Missed Opportunity at the Roy Thomson Hall

Roy Thomson Hall Toronto Urban Sketchers Watercolor Sketch
I've been fascinated by the Roy Thomson Hall for a while. Located on the corner of King St. W and Simcoe St, it is hard to miss this unique building in the shape of a cone with its top cut off : a conical frustum (I just learned that word). Mostly composed of glass windows arranged in a beautiful geometrical pattern, the hall opened its doors in 1982, thanks to the Roy Thomson's family who generously donated $4.5 million to help with the the fundraising efforts to complete its construction.

Roy Thomson Hall is connected to the Toronto PATH, which is an underground pedestrian walkway connecting several buildings and subway stations in the downtown core. This feature is particularly useful in the winter months when it's too cold to sketch outside. Along the PATH, there's a nice view of the Hall from across a pond. The pond is drained in the winter. Apparently, the original plan of the architect Arthur Erickson, was for the pond to be an ice skating rink in the winter. But I don't think it's ever been used for that, which is a shame and a missed opportunity. Having people skating there would bring the space to life and make better use of it. Instead, it lies empty for a couple months every year. Still it's a great sight for sketchers in the winter and most of us set up camp in the hall facing the ponds to sketch the view from indoors. I will have to come back there in the summer as suggested by a passerby who told me that"it's much nicer in the summer."   

Roy Thomson Hall Toronto Urban Sketchers Watercolor Sketch

A New Coffee Kiosk at Union Station

Toronto Urban Sketchers Union Station Pilot coffee watercolor art

The Toronto Urban Sketchers recently gathered at Union Station for a sketching session. What caught my attention was a new coffee shop kiosk called pilot, right in the middle of the space. The booth has a unique shape is reminiscent of a paper airplane. I wonder if the name was the inspiration behind the design of the space. Not that coffee has much to do with a plane, other than perhaps the fact that it's imported and may have travelled by plane. I couldn't find any information about the story behind the name on their website. Maybe the concept of the plane was the idea of the architect, Williamson Chong, or maybe it's pure coincidence. But the shape of the booth definitely got my attention, so I sketched it. There is not a lot of space for the baristas so efficiency is key. There were only 1-2 of them working behind the counter on rotation while we were sketching. Speaking of baristas, I've been wondering why this "new" term is being used for the staff working behind the counter in coffee shops. Turns out it's an Italian word for bartender. Now you know :) 

A Random Act of Kindness

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

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

What I Use to Record my YouTube Videos


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

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

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

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

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

Below are affiliate links to the equipments I use :

2016 Reading Challenge

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

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

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

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

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