Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Peter Diamandis

I never heard of Peter Diamandis before seeing his interview on Artst Tlk. He's a really interesting guy with a great vision for the future. I love his passion for what he does and his X Prize Foundation mission to make the impossible possible, solving various world problems. It's definitely something that I'll have to take time to look at. It would be neat to be able to contribute someday. In the mean time, here's what I retained from this interview : 

Where do crazy ideas get tried? 
I've always wondered how come certain things take forever to evolve. Especially working in the building industry. I saw (and still see) a lot of things that does not make sense. One of the main example for me are the way most condo buildings are designed. Diamandis answered that question by raising a really good point: Large corporations and governments don't take risks because they have a lot to loose if they do. Consequently, things don't change or grow very fast under their directions. As such, it's up to the entrepreneurs and small companies to pave the way. They are the ones who can take risks, try the crazy ideas and come up with innovative solutions. This is how inventions such as the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google were invented. It takes people like Peter Diamandis, Steven Hawkings, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Eminem, Michael Jackson, Karim Rashid, Zaha Hadid and more to change the world and improve it. They go against the grain, they break the mold, they redefine our world. They are a true inspirations to me. 

It's only science fiction today but it could be science fact. 
If you look back at some of the sci-fi movies and TV shows from a couple years ago, you'll noticed that what was science fiction then is now our reality. Take for example the communicators from Star Trek: they look like the old flip phones when cell phones were becoming more accessible to the general public. Also think about back when Tom Cruise was using a gestural interface computer in the 2002 movie Minority Report. This technology actually works today.  It's not surprising to me that Star Trek inspired Diamandis in his endavours. That show is one of the reason why many people chose engineering as a career. How cool is it that Pharrell also interviewed Leonard Nimoy who was part of the inspiration for Peter Diamandis work?

I went from someone complaining about a problem to someone really working to fix it.
It's an important reminder to actively participate in the creation of the world you'd like to live in. It's not very effective to complain all the problems in the world and wait for someone else to solve them. Chances are, if you're the one noticing the issue and it bothers you, you're most likely the one who should be doing something about it. That's something I'm personally working on : making a personal commitment to be responsible for making my dreams come true and not waiting for someone else to do it, as Diamandis and so many other inspiring people did. When I think about it, all the successful people that I admire basically did exactly that.  

Watercolor Challenge 01

My main source of information for my watercolor challenge is currently a book called The Watercolorist's Answer Book.It is filled with tips and exercises to improve techniques in watercolor. The first chapter talks about materials and gives an introduction to basic techniques. There are some great tips about how to care for your brushes, the different types of papers available and general planning tips.

The second chapter talks about different washes : Flat wash, graded wash, wet into wet wash and streak washes. I played around with the different techniques and got a little ahead trying other techniques like masking with tape and random mixing as you can see above. There's a lot of interesting things that can be done with watercolors. I also supplement the info in the book with videos on YouTube.

I also decided to try using some of the techniques by creating a quick painting of a lovely scene from Santorini, Greece : One of my dream destination for urban sketching. The reference photo is on the left and the practice painting is on the right. I can see myself sketching there :) 

Public Transportation to Markham

I decided to use public transportation to go to Markham. It was my first time going there and I didn't want to deal with traffic from downtown and the risk of arriving late to my destination : The Markham Theater. Going there looked simple online, but finding the right bus was a bit of a hurdle. Let's just say it would have helped to have a couple signages indicating where the various buses were located. Fortunately I found my way after a little while and didn't have to wait too long in the bitter cold to get on the bus. The drive was a little long, so I used some of the time to sketch the bus driver. 

On my way back, I was fortunate to get a lift to a bus stop linked to the TTC and didn't have to wait too long for the bus. This time I sketched a friend of the bus driver who was discussing various topics, including Mohammed Ali. 

Stepping out of My Comfort Zone at the Art Battle in Markham

I consider this the official starting point of my acrylic and oil painting journey. Painting has always been in the back of my mind as something I'd like to get into "one day" but always had excuses for not starting. That was until I saw the Art Battle Show for the first time and I was hooked. For some reason I wanted to participate. It looked like so much fun. I even registered on their site hoping to be selected as one of the artists.

