From the monthly archives:

October 2007

Discovering the value of shade (Drawing: Right hand drawing)

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday October 31, 2007

in Drawing

While trying to draw a hand I discover that shade shapes.

The book “Drawing with the right side of the brain” instructs you to draw three drawings before you receive any instruction to create a kind of base line. That’s because people tend to forget how bad they were. At the end of the book you can take these drawings to compare and see your progress.
For the third drawing the assignment was to draw the hand you don’t use for drawing. So for someone who’s right handed that would mean the left hand. But after posting the picture from which I drew yesterday I thought it would be nice to also post the picture from which I draw today. So I’ve made a picture of my right hand holding a pencil and drawn that.

Drawing a hand turns out to be a little more challenging then drawing a portrait.
There’s not much that can go wrong with a portrait. There are a few distinctive feature that should be present. But they have very clear shapes.
But that’s not the case with a hand. If you only draw the shape you end up with something out of a comic book.

But of course I didn’t know that when I started with this drawing. I kept the lessons of the last few days in mind and withstood the temptation to start with some detail.
I started out by drawing the shape of the forefinger and thumb. The rest of the hand and a little piece of the arm. Then I wanted to draw the middle finger and run into a little problem.
You can’t actually see the shape of the middle finger in the middle of the hand. You can see a little piece sticking out. But that’s about it.
It’s gets even more complicated when you try to draw the ring finger. You know it’s there but you can’t see it.

This problem left me no other choice then to try to draw shades.
Starting out with the shade where the ring finger should be. Since that’s about the darkest part. Then came the folds in the forefinger and the lighter parts that show the curve of the finger.
After that I noticed a nice dark shade under the pencil.

The tips of the fingers that stick out under the thumb where very hard to draw until I realized that the shade made them stick out. By leaving a little white you can even see the white of my nails.

All in all, although not perfect this drawing is a lot better then I had expected it to be.

Right hand drawing
Right hand drawing

The picture from which I drew:

righthand
picture of righthand with pencil

After thinking about it for a bit I decided that this drawing should go in my Favorite drawings list.
There is kind of a difference between this drawing and the other in that the others are finished and this one is much more a work in progress. Or to say it an other way. If I had to do it over I would draw the other favorites just the same. In this drawing however there is a lot of room for improvement.
That said. If I compare this drawing to my first drawing I see a lot of progress. Something to be proud about.

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Drawing: Boy in swimming trunk

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday October 30, 2007

in Drawing

Drawing a portrait from a picture instead of from memory.

For the second assignment of the “Drawing on the right side of the brain” book I should have drawn a portrait from memory. But being autistic I found that I can’t remember the eyes of anyone I would want to draw.
So instead I drew an portrait of a photograph I had lying around.

As I understand it the goal of the exercise is to find your “symbols”. Symbols are little piece of drawings you have learned as a child that guide your drawings. So if you at one time have learned to draw eyes as two concentric circles with the one on the inside colored and the one on the outside blank you will keep doing that the rest of your live. There by degrading every drawing you will ever make to a child’s drawing.

Being autistic should give me a little edge in this respect. I don’t remember where or when but I have a vague recollection of reading that one of the problems of autistics is there inability to think in symbols.
Boy in swimming trunk
Boy in swimming trunk

Here is the picture from which I drew.
Head

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Assignment (Drawing: Selfportrait)

by Henk ter Heide on Monday October 29, 2007

in Drawing

Fulfilling the first assignment of “Drawing on the right side of the brain”.

As I mentioned a few days ago I’ve bought Drawing on… That is, actually I wanted to buy an other book about drawing but Amazon advised to buy this one as well. As such things go, I’m now reading Drawing on… and the book I wanted to have, will have to wait for a while.

It’s not only that Drawing on… is a famous book but after reading a little bit I found that the main theme comes close to something I’ve been experiencing over the last few months.
When I started drawing I thought I’d just draw the pictures in my mind but in trying I’m finding that I have to change the way I look at people and objects:
A few months ago when I was drawing faces I found that although I did have a general idea of how faces looked I didn’t know a lot of the details. When I started drawing clouds I experience that again. I did know what a cloud looked like. But when I wanted to draw it I found I had to do a lot of cloud watching to find out what they actually looked like.

