From the monthly archives:

September 2007

Silhouette tree (study: Trees)

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday September 27, 2007

in Drawing

I thought that I’d finaly found a method to draw trees in color.

Starting out with the silhouette of a tree in one color and then adding more colors. But I don’t like this drawings. The drawing I made yesterday is better.
I’ll have to go with the theory that it’s quite possibe to work rough when you’re painting but that you have to concentrate on details when you draw.

Silhouette tree 1
Silhouette tree 1
Silhouette tree 2
Silhouette tree 2

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Abstracting a tree (sketch: Tree)

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday September 26, 2007

in Drawing

If I can’t trace the picture in my mind I should try to draw something that looks like it.

For the last few months I’ve been trying to draw objects in the way I see them in my mind. Photographic memory quality.
But that doesn’t seem to work. Probably because I don’t have the skills.
So I’ve decided to apprauch the problem from the other side. I should first learn to draw something that at least looks like a tree (and other objects). Maybe I can reach a stage where I can at least draw something that vaguely looks like the picture in my mind.

Tree abstract
Tree abstract

In my mind this doesn’t look like a tree. Or actually it does look like a tree but not like a photograph of a tree.

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Computer teaches life lesson

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday September 25, 2007

in Personal

A computer game teaches me to always play my “A” game even when the odds are stacked against me.

Practice, practice, practice. Every teacher and every coach will tell you that is the only way to learn skills. To practice and to learn them in the right order.

When you want to learn to tennis you’ll start with learning the forehand. When you’ve mastered that you’ll go on with the backhand and then the serve.

I don’t know what comes next because I never got that far.
When I started with the backhand I forgot the forehand. My coach thought I was faking and bullied me until I stopped with tennis.

Ten years after that I started fencing and again I wasn’t very good at it. In fact for six years I was the worst fencer of the club. But although we had a few very good fencer the majority of the members of the club just wanted to socialize.
I taught a number of beginning fencers the basics and everybody liked me for doing that.

Over the last year I’ve learned that forgetting skills after I’ve learned them is an intricate part of having autism.
This means that there always is a drawback in learning a new skill. I will forget a few skills in the process. Although they will come back I will forget them again the next time I learn a new skill.
Sometimes I have a hard time rembering what I liked about something when I only get worse while I practice and practice.

Two years ago I found a new hobby. Driving a car in simulation games. Games like Colin McCrea Rally (CMR) and Midnight Club.
In real live I don’t drive because I’ve problems observating traffic. Especially when I’m tired my field of vision become very narrow. So it’s very nice to drive in a game.

Off course I’m not very good at it. I loose most of my races. But what the hack. It’s just a computer game.

Two weeks ago I decided it was time for a change of scenery and I bought Colin McCrea Dirt.
Apart from a little problem with the controls CM Dirt is much better then CMR. It only has one problem.
In CMR you could play all the races. Even if you’ve lost you could go on with the next. In CM Dirt they changed that. With every race you win, you collect points and money. New races are only unlocked when you have enough points. So you have to win.

Playing as a rookie I found that there where enough races easy enough to win some points and unlock a few races. none of the new race where easy enough to win enough points. So there was nothing I could do then start again with some of the races I had lost. With a lot of luck and a little skill I won some.

After winning 15% of the races the program developed a problem. I lost the savegames file and had to start over.
The second round wasn’t as much fun. Again I had to drive races I had won easily, races I had won with a lot of effort and races I didn’t win the first time.

Last Sunday being bored I figured I might as well play a little Dirt.
When I started the game asked me whether I wanted to continue the Japanese race. I’d rather not but if you retire the game keeps bullying you (“Nobody likes quitters”) so I did and lost. The race in Japan is very difficult. A lot of tight turn and slippery roads make it almost impossible. I finished 20th on a field of 20.

After loosing a few more races I had to start all over again. Again the race in the UK.
This race is on gravel with a few very long straights and a few very difficult turns and I always finish last.
Since I always loose I thought that I might as well learn a new skill: Breaking with my left foot.
Using both my feet would no doubt mean that I would forget to steer and drive off the road. But I already do, so it really didn’t matter.

