Cherry blossoms in High Park, and playing with digital watercolour in Artrage 4

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High Park has a lot of cherry trees. They bloom for such a short time and it’s hard to predict when peak bloom will be, so it can be difficult to organize a get-together with friends. The park is just a few minutes away by bike, though, so it would be a shame to miss it. This year I guiltlessly went on my own to see the cherry blossoms, enjoy the brief spectacle, and marvel at how busy the park is during those few days.

I like the delicacy of watercolours, but have never quite gotten the hang of doing them with actual water. I fuss about with water and paints, and then I end up with this brownish-grey mess that doesn’t look anywhere near what I wanted. Drawing on my tablet PC is helping me learn to enjoy drawing, so maybe my tablet PC can also help me learn to enjoy painting.

Here’s the rest of what I drew/painted:

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I used Artrage 4 because it can mimic brushes and other cool things. I don’t have the level of real-life watercolour experience that would make me frustrated with the tool’s limitations, so I’m learning by trial and error. I want to make etagami – picture letters! Here are some examples:

Growing into an artist

“Are you an artist?” people ask me when they see me carrying a sketchbook or drawing my notes on a tablet PC.

My first instinct had been to say, “No, not really. Look at these. They’re just stick figures. You can do them too!”

Then I realized: this is it – this is that self-deprecation-of-what-you-do that I’ve heard so much about, but so far had managed to escape as a woman in technology simply because I learned that confidence early. In a new field, I found that familiar ghost.

I’ve been learning to answer, “Yes, I am. I turn business and technology ideas into one-page visual summaries.”

The journey to that response has been about giving myself permission to accept this identity as part of my self. Working with technology has been part of me since childhood. I’ve built the habit of writing over the past decade. Sketchnotes are so recent – just two years since I posted my first one! – and yet because they’re visual and more useful to more people, I get more accolades for them than for anything else.

Is this art? If so, it’s a very practical one. I take notes to remember and to help other people learn. But art is in the eye of the beholder, too. If people see a sketchnote as art, then it’s art. Who am I to invalidate the joy they take in creativity, especially if they end up learning along the way?

I play around with keywords. Do I introduce myself as a sketchnote artist, a sketchnote communicator, a visual communicator? And yet “geek” is a much larger part of my identity – tinkerer, developer, builder. Then there’s this 5-year-experiment where I’m learning about business and capitalism and making good things happen. Fortunately, other people have dealt with the complexity of combining many passions in their life. They’ve figured this out. I can too.

How to sketch with a Nintendo DS

As promised, here’s a quick guide to sketching on the Nintendo DS:

Useful sites:

I like sketching on the DS because it’s something I can always take with me. I’ve thought about getting a digitizing tablet, but I’ve always held off because, well, I don’t think of myself as an artist. Not a proper artist–not like Diane, one of my best friends. She has sketchpads full of good stuff, and would definitely make the most of a tablet. Me, I doubt my artistic skill and hand-eye coordination. But I’ve been working on developing my visual vocabulary by taking pictures, looking at photos and great presentations, and trying to explain abstract things with analogies, and I’m discovering that maybe I do have a little bit of an artistic side. Sketching is actually a lot of fun. Maybe my drawings aren’t as cool as the sketches that people have posted in the Colors Gallery, but they’re my drawings, and they make me happy. =)

I’m starting to save up for a tablet PC. =) I think that would be fun to play with, and I’ve learned that it’s good to follow my intuition. I would love to mindmap and storyboard my presentations with a tablet PC, and if I can use that to sketch bigger things, even better! So I’ve made room in my spending plan, and at my current rate of saving, I’ll have the sum saved just in time for my 25th birthday. =) I want the Lenovo X61 multi-touch model, but maybe an even better one will come along by the time I’ve saved up for it. (And maybe there’ll be more software for it, too!)

In the meantime, I want to learn more about communicating with the tools I have. I’ve got so many things I want to share: things I’ve learned, things I’m learning from other people and from books and from the world around me. You can come along and learn with me as we figure things out. That’s what this blog is for. =) So I’ve checked out a whole bunch of books on visual storytelling, and I’m going to be drafting and drawing some other ideas over the next few weeks. (My Wicked Cool Emacs book may turn into a cartoon guide to Emacs… Yeah, right. ;) )

What would be some great ways to improve on this without springing for new gadgets? I’d really love to figure out how to work with the videos I can get from ColorsDraw and turn them into a slideshow where the pace is controlled by the viewer. I’d love to be able to move things around, cut things apart, and crop and greenscreen… I’d love to do proper animations of stick figures and drawings, too. (Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone came up with a DS homebrew app for that?) And there’s plenty to learn even with static images. =)

So that’s where I am with this Nintendo DS sketching thing. I’m learning a lot, and it’s fun. <grin>

Friday: Art appreciation day at the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum offers free admission from 4:30 PM onwards
every Friday. Simon suggested heading over there for a bit of cultural
appreciation, and we had fun walking around before my 8:30 dinner with
the folks I met at the Oriented networking event.

I always find Japanese woodblock prints fascinating, and we spent some
time in that gallery. I’m also drawn to calligraphy, classical
sculptures, and realistic paintings (particularly those with literary
or mythological references, like classical paintings). I like room
reproductions, too – glimpses of what people’s lives were like in the
past or how they are elsewhere. I like pieces with stories.

We’ll go back one of these Fridays. It would be nice to contemplate a
single thing and learn its story. Too bad there are no Wikipedia
kiosks in the museum. Do you think there’ll be wireless?

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