Well a couple days ago, there was a message on my Facebook wall about the Art Battle looking for a couple more artist for the competition in Markham.  Of course I jumped at the occasion and was selected as one of the artists! I was excited and nervous. What better way to start getting more serious about painting than completing a canvas in 20 minutes in front of a bunch of people, right?

I didn't go completely blind. I actually carved some time to practice at home, which was a good thing. The first couple ones were bad and I needed to get them out of my system before the competition. I was trying to figure out what I could paint there and get familiar with the brushes. I learned that 20 minutes goes by fast, but if you plan it right, it's enough time to create something great. I was also able to work out a strategy to make sure I cover the canvas.

All of all my practice runs, the thee paintings above are my favourite, all made in 20 minutes.  

Let me just start by saying that I can do a lot better than this. This is just the beginning. And by the end of the year it will be a lot better. When it was my turn to paint, I had to make a decision on the color palette. For some reason I went with the bird idea. I guess I was hoping to make it better than the one at home... Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. (I didn't account for nervousness, lol) But the important thing is that I did it, I actually painted. And now I know what I need to work on to make it better and hopefully I'll get to do this again soon.

The other painters were amazing! A true inspiration in what can be done in 20 minutes. It was great to meet new artists and get to talk to them and hear their view on art. All in all it was a great experience. And for me, it's the start of a new challenge. I'll be painting a lot more often so that I can more accurately depicts all the ideas floating in my head :)

First World Dog Problem #4

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 03

This week's TGIM is about perspective. In order to be successful, you have to change your mentality and see your own opportunities. We have everything we need to be successful, but most of us don't fully utilize our tools. Most likely because we are not looking at them the right way. This ties in with what I heard Tony Robbins say : "The problem is not a lack of resources, it's a lack of resourcefulness". Every so often I think about what my opportunities are and wonder what I can do with what I currently have to improve myself, the things that I do and how I can benefit others as well. Somewhere, there's someone that would be able to do a lot more with the exact same resources. So what should I do to get there? 

It's not an easy thing to do, but at the same time it is. ET says the issue is effort, or lack there of. We have the resources, but if we don't use them nothing will happen. So we have to get pass this barrier we put on ourselves, the piles of excuses of why we didn't do this or that and just do it. Perhaps thinking about the opportunities whatever effort would bring can help get over that barrier. What are your opportunities? 

Dark Horse Espresso Bar

We had a another great turnout for our sketching event at the Dark Horse Espresso Bar on Saturday. Our group essentially took over half of the mezzanine and had a great view of the place. It's a nice coffee shop with large tables on the main floor and a cozy lounge on the mezzanine behind the counter. The large windows immediately caught my eye. They make the space look nice and bright. 

The coffee shop was full. It seems like it's a popular spot. The staff seemed to be going non stop.  It's a great place to hang out. I would definitely go back there again. 

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Spike Lee

I had a great time watching the Artst Tlk interview with Spike Lee. Here's what got my attention during their conversation:

"I didn't choose film, film chose me"
For some reason it reminds me of one of Oprah's Lifeclass lessons about listening to the whispers of life. Life leaves you clues as to what your unique path to success might be and, if you pay attention and take that route, you'll be successful. It's fascinating how Lee's career as a film maker started seemingly by fluke or a series of convenient coincidences. Everything seemed to have happen in order for him to become a film maker. Had he not made the decision to "go for it", he might not have ended up as successful as he is. This made me think about what my own clues might be. I'm paying a lot more attention now and trying to make sure I'm making decisions that leads to the right direction for me. 

"Whatever you do, if you do what you love, you are blessed"
When we were discussing about what we wanted to be when we grow up, I didn't really understand the "do what you love" ideology. I used to think that I had to choose within a small pool of socially accepted professional careers. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, unless you are meant to do something else and are ignoring the clues to your purpose in life. But, now I think I get it. It doesn't matter what you love to do. There's a way to make a successful living out of it if you work hard at it. And because you love it, it won't feel like work. 