The big difficulty with steering in Dirt is that it is almost impossible to drive straight. The car keeps swaying. Which makes it very difficult to get around corners. Breaking makes matter worse.
The alternative, driving very slowly on the straights, makes for a very boring game and you always loose.

Almost 30 minutes after I started I was back at the Japanese race. By that time I was getting tired and my concentration was fading fast. So I decided to just go for it. I would probably end up in a ravine and loose but I would loose anyway.

The race in Japan starts out quite easy. A few long straights and slight turns.
I still was to slow. At the first quarter of the race I was already falling behind. I didn’t have time to look at the time announchment but the label was red instead of green.
In the second quarter of the race the pace picked up. More turns and sharper turns made the race a little harder. Again the time label was red.

In the third quarter I realized that the car had a natural rhythm to it’s swaying. If I only could think of a way to get the natural rhythm inline with the turns I had to make, I would be saved.
But in the middle of the race I had no time to think about it. I just had to go on.
Soon after that I felt that I lost control of the car. Left, right, left, right… The car almost hit a tree, the fence, the wall. Almost.

I don’t remember seeing the label of the third time announcement.

After a difficult left and right turn I finally see the finish. The last few hundred yard I battle with the controls. Then I fly over the finish.
I’ve won.
With 0.21 seconds to spair.

If there ever was a time that the odds where stacked against me. This was it.

  • Driving a race I have never won.
  • Being tired and with fading concentration.
  • Just having started to learn a new skill.
  • Being sure that I would forget some other skill.
  • Discovering a skill I’d have to learn while I’m in the midst of a race.

By all accounts I should have lost. But doing the best job I could I won.

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Knowledge versus skills (Sketch: Tree)

by Henk ter Heide on Monday September 24, 2007

in Drawing

Or why having a photographic memory seems to be a disadvantage when you’re learning how to draw.

Over the last two years I’ve learned how to play poker. I won’t say that I’m the worlds best poker player but I can hold my own in free games.

Two years ago I saw something about poker sites on the telly. I’ve always been very bad in card game. But I was curious as to how poker would be played on line. I went to have a look and it turned out to be very easy… to join the game.

At first I had no idea of what I was doing. But I only had to push a few buttons and the software took care of the rest.
After a few days I found that I actually won some times. Most of the time I lost but sometimes I won.

My interest was peeked and I used the information on the poker site to find out what the rules of the game where. What card combinations would give me a fair change of winning and which card combinations always lost. After that I won some more. Or maybe I should say I lost less.

Over the last year my skills improved and my winnings improved until they topped off a few months ago.
I could go on improving my skills. But I would have to study and play a lot. I’m choosing to spend more time drawing and blogging.

The point is that I started with no expectations. When I found that this was something that I could do I improved my knowledge.
From having more knowledge and spending a lot of time at it, I gained skills and my game improved.

With drawing it’s a completely different story. Because of my photographic memory I know everything there is to know about drawing. For every picture I want to draw ten or twenty paintings, photographs and drawings pop into my mind before I’ve even sat down.
And since I can see these pictures in my mind I expected that it would be very easy to draw them. It isn’t.  I don’t have the skills.

I’m finding that getting skills doesn’t work the same for me as what I see in other people (children).
Children usually start out with a very simple picture and add stuff until it looks like something. Since they don’t have any expectations of the end result anything goes.

I’ve tried that but for some reason it doesn’t work.
Could be because of all the pictures in my mind. Could be that there is some other reason. I’ll just have to figure it out.

For now. Here are the trees I’ve been promising.
They don’t look like the picture in my mind. Which means that I’m not sure whether I should be proud that I’ve put something on paper. Or that I should be disappointed because of the lack of quality of the drawing.

Tree 7
Tree 7

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Marketing my drawings

by Henk ter Heide on Monday September 24, 2007

in Blogging

I’m going start a shop to sell my drawing. That makes it possible to change my blog and make it interesting.

There’s a blogging saying that goes something like “It’s nice when ten people read your blog. It’s nicer when a hundred people read your blog and it’s very nice when a thousand people read your blog”.
Last week I realized that the same holds true for an artists drawings. It’s a nice feeling when a few dozen people a day look at two or three of my drawings but it’s much nicer feeling when people have my drawings on their wall.