To recognize your own progress when you’ve finished with this book the author starts out with a few assignments to find a kind of base line.
The first assignment is to draw a selfportrait by looking at yourself in the mirror.
But my only mirror is bolted to the wall in the bathroom. Which is a great to comb your hair but not for drawing. So I’ve used the picture I used on my about page. When I printed the picture out I found that my color cartridge had run out of ink. So I had to print it in b&w. Which probably made the drawing a little easier.
Selfportrait before
Selfportrait before

Although I’m not sure whether I would recognize myself from this drawing, it’s a lot better then the drawings I did a few months back.
With the older drawings I tried to start with a small detail and then work to the big picture. But it never quite worked. I found that I run into vector problems: Only being a few degrees off in the angle between the eyes and line of the nose meant that the mouth was off by miles.

This time I started as you should. By drawing the hair line and the shape of the face. The hair line gave me the placement of the eyes. The eyes gave the placement of the shades that make out the nose. Then it was logical to go on with the shades that make the cheeks. I almost forget to draw in the mouth.
I found that I had to draw the background in to be able to draw the ears. Because the ears are very light. They stand out against the black background.

One other thing I just noticed says something about the importance of looking.
After I had done my older drawings a friend of mine remarked that I should pay more attention to the ears because they were different. She thought that it would be impossible to have two different ears.
But in actual fact it isn’t so much the shape of the ears that you are drawing. It’s the shape of the ears under the angle that you’re looking at that you draw. In this picture you can see slightly more of my right ear. Partly because my head is slightly turned to the left and partly because my hair hides my ear.
So my two ears are slightly different in the picture and I tried to draw them slightly different.

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Need to repeat

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday October 28, 2007

in Autism

I’ve finally found a solution to a problem that has been bugging me for the last 30 years.

For the last 30 years or so I’ve been talking to myself. Well, not really talking to myself. I had imaginary talks with other people.

As a child I was always afraid that I would get them confused with the real thing and would at some point start having those conversations out loud. Some 20 years ago that fear became a reality when I indeed started to have my imaginary conversations out loud. Although I never confused them with real conversations, people must have thought I was mad.

Over the years I have had innumerous theories about why I would talk to myself. Maybe it was a way to deal with tension. Maybe it was a method to suppress feelings. Maybe it was a method to think about problems. Maybe it was a way of talking to people when I had no one to talk to.

Over and over again I tried to get rid of this habit by using a brute force method. I thought that if I just were strong enough I should be able to succeed. But I wasn’t
Every time I started with not talking it felt good but within a few hours my motivation would be gone. For some reason talking to myself would feel nice again for a while and I forgot that I was trying not to do it.

Yesterday I finally realized that there is a lot of repeating going on in the imaginary conversations I have with myself. Often I just keep repeating one sentence and even when it gets very annoying I just can’t stop myself.
Thinking a little more about that I realized that actually all of my imaginary conversations have some repeating element to them. First I think of something and then I start talking about it.
In every conversation I repeat at least ones but usually dozens of times.

Loving to repeat is a major symptom of autism. Actually as much as I had thought about it I never did find this symptom in my own behavior. But here it seems to be.

I’ve made myself a little repeating toy. A chain with beads to fiddle with.
Although I made this toy less then 24 hours ago I already feel a lot more at ease with myself then I ‘ve ever done.
Every time I feel the need to talk to myself I start fiddling with my chain and the feeling fades away.

Even writing this article is a lot easier then usual. Usually it takes me days to write a story. I find a few words that could fit and keep repeating them over and over. That gets so distracting that it takes for ever to come up with some more words.
This time I jumped out of bed at 5.30 AM and the story came in one burst.

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Being autistic or having autism

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday October 27, 2007

in Autism

Thinking about the relation between autism and identity.

The last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between having autism and being autistic.
When I first started writing about autism I talked about having autism primarily because there are more searches for the keyword “autism” then for the keyword “autistic” and I wanted my writings to be found. Even so I had to correct myself several times. I’m prone to using the word autistic.
In the mean time I also read about autism. At first I read about the symptoms of autism and those article were written by experts in the field who always talked about having autism.
The last few months I try to read article that are written by people that have experience with autism themselves. That turns out to be much harder for the simple fact that there don’t seem to be many people with autism who blog about autism.
But the few I’ve found are adamant in their opinion that it should be “having autism” and not “being autistic”.

They seem to hold the same opinion I come across at the sheltered workplace were I work. “I’m not a wheelchair but I sit in a wheelchair.” Or a more clear cut explanation: Not being able to walk or to see or to lift heavy objects is only one of my qualities. It’s not my foremost quality.

But I still haven the feeling that it should be “I am autistic” and not “I have autism”.

So I’ve been thinking about the difference by comparing it to being gay.
I’ve defined myself as being gay, although it is indeed only one of my qualities, ever since I was 18 yr old.
I discovered that I liked men when I was sixteen. For two years I thought about what that meant for my life and what kind of problems I would have to face and by the time I was 18 I came out of the closet. I have had my fair share of problems but I must say that hardly any of them had anything to do with being gay.

