From the monthly archives:

December 2007

Like water color paint

by Henk ter Heide on Friday December 28, 2007

in Technique

Trying out a new approach to drawing with color pencil.

Ever since I started, I thought about drawing with color pencils as though it was a cross between Rembrandt and the way Bob Ross painted.
I thought that to get a nice picture I would have to cover the paper with a thick layer of pigment just like Rembrandt did. I puzzled with the problem that using color pencil you can’t start out with dark colors and put lighter color on top the way Bob Ross used to do.
Although I like most of my color drawings I always had the feeling that something was off.

A few days ago I came across a video tutorial about painting with water color. The main reason for watching it was to see whether it was suitable to link to from my StumbleUpon account. But as it turned out I did learn something from it.

The maker of the video advised people to always start out with the lightest color and then work there way to the darker colors. She also showed a little practice painting to show what she meant.
It suddenly dawned on me that drawing with color pencils is much more like painting with water colors then it is alike to painting with oil paint.

Here is my interpretation of the practice but then in color pencil.
Color practice
Color practice

I clearly used to many different colors. I must try a more minimalistic approach.


Not feeling warmth

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday December 20, 2007

in Autism

I’m experiencing some problems thanks to our revolutionary new heating system.

A few weeks ago when I drew a perspective of my green chair I was planning to do an other one without the pillows. I didn’t because my day job took so much out of me that I was just to tired. But now I’ve been on holiday for a few days and I’m well rested so I should be able to do the drawing.
But it’s too cold.

The Netherlands is going through a cold spell with temperatures of 8 degrees below zero Celsius, which is very cold for Dutch standards. Of course I’ve heating in my house so that shouldn’t be much of a problem. But it is.

As part of the renovation my landlord upgraded the heating system in the building where I live.
I used to have a very simple system. When it was cold you turned the heating up and within a few minutes it would get very hot. Then you turned it back down and it would cool down again. Then you would turn the heating back up…
But thanks to the upgrade we now have a system that should keep your house at a constant temperature for the least amount of money.
They used all kind of trick to achieve that. From using a thermostat to varying the temperature of the water in the central heating system.
We’ve even been advised never to turn the heating off. To always keep the thermostat at the temperature you like even when you leave your house or go to bed.
Turning the heating down when you leave and up when you come back would cost more money then just keeping it on all the time.

So it’s quite a revolutionary heating system.
But not for me.
The problem is that my sensing of warmth doesn’t work as it should.
Last year I already discovered that I’m unable to feel heat on my back. When I wear a thick jumper or go to the sauna, cold shivers run down my back.

Now I’m discovering something that I suspected for years: Constant temperatures don’t feel constant to me. I feel as though the temperature is constantly dropping while my thermometer tells me it’s not.
Up till last year the temperature in my room felt as though it was constantly changing. Which actually was the case. Some times my room felt very hot and my thermometer would tell me it was hot. And sometimes my room would feel very cold and my thermometer would tell me that it that it was slowly dropping. Although it was always hotter then it felt to me.
But now it always feels cold. Even when I turn my thermostat up to the maximum temperature I still feel cold. (Although according to my thermometer it’s 23 degrees C.)
I only feel warmth the first few minutes after I’ve entered my house.

I’m tempted to either creep up to the heating or lie in bed the whole day. But experience has taught me that I get cold when I try the first and get bored stiff if I try the second.
So at the moment I just sit at my computer doing a game to pass the time and hoping that the cold spell will pass as soon as possible.


For all who sell herbal plant thingies

by Henk ter Heide on Monday December 17, 2007

in Blogging

Celebrating my 1000th piece of spam.

A few months ago Matt wrote a post about the relationship between having a lot of visitors and getting a lot of spam. I thought the idea was rather funny so I kept an eye out for spam and it seems that Matt was right. The more visitors I get the more spam I receive.
So this post is to celebrate my 1000th piece of spam 🙂
I want to thank every one who ever used my blog to try to sell me herbal plant thingies.
With special thanks to Akismet. Without them I would have had to read all those pieces of spam!

The last few weeks my day job took a lot out of me. I was so tired that I never came round to doing a drawing. The next 3 weeks I’m on holiday so hopefully I’ll get some drawings done.