When I started this blog I planned it to be something like Steve Pavlina meets Vincent van Gogh. I would show my drawings and write about the creation process, about my life and about my autism.
I thought that I had something new and that people would flog to read my blog. And they did. With a lot of ups and downs. But over the past few months my traffic rose from fifty views a week in May to on average 120 views a day right now.

At first it was very exciting to see the stats rise, but after a while I got used to it.
By June I figured it would be fun to offer a few ads on my site and see if I could make a little money. Although I never made very much (at this moment it stands on $6.43) it was very exciting. Every time Google reports that I had made $0.07 I went through the roof with joy.
But after a month the excitement was tempered by the realization that I actual didn’t make that much money. So I read a few sites about Adsence and got advised to take an Adwords account to get some experience with advertising.

In the beginning of July I took an Adwords account and very soon found that Google Adwords is something of a catch 22.
Google rewards ads that have a good clickthrough rate. But most people don’t click on ads. They just copy the webadres to the address bar and visit a website on their own. That seems like a good deed since I pay per click but it isn’t.
When you start a new campaign or raise the amount of money you are willing to pay for a keyword Google shows a lot of your ads and you get a lot of traffic. But since hardly anyone clicks on your ads Google makes your keywords more expensive, your ads are pushed to the bottom of the pile and nobody gets to see them. Then you can either raise your budget or start a new campaign. In both cases the high amount of traffic returns for a few days and then drops off again.

Just when I was realizing that this wouldn’t work (for me) I came across something called the Thirty day challenge. Ed Dale, whose claim to fame is that he ones sold a webdomain for $58 thousand (or million, I’m not completely sure), would give a free course in which he would teach people to get free traffic and at the same time earn $10.
It all seemed like a big marketing ploy. To good to be true.
But I’m a reasonable smart guy and I figured that I could stop the moment he started asking for money. And there is nothing wrong with getting some free traffic isn’t there? So I joined up.

In the beginning of August Ed Dale kicked off with a lot of information on ways to find keywords. Maybe for people who wanted to blog but didn’t know what to blog about?
It wasn’t until the middle of August that I realized that this course actually targeted affiliate marketers. But by that time I had learned a few useful things. For instance a method to find where your target audience is located. (I targeted my Adwords ads at the USA but it turns out that my audience lives in Australia and New Zealand.)
About three quarters in he talked about getting more traffic by starting multiple blogs. Which made a lot of sense but also promised to be a lot of work.
Having three or four blogs on the same subject should bring in three or four times more traffic. Ed Dale advised to send all that traffic to your affiliate marketing site so people could buy something and make you a little money. But my goal was to get more traffic to HenkTerHeide.com and this seemed to be a little overkill.
By the end of August Ed lost me when he started talking about creating your own product. I’m just a blogger who writes about drawing. Where on earth would I get a product?

Last week I finally got it. I’ve been looking at this blogging thing from the wrong perspective. I thought of myself as an amateur blogger who maybe could become a professional blogger and make money via Adsence and maybe at some point even sell some drawings. But I’m not. I’m an artist who uses a blog as means to show his drawings.
The blog isn’t importantent. The drawings are. So instead of looking for ways to get attention for my blog I should be looking for ways to get attention for my drawings.

In a few weeks I’ll start my own art shop where I will sell my drawings. The role of this blog will be to send customers to my art shop.
This will mean a few changes for this blog:

  1. I can talk about a lot more subjects. Restricting the articles on your blog to your niche market is important when you have Google ads on your blog. When you talk about a dozen subject Google doesn’t know what kind of ads to present.
    But since the only ads I’ll have will be for my own art shop, that doesn’t matter any more.
  2. The “Featured on See me draw” series will be replace by the feed of my StumbleUpon account.
    For the last few weeks I had the feeling that the series was running into a few problems.

