The Birth Song : Illustrated Study

A couple months ago I came across a neat legend about the Himbas tribe in Nimibia. The story is about how each person has a birth song sang throughout his or her life at various life stages and how that unique song is revealed to his or her mother before he or she is born. It is such a sweet story that I thought it would be fun to illustrate it and perhaps come up with an illustrated mock story book. 

I'm not sure where this is going, but I'll share my process online as a way to keep track of the progress of this project.

I started to do a little bit of research on the look of the Himba tribe and played around with watercolors. They have a really neat hairstyles representing different age groups and social status. Also their skin has a reddish tint to it because they usually cover themselves with a mixture of ochre and butter, believed to protect them from the sun.

Here's the full story (Source on Tumblr):
There is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honouring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.

In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behaviour is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little warbly at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins is another Artst Tlk guest I had never heard of before watching his interview with Pharrell. He's a very interesting man. I think he's the perfect example of what happens when you just go for things that appeal to you and give it your all without giving too much thought about what could  go wrong. As a results, he learned a lot from his experience and is can share them with others and making the America a better place, one conversation at a time. I really like his views on war, immigration, health care and the importance of education, they are very "Canadian".  

First World Dog Problem #8

Immersed in Their Own World Riding the Subway

These are the latest people I sketched in the subway. A lot of people spend their time reading on their electronic devices and it's interesting to see the various postures they have while they are immersed in their own little world. The dude in the middle blocked my view for a little while. His coat had interesting details so I decided to sketch him as well. I can't help but think that he would fit in a manga series featuring a mysterious character, perhaps a secret agent or detective. He had big shades on too.  

TOUSK Meetup #10 : St-Lawrence Market

We had a great turnout for the meetup at the St-Lawrence Market. It's one of the major landmarks in Toronto named the best food market by National Geographic, it also received the seal of approval from celebrity chef Antony Bourdain. There is a lot of activity and a lot of great subjects to sketch there. The sketchers were very prolific and came up with great sketches as  you can see above. I think they successfully  captured the personality of the Market.

I sketched some of the merchants's stored on the main floor with the goal of capturing a portion of the feel of the area. It was bustling with people, both locals and tourists. Some were purchasing their groceries, some were eating food, and others were taking pictures. A lot of merchants were giving out food to sample while a musician was playing guitar and signing in the background. 

After out sketching session, some of us joined other sketchers at the Queen and Beaver Public House. It's a nice little pub right downtown with a very homey atmosphere. I managed to capture a couple people while we were there as well. 

Three Happy Beer Mugs

St-Patrick's Day is right around the corner and for some reason I was inspired to draw these cute little beer mugs and upload them to my Cafe Press store. They should be available right in time and hopefully will to add a bit more smile during the celebrations this year. 

Sketching People Sketching Things

There is no lack of interesting events to go to in Toronto. Yesterday I joined a meetup group where the organizer set up a couple fun still life scenes throughout a room and challenged the participants to draw them within a certain amount of time. It was great to see people getting back into drawing after not doing it for several years and how relaxed and welcoming atmosphere encourage them to have a little fun. There's definitely something about drawing that gets people to relax and forget about the day to day stress and be in the moment. You don't need to be a professional to benefit from drawing. 

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Usher Raymond

Usher dropped some knowledge during his conversation with Pharrell on Artst Tlk. It was interesting to hear about how he became the Usher we know and also hints on his philosophy of life while talking to Pharrell and giving some advices to singer Leah LaBelle. I wish it would have been a little longer, but I still got some great insight from this interview : 

How can I really learn a lesson if I regret anything? 
I never thought about it this way but it makes sense. Everything is there to teach you a lesson and it might repeat itself until you learn whatever you're supposed to learn from it. I think the hard part is to recognize that you're meant to be learning something from the situation and then figure out what that lesson is. 

Evolve or evaporate
Everything is always changing : Things either get better by evolving or get worst by decaying. Nothing really stays the same, so it's up to you to decide if you're going to let things fall apart by doing nothing and let nature take its course or if you're going to work on them and transform them into something new. Drawing to me is the perfect example: Either you keep working at it and you get better or you do nothing and you get worst. 