But there is more.
I’ve met several thousand gay people over the years and in general they had a good life and were happy with the choices they had made.
I’ve also met some 50 to 60 men who like men and without exception they have a lot of problems. Not only with their sexuality but with all parts of their lifes.
They don’t like the job they have. They don’t like their girlfriends/wifes. They don’t like sneaking around (although they only think about it but never actually do). And most of all they are always afraid that they will be found out and loose every thing they have. (Although I would think they hardly have anything that is worth anything.)

Reading about the problems that people who have autism describe I’m reminded of a lot of the problems that are common with men who like men.
Fears of the consequence of being different. Fears of being bullied. Fears of not fitting in. Stories about painful remarks people have made.
What I miss are stories about solutions. Thinking about the sort of problems you’re likely to face and how you will deal with them. Instead of being blindsided the moment it happens.

So what’s the difference?
Well the difference between having autism and being autistic is something I’m still thinking about. But the difference between being gay and liking men is something I’ve solved years ago.

Sexual preference is hereditary. It’s something that just happens to you. You don’t control it. It’s something that makes you different from other people and they will react.
Identity is a choice you make. Usually it entails thinking a lot about your main characteristics. It means that you’ll have to think about what you want from life and what you want to change. You’ll have to think about what you could change and how to do that. You’ll also have to think about the characteristics you can’t change and how to deal with those. You’ll have to think about the kind of problems you’ll have to face and how to deal with them.

It’s a lot of work to think about identity but at some point you’ll be finished. You will have a blue print with a describtion of the way you want to live your life. Although this blue print won’t prevent you from having problems it will make it a lot easier to deal with those problems.

Twenty five years ago I had dozens of strategies about how I could deal with the kind of problems a gay man could face. I’ve forgotten most of them because I never came across any of those problems.
I’m not sure why that is. Maybe I was to pessimistic about what could go wrong. Or maybe I was able to recognize problems and avoid them. Or maybe I displayed so much selfconfidence that people left me alone.

This time I think it’s probably better to just define an identity for myself to steer my choices. I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend to much energy in thinking out strategies for situations that might never happen.

I define my identity as autistic gay artist who will get back at his ideal weight of 65 kg at some future point.

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Base line (Study: Water 1)

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday October 25, 2007

in Drawing

My first drawing of water. A pond with a tree.

After putting it of for a while I finally made my first drawing of a pond with a tree.
The problem is that I don’t have any idea about how I should do this. So I hoped that I at least get the colors right.
But then. When I started with trees and clouds I also didn’t know where to start. I have to draw a little to get an idea about what I’m doing. Then I can think about how it should look and draw some more.
Water 1
Water 1

I’ve bought the book “Drawing on the right side of the brain” by Betty Edwards. Going by the first 20 pages I think that I’m going to learn a lot from this book. Not only how to draw but also to get my own thinking process back.

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Video: Creating trees 1

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday October 24, 2007

in video

I’ve created my first slideshow video, complete with beautiful music.

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5306742087321325362&hl=en[/googlevideo]
Creating trees 1

Does anyone know who made this piece of music? The file I downloaded with Limewire was named “Piano1.mp3”. Not very helpfull.

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Problems with Popular Post Plugin

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday October 23, 2007

in Blogging

Updating my Popular Post table by hand because the plugin doesn’t work.

Have you ever wondered how it is possible that really ugly music reaches the first place in the billboard singles chart?

The billboard singles chart is a comparative report of the amount of singles sold. Which means that the amount of singles that an artist needs to sell to reach first place varies over the year.
A few years ago I read that for the Dutch market it could vary with as much as a few thousand percents. In a slow period an artist only needs to sell a few thousand singles to reach first place. In other periods he has to sell a few hundred thousand singles to even enter the billboard.
And of course if a single reaches first place the chances of it being sold increase dramatically.
Nowadays people download a lot, but some twenty years ago teens would go to the record shop to listen to a few singles and buy some. Since nobody wanted to listen to every available single they would start at the top and work their way down. An ugly single in first place had a better chance of being sold then a good single in 100th place.
So a single that is released in a really slow period, say at the beginning of the year, not only has a good chance of reaching first place but also of staying there for a long time.

A few weeks ago I wrote that I suspected that I had a similar problem with my Popular Post Plugin.
I installed the plugin shortly after I started this blog. At that time I didn’t have many readers and a post only needed some five or six pageviews to reach first place. Being in first place a posting would have a better chance of being read and gaining points.