"That's the Muse when it visits. [...] You gotta be open to it"
I love how "the Muse" is a recurring topic for many successful people. The first time I heard about it was while I listened to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It's a fascinating topic to me, and perhaps that's one of the reasons why I love Pharrell's analogy of being the straw to the creative juice that comes from somewhere else. It fits perfectly with the tales of how people like Einstein, Tesla, Michael Jackson and many other successful people came up with creative and unique products. Another important thing, I think is also to trust the inspiration. Just go with it and see where it takes you. I think this is also what Jeff Koons meant when he said to always be accepting and make no judgement

"Parents kill more dreams then anyone else"
I don't think parents do it intentionally but it's true. I've seen it many times. And I would add most school systems to the list of dream killers as well. Everyone is born with special gifts that are for the most part malnourished. Imagine how much better our world would be if everyone was living their dream, sharing their unique gift with the rest of us. Good thing it's never too late to live your dream if you really want to, but it's not easy to figure out what your special gift is after years of moulding yourself to fit current standards. 

"You have to do your dreams" 
The story about Spike Lee's grandparents is fantastic. To me it also explains a lot about his personality and character. What I took from the story is the importance of just going for your dreams, just do it. Decide what you want and go for it. Don't kill it before you even get a chance to try it out. "The minute that you decide that you are not going to go further, you've just decided that you are not going to go further. [...] You just got off the train." Point taken.

"Performance by Denzel"
I once heard Tony Robbins say that success leaves clues. The story of Denzel's preparation for the movie Malcom X, was exactly that : clues on how to be successful at what you do. In order to prepare for his role, Denzel put in work for a full year: He stopped eating pork, he stopped drinking alcohol, he learned to speak arabic and to read the Q'ran... All this to fully immerse himself in the character of Malcom X, which led to an improvised sequence that was better than anyone could have written. That's a lot of work for 3.5 hours on the screen, but that's what it took to bring his work at that level. That's the clue. What amount of work do I need to do in order to perform at that level? What kind of preparation is required? As much as Denzel preparing for his role. This is where loving what you do becomes essential because it's highly unlikely someone will put that much effort into something they are not passionate about. 

You're the alien. This is your Spaceship

Sometimes, when I get the opportunity to look up in the sky and watch the stars, I think about how we're essentially travelling through space in this organic spaceship called Earth. We're so absorbed with our day to day activities deep within our ship that most of us barely even look out the window. It's fascinating to think that we're constantly moving. Not only are we spiraling around the sun (see video below), but the entire solar system is also travelling through space. When I'm on a plane and get to see parts of our planet from the sky, I think about things like that. I can only imagine what sort of thoughts I would have viewing earth from the space station or the moon. These random thoughts led me to paint the artwork above.

Iggeek now on Cafe Press

My Iggeek painting is now available on Cafe Press! It's interesting to see what products were chosen for it. There are no mugs for some reason. I should see if there's a way to add one. My favorite from the list is the flour container which looks perfect for doggy treats :) 

Sketching at the Brain Freeze Battle Zone

Last Sunday I attended the Brain Freeze Battle Zone dance competition which took place in the basement of the Filipino Centre Toronto. During the event, I sketched a couple of the participants and judges. It was great to see all these people expressing themselves through music and coming up with clever ways to move their body, essentially materializing the music by painting a temporary picture with their gestures.  It was fun to be able to witness this and to see how the dancers entertained the viewers, taunt their opponents and showed clever tricks and dance moves that made the viewers reacts with a lot of "oooohs" and "aaaahs". There's a lot of talented dancers out there from all walks of life and all ages.

As  usual, there was a great atmosphere of camaraderie, fun, love of music and support for one another. It's great to see events like this in the city. 

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 02

There's something to be said about developing ourselves and discovering our own talents as opposed to trying to emulate and/or please others at the expense of knowing ourselves. It's not an easy task. Most of us have been taught, from a very early age, to fit into certain socially accepted moulds which essentially prevent us from really knowing who we are, what we want in life and what we have to offer. However, when you take a look at many highly successful people, you realize that they did things their way and worked really hard at it. They put in a huge amount of work and effort. Getting into the habit of putting more effort in certain tasks gets easier with practice but also when we have a clear goal and understand how these tasks will help us reach these goals.