Fear creates nothing new
This really resonate with me. Fear is probably the biggest enemy of most artists : fear of failure, fear of putting yourself/ideas/thoughts out there, fear of being judged, fear of not being good enough, and the list goes on. But time and time again, it's the fearlessly creative who come up with the greatest work.

Love is patience. Work until something happens. 
It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience to become good at anything. This is why you really have to love what you do because it makes it easier to build the kind of patience needed to become a master of your craft. Keep working until something happens. This goes back to the 10,000 hours theory where it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to really become good at something. In my case this probably means 10,000 sketchbook pages. I'm still working on it ;) 

First World Dog Problem #7

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 06

What I got from this week's TGIM is the importance of understanding that everything you do has the potential of significantly improving your life. This is why it's important for us to give 100% of our energy to those tasks in order to maximize their potential benefits. At the end of the day, whatever you do for others always affects yourself in one way or another. Might as well make sure you're doing something you can be proud of. 

Subway Etiquette

On my way to a meeting today I sketched this woman who decided to take two seats for herself and her bag while other people were standing around her. It's interesting to see how people react as they got in the train. Most would change direction and try to find another seat or stand somewhere else. This one man stood right in front of her but didn't do anything. I wonder what was going through her mind. Perhaps she didn't realize it but she was a little fidgety and kept replacing her hair behind her bandana while focusing on her ipad. Meanwhile next to her, a lady moved to another seat to let a mom and her two kids sit together. 

On the way back from my meeting, I tried people perspective with the row of people sitting in front of me. As I get faster at drawing people on the subway, I get a chance to try different compositions. It's a lot easier with a mini sketchbook. The one I currently carry with me all the time is approximately 4 x 3 inches.  

Back to Basic Sketchnotes

Drawing is like a muscle: If you don't exercise it, it atrophies. Since I want to bulk up my "drawing muscles" and improve my drawing skills, I started studying from a couple books including a book called Freehand Drawing by Delgado Magali Yanes and Redondo Ernest Dominguez. It's been sitting on my shelves since interior design school as a reference. But now that I'm going through it with a fine tooth comb and taking sketchnotes along the way, I'm rediscovering some useful tips and tricks that are sure to help with my urban sketching. 

I'd Rather Be a Small Fish in a Big Pond

A friend on Facebook recently posted an interesting question : Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? My answer was "I'd rather be a small fish in a big pond because a big fish in a small pond cannot grow". This little interaction inspired the above piece and also got me thinking about how important it is to put myself in a situation where I can continue to grow and how important it is to "move out of the small pond" when it starts to become too small for me to grow. 

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 05

This week's TGIM is all about taking charge of your own life by following four main principles :

  1. Work while you wait. Put in the effort while you're waiting for your opportunity so that you're ready when it shows up. You want to be able to take full advantage of it when the time comes. 
  2. See difficult differently. There's always two ways to deal with any situation : Either you evolve or you regress from it .  Focus on what you can gain out of your situation and you grow. Focus on what you're loosing from that same situation and you don't grow. 
  3. Work on your faith. Believe in yourself, believe in your worth, believe in your gift. He who says he can't and he who says he can are both usually right, so choose wisely. 
  4. Work on yourself. At the end of the day, the only thing you control is what you think and do. Everything else changes according to that. You can't change people but you can change yourself. By doing that you inspire others to do the same for themselves. ET would not have been able to help other people change if he hadn't changed himself first.  All you can be is a light for others to see what they are capable of. 

First World Dog Problem #6

Sunday Riders

A couple of us got together to sketch people while riding the subway. Above is what I was able to produce in the time we were there. I can see how eventually I'll be able to create some awesome characters based on people I notice. I should definitely do this more often. 