Drawing: Green chair

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday December 9, 2007

in Technique

Finding that technique is as important as knowing how to look.

The last few weeks I’ve been drawing assignment out of the book “Drawing with the right side of your brain”.
Although I tried to draw what I saw I wasn’t satisfied with my last drawing of my chair. It felt like something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Green chair
Green chair

Obvious one thing that has changed in this drawing is that there are two instead of one ornaments under the armrest. In my last drawing I drew only one because I didn’t have room for the second. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have room.

Hoping it would give me more room I drew this chair with a thinner pencil then last. I also thought about how big I could draw the chair to use as much of my paper as possible.
It turns out that under this angle the chair is almost diamond shaped. I tried to incorporate that knowledge in this drawing. But as you can see I drew the chair a little to big.

While I was drawing I figured out what the problem was. I’m sitting so close that lines that look parallel aren’t. The two armrest face in slightly different directions. The top line of the top pillow isn’t parallel with the bottom of the lower pillow.

At the beginning of the year I did a drawing course. Among other things we where taught about the disappearing point. That is the point where all the lines seem to cross. To judge in which direction a line goes you can run your pencil in a parallel line.
A second lesson we learn was the importance of estimating the relative size of the different parts of your object. Which you measure by closing one eye and holding you pencil in front of you object. So all and all an artist waves a lot with his pencil.
Much more then I like to do.
And then, off course, there is the fact that I want to draw the pictures in my mind. It’s quite impossible to wave my pencil in front of an object in my memory.

This drawing shows that although it is a good thing to learn how to look at your object it’s also important to know what you should expect.


Something came up

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday December 8, 2007

in Autism

Discovering that I can deviate from a habit without being at a turning point in my life.

I might as well give up. My life is a failure.

I used to sport every Monday and Friday. But now it’s gone.
Last week I was thinking about going to the sauna. I didn’t but by the time I decided not to go it was to late to go sporting.
This Friday I had to go out to buy a new coat and next week I’ll have to go to the autism club.
That’s it. No more sport.
And if I can’t succeed at sporting twice a week then I won’t succeed in drawing and writing a blog. I might as well stop with both.

This is been going on for whole of my life. Eventually I fail at everything I ever tried. My mother is always reminding me that I’m a failure.
She’s right. But I wish that she would stop saying it.

I just caught myself going down familiar a slope.
But for the first time in my life I realized something about habits:
I’m autistic. I need my habits. I need it that everything goes the way it always goes.
But although it feels like the end of the world to deviate from a habit, it isn’t.
I’ll go on drawing and writing and although I’ll only sport ones next week the week after everything will return to normal.


Negative space (Drawing: Negative chair)

by Henk ter Heide on Friday December 7, 2007

in Drawing

Learning to draw the real shape of an object.

Tonight’s drawing isn’t one of the assignments of the book but something that I tried for myself.
I’m right in the middle of a very long and theoretical part about composition. Although it is important and I certainly learn from it. It seems to go on and on.

A few months ago I tried to draw a kind of topographic face. That was because the pictures I remember are in 3d. But drawing topographically turned out not to be much of a success.
According to the book a lot of people have problems with the fact that they know that the object they try to draw has a shape that is very different from the shape they see.
Chairs have a sitting area that is big enough for your bud. Not that thin line you’re looking at. But if you want your drawing to look real you have to draw what you see and not what you know.

To help figure out what the shape of an object is, the author introduces negative and positive space.
Positive space is what’s left of the door after Bugs Bunny has run through it. Negative space is the shape that is gone.
(Although to me it seems that should be the other way round, but that’s just me.)

Looking at the positive space it should be much easier to figure out what’s the true shape of an object under the angle you see it.
Actually I should have drawn a gray shape with white around it. Gray for the shape of the chair and white for the surroundings. But I liked it better to just draw the chair.
Negative chair
Negative chair

The only thing is that although it a reasonably nice drawing there is something wrong with it and I can’t figure out what.


Shortcuts: Thinking and drawing in shorthand (Drawing: Symbol drawings)

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday December 4, 2007

in Autism

I’m finally getting some ideas about the difference in thinking processes between autistics and non-autistics.