Toons on Tap

Last week I attended a costume drawing event called Toons on Tap. It was their first event of the year and they had a couple models throughout the venue for the occasion. It was really fun and challenging sketching event. The the acrobats were particularly difficult because they were moving a lot, but I still manage to get some good sketches. It's definitely something that I would like to eventually do on a regular basis. The ambience is very chill it's alway great to see other people's work and share mine. I find I learn a great deal that way. 

Iggeek coming soon on CafePress

Another art goal of mine for 2014 is to create a couple art for my CafePress shop. This is the first one of the year : an Italian Greyhound geek, aka Iggy Geek aka Iggeek.  I'm hoping to create at least one watercolor per month for the site and see where it takes me. The medium used is watercolor. 

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 01

The TGIM's are back for another year, and so are my sketchnotes with a brand new look. Let's see what I can get done this year following ET's tips. There's a lot I was able to do but there's also a lot on my to do list that didn't get done. Time to put in a little more effort and be a little more efficient as there will not be any extra hours per day this year ;).

First World Dog Problem #2

TOUSK Meetup #7 : Toronto Eaton Centre

We had a great turnout for the first meeting of the year at the Eaton Centre (almost 20 people!) I was really fixated on drawing the birds and perspective for some reason, so I ended up sketching a rather challenging portion of the building but it turned out better than I thought it would. And it was fun to tackle. I had to keep reminding myself to keep going despite the little things I wasn't too happy about. It's a constant challenge to silence the voice that says "it's not that good", "do something easier", "start over again", etc. But I find that when you keep going and keep doing the best you can with what you have, it somehow turns out much better and you learn in the process. Again, I'll have to come back and draw there again. There's so much great subjects to sketch! Just look at the variety of subject selected from the group in the picture below.  You can also see more photos from the event here

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Jeff Koons

Here's another sketchnote of another inspiring video from the Artst Tlk show, this time with Jeff Koons, one of the most successful living artist today. His interview was very insightful to me, especially as an artist. He revealed interesting facts about art and confirmed some of my own personal insights in the field: 

"Art is about exercising your freedom"
I never thought about art that way but at the same time, the word freedom has always been in the back of my head ever since the day I decided to become more creative. And it makes sense. Art is many things, and one of these things is to be able to express yourself, explore what intrigues and interests you and thus exercising your freedom to be yourself. I take the word "art" in a broad term. Art can be cooking, painting, teaching, acting, singing, dancing, building things, coding, etc. Whatever you're passionate about, whatever you're into, that's your art. When you do that, you're exercising your freedom.   

"It's not about the object"
Another great point from Koons is that art is about people, not the object. It's about how it affects people who come in contact with it. There's an inherent connectivity that takes place when you create good art. This makes it easier to understand why certain art pieces will be more popular than others and it has nothing to do with the degree into which the artist is able to reproduce reality. That's why famous artists include Picasso, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonardo Da Vinci. Something about their art resonated with people. I guess that's why now I can't really criticize any other artists work. Either I understand and connect with it or not, but I can't say that it's bad. Not all art is for all people. 

The best thing you can do as an artist is get involved, get your hands dirty. Start and see where it takes you. This is what Jeff Koons did and that's one of the reason he's where he is today. He trusted in himself, he didn't judge the process, he had good intensions and he participated. There's a lot of good to take from this interview. Enjoy.

[EDIT : March 2015] I recently was contacted by someone over at Artsy who thought you might enjoy seeing an extensive collection of Koons' work. If so, click  here to head over his page on Artsy

Sketching at the Allen Gardens

Last weekend, Sketching Around the City had a meetup at the Allen Gardens. It's a park and indoor botanical garden right in the city which includes six greenhouses. It's a great location to paint plants in the winter. During the holidays, they have a poinsettias on displays and special holiday decorations. It was a little overwhelming to pick a spot to draw, but it was a great opportunity to practice watercolors. I managed to do two sketches and tried to concentrate more on colors than structure, forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to sketching. 

