Thursday, 26 November 2015

Sharp as a Shark

For the next 3 weeks, I will be posting a lot less because I have to focus on some private projects that are taking up most of my time.

But don't worry, I'm not leaving ya :p
In fact, I'll be sharp as a shark! Focus is key and sometimes one must make decisions.
Back soon, stay healthy.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Back on track

This is actually the first page of a new sketchbook I'll be using on my saturday morning sessions.

I've not ever worked on any of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, but the paper feels nice and stiff. It seems thick enough for watercolor and the ink of the pigment liners I use doesn't bleed. (Faber Castell PITT artist and Staedtler)

However, I used W5, W3 and W1 Copic Sketch markers for the decoration of the big S, and it does bleed through the other side of the page a bit.That is quite disappointing to be honest, but what do I know about paper. Maybe this is to be expected when using this cold pressed watercolor paper.  I'd like to know if there are sketchbooks available somewhere of which the paper doesn't bleed through when using copic markers.If you have thoughts on this, please share them? I'd really appreciate that.

What I also noticed is that the first 2 pages have a linear mark in them, as if the paper has been bent when being bound. It's not that big of a deal, but for a sketchbook that costs double the price of a Moleskin, I'd dare to expect exceptional quality. First impressions are important.

There is something special about starting a new sketchbook. It always put's me in a somewhat dreamy mood. As if subconciously, I'm already wishing it was full, because it would mean the experiences represented by each page have been lived.  A new sketchbook makes me hungry, curious to what will come, and eager to live. Rock on!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Say no to violence

Bought some cheapo gold markers today.

Then I hugged my wife because today is a very bad day.

My thoughts are with the families that lost their loved one(s), and with those that are suffering terribly now, struggling to survive the Paris masacre.

I say no to violence.
It's driven by hatred and it's never a good answer.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Trial & Error reworked

I reworked the design in an effort to solve the problems that the first design had. The spacing between the 3content blocks is now even. Then there was the problem within the word "TRIAL", where the letters were causing some unbalanced effect due to the nature of their form. I've resolved that simply by turning the letters 90 degrees. 

Another issue the previous design had was that the width of the letters wasn't consistent due to the serifs being added incorrectly. While the height of the word TRIAL is a little less than the height of the word ERROR, the composition feels a lot more balanced.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Trial and Error

Learning a craft is all about trial and error. It is by making mistakes and hopefully learning from them, we become better at what we do. The goal is to get certain actions, methods and principles in our long term memory. This can only be achieved —at least in my case— by repetition. A master has all this knowledge stored in his (or her) long term memory.

I used to think I was a slow learner. Maybe I am, but as I grew older and more experienced, I've stopped comparing myself or my work to others. I’ve come to learn that it simply takes me a lot of time to get something in my long term memory. It’s like the connection between the short term memory and the long term memory in my brain are unstable. It’s not an issue really. It just means I need to be patient. And practice a lot by trial and error.

With the above design for that sketchbook's cover, I have a few problems to resolve. First of all, the spacing is unbalanced. The word Error is too close to the ampersand. Then there is the way the letters of the word Trial are not as evenly ordered horizontally as the letters from Error. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

What’s your best investment of the year 2015?

I drive 80km per day to go to work and back home. Five days a week. That’s 400km a week or –with holidays subtracted- more than 18000km a year. And I’m not alone! There are a lot of people commuting between home and work by car. It’s actually a problem that has triggered every political organ to come up with solutions. And while in fact, the solution is as simple as 1 +1 = 2, nothing changes. At least not in the right direction. As simple as 1 + 1 you say? Yes!

Let’s quickly analyze…

The problem is there are too many cars causing traffic jams, pollution, increase of cancer etc.
While I really like cars -they are examples of beautiful innovation-  I’m probably not making many friends by saying this, but there are too many cars on the road.
While our government is increasing taxes for everyone who owns a car, I think they aren’t really trying hard enough to change things. What we need is a change of culture. The habit of getting in the car, drive to work for an hour or longer and back home 8 or 9 hours later must be broken. By just making it more expensive, people aren’t going to change. They will moan and complain, but will just pay the extra taxes and continue to use the car.

The solution

So the solution is to reduce the amount of driving cars. Less cars on the road is less of the above, but more importantly: more space for other, healthier and cheaper transportation methods. There are many things the government can do to change things, but I will not elaborate on those. Instead, I think the best thing I can do to change things is to change myself and hopefully others will follow.
The perfect way for me to do this is by going to work by bike.


I’m convinced that if this didn’t take quite some mental preparation (and for some, physical training as well), a lot more people would leave the car at home and go to work by bike. So the actual problem is motivation. Sure, there are plenty of excuses to be made: it’s too far, I don’t have the time, it’s too cold, I need to fix my bike, or I’m too tired, too old, too this or too that.  These are all excuses we can do something about ourselves. Why wouldn’t you go to work by bike? Address those reasons and try to find a solution. Maybe there are no showers in your office building or no space to change clothing? Is your company willing to invest in better accommodation? Does the problem begin with you? Do you think it’s too much hassle? Perhaps you think you have nothing to gain by going to work by bike.
One excuse that I have to agree with is that it’s quite dangerous.
This is where the government has a true obligation towards their citizens in my opinion. The first change that must occur is improving the infrastructure. We urgently need infrastructure that ensures a safer way to cycle. Better cycling paths, preferably separated from the road, are mandatory. Asphalt is the best type of road for cycling, yet I have to ride on roads where the cycling paths are in such a poor condition you need to focus not to fall. Cemented or tiled cycling paths are not the way to go because they are unstable and cause cavities or cracks that are dangerous. 