The last few days I’ve researched the problem a little more and found that I was wrong.
Checking my Google statistics I found that the Promen article that the Popular Post Plugin put on first place only has 4 pageviews where as the post about my new pencil box has more then 700 pageviews.
Even if you include pageviews via RSS (which I didn’t have when I published the Promen article) and links from other sites (which I do have but not to this article) I really don’t understand how the Promen post could get in first place.

So I’m assuming that there is something wrong with the plugin.
I’ve tried re-installing it but it seems that the plugin has it’s own table in the database. At this moment I don’t trust my knowledge of databases enough to try to delete that table.
But even if I could re-install the plugin I don’t know if it would do me any good. If there’s a problem in the way the plugin calculates first place, the problem would probably come back.

So for the time being I will be editing my popular post table by hand. Using data from Google analyze. That will disregard the number of readers that use RSS. But seeing as they subscribed because they like my post I’m assuming that won’t matter to much.

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Drawing: Smoke

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday October 23, 2007

in Drawing

I had a bit of inspiration.

While I was thinking about the colors, shapes and structure or water this shape came to me. Although purple isn’t a color you would expect to find reflected in water, I will need the shape. This fading away of colors. So I thought I might as well do this drawing first.
Smoke
Smoke

Half way through I realized that this drawing is somewhat similar to Who’s afraid of yellow, red (and blue). Except that with Who’s afraid… I got the fading effect by blending colors. Here I’m trying to draw it holding my pencil underhanded and varying the amount of pressure. (Which actually sounds a lot easier then it is.)

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Twisted toilet habbits

by Henk ter Heide on Monday October 22, 2007

in Autism

Autism causes some problems with feeling the need to relief myself. (A somewhat graphic description.)

For years I’ve had this annoying habit of having to go when ever I left for somewhere or arrived somewhere.
In my teens I didn’t think anything about it. I just did. At times my mother would get very angry because of my need to “go” at the last moment. But I thought that just was part of our ongoing battle.

I only realized that something strange was going on when I got my first IT job.
We worked in two shifts. An early shift from 8 AM till 5 PM and a two men late shift from 3 PM till the work was finished.
When I worked the early shift every thing went the usual way. Just before leaving at 5 PM I would go. But when I worked the late shift I began to notice something odd. The two man shift had to perform some tasks together and every man had a few task of his own.
So it would often happen that one of us was finished while the other still had a few minutes work. In such cases the first one to finish would turn out the lights in none essential areas and get his stuff so we could leave the moment the other was finished.
When I was the first to finish I also would go to the toilet knowing that we would leave within a few minutes.
The strange thing was that it happened several times that while I was leaving the toilet my colleague would announce that he was finished and that we could leave. In which case I turned around and again went to the toilet.
While going to the toilet for the second time in one minute I felt very guilty. But how ever guilty I felt I couldn’t stop myself.

It was only when I started working at the sheltered workplace that I realized that this wasn’t just a habit but something much more compulsive.
By Dutch law large companies are compelled to give employee a break every two hours and to service them with a canteen where they can eat there lunch, grab a smoke etc.
While working at the sheltered workplace I found I had to go every time on route to the canteen and on route back to the department.
It got ridiculous. Going to the toilet ten times a day: When leaving my home, when arriving at my work, when going to the canteen and coming back (6 times) and when going back to my home and when arriving at home. And then in the evening I would go ones when I went to sleep.

The last eight month’s since I started working at the shop in Cappelle my toilet compulsion is getting frightening. It’s a thirty minute drive and every day I’m afraid that I won’t make it without having an accident.

Two weeks ago the Autism center send me some help that took the shape of an “Social Psychiatric Nurse”. A gentlemen that is going to help me organize my housekeeping and deal with a few other problems.
After telling him about my toilet problems he suggested that I should eat bran to activate my bowels.

After eating bran for two weeks I’ve finally figured out what the problem was: I’ve never been able to feel my bowel movement! So I never knew when I had to go. So I always squeezed my buttocks together. Which for some reason gave me the feeling that I had to pee.

The last two weeks I’ve taken some sick leave to have some time to learn to recognize the different feelings that warn you. Which turned out to be somewhat complicated because you have no way of knowing if you really have to go without going.
So if you don’t trust your feelings and you are really afraid that you will soil yourself, you tend to go early only to find that you actual didn’t have to go. Then while you are mustering up your courage you can withstand ever stronger feelings that might mean that you have to go.

At the moment I’m reasonably certain that I will be able to recognize the feelings. So next Wednesday I’ll resume my work. Let’s see how it works out.

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