We had a great turnout. 21 people showed up and did a great job. You can see more photos on the meetup group page

First World Dog Problem #1

I had fun putting posting pictures of Newton for the 52 portrait project, so I decided to do it again with an added twist : Newton's first world dog problem.

Toronto Subway Musicians Project

I was contemplating new themes for a urban sketchbook and came up with "Toronto Subway Musicians". I've seen and heard a couple of them and find they are such a great asset to the city and to people's daily commute. My goal is to draw all of them this year while they are performing in the subway. This should be fun.  

I did a little bit of research and found out that the musicians are professionals, selected every three year by TTC to perform in various subway stations. I'm currently looking for the list of selected musicians and their location so that I can sketch them all. Unfortunately, I could not find that information on the TTC website. It's too bad because I imagine this would also be beneficial to the musicians. Something like the Music Under New York (MUNY) website would be nice. Anyway, I sent out in a request and I hope to hear from them soon. 

In the mean time, I started with these two guys at Eglinton Station, one was playing the electric guitar and the other one was playing the cello. They were really good and created a really nice atmosphere. 

Closing a Sketchbook...

One of the to do's on my Creative List was to complete a urban sketchbook in Toronto. At the time I wrote that goal, I was still living in Ottawa. A couple months later, not only have I completed this task, I'm actually living there AND I met a bunch of great sketchers to share this passion with. 

Sketchbook No 2 is already underway. I learned from other sketchers that it is always good to have two sketchbooks at hands when using watercolors as a medium so that one can dry as you're working on the next sketch. This is the type of little trick you learn while hanging around other sketchers. I hope to fill the next one before the end of the summer.  

On the Way to El Rancho and Back

I went to a restaurant called El Rancho with a couple friends and on the way there and back I drew a couple people in the subway and street car. It was a particularly cold day, so people were bundled up. Unlike the subway stations I grew up with in Montreal, the stations in Toronto are not all fully enclosed and not all underground, so it can get rather cold "inside". I wonder what was the logic behind that decision. 

At the restaurant, there was also a signer dressed as a mariachi, who sang a couple songs for the people there. I attempted to sketch him toward the end of our dinner, he was moving a lot so it was a little difficult. He had a good voice and looked like he was really feeling the music. 

On the far right are a couple older sketches I did over the holiday period. This particular musician had a little Christmas tree in his guitar case.

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Leonard Nimoy

Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to a YouTube series called Artst Tlk, hosted by Pharrell Williams. It's a show where he sits down and casually talks to various successful artists about their life's journey. Being someone who loves to learn from other people's experiences, I was hooked. I watched all the video's that were available in one sitting. It's a rare opportunity to hear and learn about the guests' respective art from the source.

The latest episode was with Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr Spock, from Star Trek. I learned quite a bit about him and his work. I had no idea he was also a really good photographer with inspiring concepts. He also had a lot of interesting things to say about what inspired him, his vision, his process and what the future holds for him. It inspired me to create a sketchnote of the episode, summarizing what I took away from this interview. 

Jar Challenge Update 2013 - The Results

Time's up! I managed to fill a jar and a quarter for 2013. Not quite the goal but much better than the previous year. Should raise the stake and plan to fill 3 jars this year? Why not. As long as I produce more art, I win. Time to empty them out and start over again this year. 

New Year, New Challenges

For me every new year is an opportunity to reflect on my past accomplishments and plan for new challenges. This past year I started to dabble with watercolors as a results of getting into urban sketching and one of my challenges for this year is to acquire more skills with this medium. On top of material I had lying around, also I received a new set of paints, watercolor papers and a book on the subject. It will be interesting to see how far I can take this during the year. 

As I was doing a little bit of research on watercolor online, I found out about this amazing watercolorist named Cheng-Khee Chee who's deductive technique is mesmerizing. He did things I didn't think was possible with watercolors, as you can see in the video below. It probably takes a lot more than a year to get to that level, but it's definitely a great point of reference when it comes to the possibilities of watercolors.