Keeping Warm in the Subway

I really like sketching people in public transportation. There's a lot of diversity in subject matters and the unknown limited time limit makes for a nice challenge. These are the sketches I did over the last couple weeks. It's been rather cold in Toronto. I'm told, colder than usual, so people are very bundled up and keeping warm the best they can, while adding a little style here and there. The more I draw these people, the more I'm finding myself wondering about them when I look back at the sketches. Some look tired, some look sad, some look fully immersed into what they are reading or listening too or thinking about. As I get better at this, I find myself paying more attention to the emotion that emits from not only what they are wearing, but their posture, their facial expression, their choice of clothes, etc. 

Tomorrow a group of us will join the Toronto Subway Sketchers. I'm looking forward to it. It should be fun. 

Artst Tlk Sketchnote with Daniel Lanois

In the Artst Tlk interview with Daniel Lanois you get a glimpse of the creative mind of a very accomplished artist : Grammy winning producer, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with his own star on Canada's Walk of Fame. Lanois is fortunate to have been able to figure out his calling early on in life and go for it. He had a recording studio by the age of 17. Hearing him describing sounds as "liquid", "atmospheric", "textural" and coming up with terms like "melody orphanage" really shows a deep love and understanding for his craft. There's a lot to learn from him : 

Do Good Work
A significant part of good work is the ability to make a difference in someone's life. That's the purpose of art. For Lanois if it's got soul and it gets put out there properly it can touch a lot of hearts : That's good work. This reminds me of what Jeff Koon was saying about the fact that art is about people not the object. The intent behind the work seems to have a lot to do with the level of success that comes with it. I think this also explain how Pharrell's song "Happy" by Pharrell is so successful. It lifts up the spirit. Sometimes, I use the 24 hours of happy website as a mood reseter. 

Immerse Yourself in Your Craft
In order to get to Lanois' level, you need to immerse yourself in your craft. He was so isolated that he didn't even know what was going on in the world when he was working on an album. He devoted a whole year working on the multi-platinum selling album So with Peter Gabriel. One way to immerse yourself is to create your own laboratory or place of invention and make sure you take good care of your tools and keep out any clutter that would distract you from creating. 

Keep Learning 
I'm a huge believer in constantly learning and improving oneself. Even Lanois does it. It's important to learn not only from books, but from doing things and from collaborating with peers. Also, don't be afraid of changes. Embrace it instead. It's just the natural way of things: The broadening of one's education will cause you to change your taste and you get to grow. This is why, I believe that artists that keep "reinventing themselves" stay successful. They keep learning and consequently they keep evolving and changing. 

Be Aware of Your Inspirations and Take Action.
The Muse seemed to be making an appearance on a regular basis to Lanois. That's what ran through my mind when he said things like "I wake up with ideas and I dream about ideas,... It's a blessing and a curse... I have to get up and write the ideas down." It's one thing have a lot of inspiring ideas but they useless if we don't act on them. Step one is to capture them by writing them down. Step to is working on converting these ideas into reality. 

TGIM 2014 Sketchnote 04

In this week's TGIM, ET's stresses the importance of being ready for the opportunities that become available to us, as well as the importance of avoiding getting comfortable with being average. None of the people I admire are average. They all seem to be perfectionists who go above and beyond to reach their goals, seizing seemingly every opportunity that come their way. It can be quite disappointing to miss an opportunity due to a lack of preparation. That's why it's important to keep working on our skills while paying attention to potential opportunities. 

First World Dog Problem #5

Experimenting with Oil Painting

I finally started to use an old oil painting set I received as a birthday give years ago during an artists meetup. It's one of those thing that I was constantly putting off for some reason and I finally took this opportunity to try this medium. Above is my first attempt. I used some of the sketches I made from the last Toons on Tap event I went to. It turned out rather good, specially for a first attempt. I might turn this into a series. 

401 Richmond

Sketching Around the City Meetup group had a great little get together at 401 Richmond today. I got a chance to visit some of the spaces in the building. There are a lot of great galleries and sketching opportunities.  We settled in the coffee shop after a little tour to do a little more sketching where I go a chance to try their apple cranberry cider and sketch a couple people in the coffee shop.