    • I find far more interesting art sites then I have room for on my blog.
    • A lot of sites aren’t suitable for a number of reasons.
    • There weren’t that many people who followed links from my blog, which is a shame since most sites are very nice.
  3. I’m changing the posting frequence. A few months ago I decided to post three times a week and build in a two week gab between drawing and posting so I wouldn’t feel a deadline and could take the time for the creating process.
    But it doesn’t work. I still feel the deadline. Further more I always had the feeling I was posting second rate drawings since I usually feel that my last drawing is much better then the one I made two weeks ago.
    From now on I will post my drawing as soon as I’m finished with them.

Ed Dales thirty day challenge indeed turned out to be something of an ad campaign. His day job is giving a marketing course that will cost you $97/month. In the beginning of September he told people that they could (not should) take a look at his Immediate Edge site. Since my pockets aren’t that deep I didn’t.
But his free Thirty day challenge site is still online and you can still do the course.
If you’re a blogger who hopes to place some ads or maybe you want to sell some paintings or drawings I would certainly advise you to have a look.
Maybe you should take the promise of free traffic and earning $10 with a grain of salt (although some did), but he will teach you the basics of Internet marketing.

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Amazon shop on my site

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday September 22, 2007

in Blogging

There are a lot of books about drawing and it would be nice to have a way to link to them. For that end I’ve been looking for a widget that will automatically link to interesting Amazon products. I finally found one.

The only problem with this widget is that it creates context links. Those links that give you a picture of the page that you could go to, if you hover for 400 ms above the link.
I really hate those kind of links.
So I will be testing this one for a while to see how annoying it is.

I’ve send an email to Amazon requesting a box for my sidebar. Hopefully they’ll respond and create one.

(Still waiting for Amazon’s spider  🙂  )

In Dutch we have a proverb about looking past the point of ones nose. Meaning that you should look around before you start making comments.
In this case it applies to me.

It turns out that Amazon does have the kind of ad box that I was looking for. Only in there wisdom they gave it a Japanese name. Since my Japanese isn’t all that good I missed it.
You’ll find a little blue box at the bottom of my middle column. At this moment it’s showing an ad for a Bruce Springsteen CD but in a few hours it should changes to something that relates to the content of this site.

Amazon seems to think that people either want a long and wide ad or a short and narrow ad. I wanted one that is as wide as the column but not very long, but that isn’t available.
It’s almost impossible to receive money from Amazon if you’re not in the USA. Amazon charges $15 per $100 for the check and last time I checked my bank charged 45 guilder – about $20 – to cash out a dollar check.
I only wanted to offer one or two books as a service to the reader.
Oh well. It’s at the end of the column. If you don’t need it you’ll probably won’t even see it.

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Viral traffic gain method for starting bloggers

by Henk ter Heide on Friday September 21, 2007

in Blogging

I’ve found some more information and figured something out that makes Blogrush very interesting for people who just started a blog or any other kind of website.

Blogrush is a new service by John Reese (a big name in Internet marketing) to increase your traffic.
Blogrush places a little widget on your site with links to related sites. When someone clicks a link a new window is opened for that link.
Other sites get a widget with a link to your site. For every time you show the widget you get a credit and your link is shown ones.

It gets interesting when you refer people to Blogrush since you also get credits for the number of times they show the widget. And when those people refer people to Blogrush you get credits for the number of times they show the widget. This goes on for ten generations.

So basicly it’s a pyramid scheme.
When you join a pyramid scheme there are two questions you should ask.

  1. When did the service start?
  2. Does the six degrees of separation theory apply?

The service started on the 16e of September 2007.
With a piramid scheme that started only 5 days ago hardly anyone will know of it’s existence. That means that if you join now you’ll be able to find a lot of people to join your network.

The six degrees of separation is a theory that says that you know (1) someone who knows (2) someone who knows (3) someone who knows (4) someone who knows (5) someone who knows (6) someone of importance.

At first glance that may seem unlikely but think about it.
I’m a starting artist with autism who does unskilled labor at a sheltered work place. I know about 200 people and none of them know anyone of importance. Or do they?
The manager of my department knows a president of the company with 2000 employees. The company where I work.
This president has joined us about two years ago. We hired him because he is well connected within the business community. It’s quite possible that he knows the president of Sony or at least that he knows someone who knows the president of Sony. (The last few months we have been doing a lot of work on Sony mp3 players.)
Within three or four degrees of separation I “know” someone important.