Cycling paths also need to be clean, so people are motivated to use it instead of riding on the road. A clean cycling path invites the cyclist to use it. He/she will feel like the community is pampering him/her.  I went to work by bike twice this week and I had 2 punctured tires. The amount of debris on cycling paths is ridiculous. Small stones, glass, nails, leafs, tree branches, mud and what not are spread all over each cycling path I use these days. As soon as you leave the cycling path to save your tires, you will have car drivers honking their horn, driving very close to you as they pass you or even deliberately block your way, because they feel no cyclist should be on the road. Surely, this cannot possibly be the standard? I’ve not really had a discussion with a car driver yet as a cyclist, but I plan to suggest them to take the bike as well. Then there will be plenty of space on the road for both of us. And guess what? No pollution and a lot less pollution on the road.
On top of that, I should mention that when you plan to cycle to work, you should really always wear a helmet, reflective clothing and have plenty of lights. It’s better to be considered a Christmas tree, then not to be seen at all. If you’re not seen, you will end up in a hospital or worse sooner or later.
Still, all of this doesn’t bring me down, here’s why:

The advantages

It’s 35km single way to work from where I live, and there’s a lot of climbing to do, so it takes me about 90 minutes to get to work, but fortunately we have showers at work. When I arrive at my desk, I am in a different modus than when I ‘ve taken the car. I have more energy, I work faster and more accurately.
Also, when I get home around 5:30 or 6 pm, I’ve had 3hours of exercising already and I still have my evening to do whatever I want.
Last but not least, by cycling once or twice a week to work, I save money, I lose weight, and in the end I feel much fitter.

Investing in a better future

So because I did so well this year already (+2500km, not that much for the experienced cyclist, but it was my first year after 6 years of inactivity), and because my old bike was in need of repairs, I bought myself a new bike. Thompson is a Belgian brand. They make beautiful bicycles. I can highly recommend them. Here’s a picture of my new alu horse. It’s the best investment I made this year!

 Take  look at that lovely logo! Don't you love this kind of lettering? I sure do!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Fatigue is my best friend

Ever since our children were born, my wife and I cannot recall not ever feeling tired. Now that isn't completely true. What we mean by that is that we generally feel tired. When we wake up, during the less busy moments of the day, when taking a break from what we are doing and so on.

How to deal with ever lasting fatigue

So the fatigue is there and it doesn't seem like it will be gone any time soon.Yet, there is so much work to be done. I've got several projects I'm working on, life painting sessions twice a week with now even a minor sculpting class this year. I have to study for an examn that I'll take in december (sorry, can't tell you more right now). Work is very busy too. Then there's my lovely family. They deserve some attention too.


The first thing to do is to accept the fact that I'm tired, and that it will last forever. The only thing I can do about that is to sleep as much as I can. In reality, this means maximum 7 hours of sleep and more often than not with 1 or more interruptions per night, thanks to our youngest toddler. It's said that people need less sleep when they get older. That is untrue. People just learn to deal better with fatigue as they grow older.

I've learned to accept the fact that I'll always be tired. Accepting this has made it possible for me to deal with it in such a manner that it doesn't overtake my life and stops me from being creative or from doing the tasks that must be done, even though I don't like to do them. I've embraced the fatigue and made it my friend.

Time Management

Efficient time management is key to avoid that fatigue will take over. There are only 24hrs a day and I need 7hrs of sleep so that leaves me 17hrs per day to do everything I must or want to do. Planning my activities is great because the time allocated for these activities is scheduled. I share my calendar with my wife, so she is aware of the things I'm doing.

There are 3 types of activities that I generally do: 
  • things I like doing, 
  • things I don't like doing (but must be done), and 
  • places or people to visit.

For most people, it will be obvious that the places and people to visit are put in a calendar. This way, our electronic tools can remind us in time to make the visit. We don't forget about them while we don't need to keep them in our mind and there is more room in our head for other things.

The things that must be done are less likely to be postponed when scheduled. Say you need to clean your terrace with the high pressure cleaner, but you really hate doing it (meh = check!). You know that it takes you about 90 minutes. You will less likely stall and do it on the day and moment you've planned it if you've scheduled for it in your agenda.

The things I like doing must be scheduled in my agenda or there is a high risk that they will not happen at all. Every monday and tuesday evening, I've scheduled life painting class. It's been like that for the last 6 years and while the days of occurrence may differ from year to year, I keep scheduling 2 evenings a week for this, because it's extremely important to me. Our youngest daughter still has to come to learn this, but the other members of the family are used to it. Drawing or painting time on other days simply does not occur if I don't plan it. There is always something else to do around the house: watching the youngest kids, cleaning, making food, helping with homework, and what not.

Fatigue is my best friend

So when I'm tired or not, I plan my activities because they have more chance of being done and more chance of being done at the time I want them to be done, then when I don't plan. Weariness is always there, but it doesn't stop me from being creative. My creative time is planned and when inspiration occurs, it steals time from the less pleasant things I have to do, rather than the other way around. I am in control and I deal with my fatigue efficiently.