there to have fun and embody their character. We had zombie Captain America growling at us a couple times while passing by our table and met a team of volleyball guys in tight white t-shirts and short red shorts inviting us to take pictures of themselves because they were awesome. Hilarious.  Lot of people were also taking pictures of themselves with various characters (creepy zombies, sexy nurses, sexy cops, ghosts, beautiful drag queens, cartoon characters, etc).  I wish I would have been able to stay longer as more and more new characters kept showing up, but it was getting a little too cold for me.  

Our next sketching event will take place at the Toronto Reference Library. If you would like to participate join our group on Facebook (Toronto Urban Sketchers)  to get the latest updates.