The same holds true on the Internet. With most networking schemes it’s all about who you know to get something done. But because you can get traffic from ten generations of referrals the six degrees of separation applies.

With an ordinary networking scheme you would have to find people who’d bring in at least the same amount of traffic as you do. Which would be a lot of work.
But since the six degrees rule applies you could except anyone with a website.

Did you just start your own blog last week and do you have one or two friends who just started to blog last week?
Join up and get your friends to join your network!
At this point it really doesn’t matter if you have any web traffic to speak of because it will grow.

To grow your traffic you’ll go about your business in the usual way. You’ll write your articles. Maybe you’ll learn how to write great headlines and great articles and your traffic will increase.
In the mean time your Blogrush widget will be sitting on your website. Ones in a while you’ll write an article to get people to join up. Maybe an other friend will start blogging and join your network.
Slowly but surely your network will grow.

I can’t say how long it will take but at some point you will hit that pot of cold. At some point in the next few weeks you’ll find that you know someone who…. knows someone with a large amount of traffic who will give you a lot of credits.

Anyone who has a website with a few pageviews a day join Blogrush.
If you’ve been at it for months and you have hundreds of pageviews a day it probably would be a good idea to join but it might take a few weeks before you’ll see any results.

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Two methods to fail at everything you try

by Henk ter Heide on Friday September 21, 2007

in Autism

Over the last forty years I’ve found two ironclad methods to never succeed at anything I try.

The first method, off course, is good old procrastination. Just don’t start at anything that could lead to some kind of succes.
At this moment for instance, I should be drawing trees. But although I have a fairly good idea how I should go about that, I’m not sure that I would succeed.
And lets be honest. Writing an article that could draw a hundred pageviews to my blog is a good investment of my time, isn’t it?

procrastination has one drawback. Everybody knows it’s your own doing. People tell you that you make your own choices.
Deep down you know that you could succeed if you just had more willpower.
To be really successful in failing you need a better method.

To solve this problem I got a habit that wrecked my concentration.
Maybe you are very shy and don’t know what you should say to people. Or maybe you have some other problem. In any case you could fantasize about the conversation you could have.
To be any good at it you should spent a lot of time and energy thinking about what people could say. While you’re thinking about the things you could say you’ll never say them.
If you’re really good at this you won’t have the energie to do anything of importance.

It will help if you can find an psychiatrist who convinces you that all your problems are your own doing and will disappear if you just learn how to talk to people.
It would be especially advantageous if this psychiatrist omits to do his job and never tells you what the actual problems are.

Now I have one good and one very good method to explain why I fail at almost everything I try, I’ve finaly learned that I’m actually autistic and have all kinds of possibilities.
To succeed I only have to unlearn my failing methods.

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How should I draw trees (Sketch: Trees)

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday September 20, 2007

in Drawing

I wanted to draw a little group of trees in fall that where loosing their leafs. With all the reds, browns, yellow and greens. But when I started I realized that I still don’t know how to draw trees.

I have all those pictures of real trees and painted trees in my mind. The real trees have thousands of leafs and I don’t think I have either the patience or the time to draw them all. The painted trees are drawn with thick brushes making broad strokes in a style you can’t replicate using pencils.

When I started with this drawing I wanted to find out which colors I would need to mix the colors I wanted. But very soon I discovered that the tree looked like the first attempt of a little child.

Tree 5
Tree 5

On second thought I tried a little composition with a street and several trees. But the trees don’t satisfy me.
My next assignment will be to think about the shape and color of the pencil drawn trees.

Tree 6
Tree 6

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Sketch: Basket case

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday September 19, 2007

in Drawing

At night lying in bed I close my eyes and look straight ahead and all sorts of pictures pop into my head. Usualy they’re quite nice and sometime they’re very complicated.
Basket case
Basket case
This drawing resembles one of the most complicated pictures I’ve ever had. Resembles. The colors are all wrong. In a few days I will see if I can draw it the way it should.

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