Some 20 years ago I read somewhere that people who are autistic can’t think in symbols. I didn’t know that I was autistic myself and I didn’t understand what they meant. Don’t autistics understand symbols like the dollar ($) sign and the Euro (€) sign?
When I found out that I’m autistic, last year, I understood even less.

The book about drawing with the right side of your brain was very surprising for me.
I hadn’t expected that there would be such a big difference in the experiences I had and the experiences that were described in the book. I didn’t quite get why the faces/vases drawing would be so hard for non-autistics. But what really surprised me was how hard it apparently is to draw portraits.
I just draw what I see. I might get lost in the details. Maybe I don’t think it’s a very good portrait because the details don’t match, but I don’t make the stupid mistakes most people apparently make.

Last week my employer wanted so speak to my councelor to learn something about autism.
We met in a cramp office with an cheap, old, dented and cracked table which we filled with the arms and hands of four people, 4 plastic coffee cups each with one plastic spoon, one dairy, two notepads and a few odds and ends.
My councelor told my manager and a manager from human resources a little about autism. Hopefully they learned something from it. One of the things my councelor described is how autistics see a lot more detail. He started out by saying “we see a table with a few sheets of paper” and continued with a description of what I saw.
“A table with a few sheets of paper”?????
Is that all that you see?????

Thursday my department at work had to wait a while to get the next order. The supply room kept telling us that we would get the order in a few minutes. So we waited and waited. In the end it took a few hours.
While we waited one of our interns drew a little. This guy is 16 or 17 years old and mentally disabled but he draws very good.
He started out with a cartoon styled St. Sebastian using very strong bold lines.
Then he tried to draw a portrait of me. Before he even started, he told me that he couldn’t draw very well and proceeded with waverly lines to draw something that didn’t even look like a face (or at least in my eyes). But he thought it was quite good.
Then I left to do something else. When I return an hour later he had filled a few sheets of paper with strong confident drawings.

I finally got it.

I think I misunderstood what was meant by symbols. Not only the signs that people use to point out the road to the city or the way to the toilet but the whole condensing of ideas people use to make it easier to observe and think about the world.
I don’t see the condensed world. I see every little detail.
I’m at odds whether condensing the world is an advantage or a disadvantage. But it doesn’t really matter since you can’t choose your thinking process.

The interesting thing is that the same happens when non-autistics look at a drawing. They don’t see all the detail I see. They just see a symbol.
If it has a trunk, branches and roughly the right colors it must be a tree. The shape doesn’t matter that much.

I think that this was what had me frightened.
There is no way I can draw all the detail I see. Not only because I don’t have the skills but, more importantly, I don’t have the patience. But if most people can’t see the details I don’t have to draw them.

Symbol puppets
Symbol puppets

This may seem like a children’s drawing but for me it’s something I’ve never done. I’ve never realized that you can just take a few circles to symbolize eyes and mouth.

Symbol trees
Symbol trees

These trees represent something I’ve been trying ever since I started with drawing.
On route to my work I come passed a lot of trees like these two. Especially now in fall a lot of leafs has fallen off. So on the one hand you see very nice green, yellow and orange colored leafs and on the other you look right through the tree and see a blue and yellow sky in the background.


Solving my travel phobia

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday December 1, 2007

in Autism

My problems with toilet habits turned out to be a lot bigger then I thought.

Ever since I started this blog at the beginning of this year I’ve been surprised by the amount of knowledge you need if you want to write an article about something you don’t know and how much you must understand if you want to write an article about something you don’t understand. This means that I not only have to solve problems but I also have to figure out what the problem was so I can write about it.
That seems like a lot of extra work but actually it’s a good thing.
I’ve been taught to try to find the easiest solution for problems and go for it. I’m not sure whether that is one of those things you learn by accident or that it actually does work for people who aren’t autistic.
Although this doesn’t work for me I tend to forget. I work very hard at solving a problem the hard way and then at some point I realize what caused the problem and within 30 seconds it’s gone.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the problems I have had all through my life with toilet habits. I told that it had come to a crisis and that I had to take some sick leave. But I had gotten a handle on things and was planning to go back to work in a few days.
Sadly I didn’t. I couldn’t.
A few minutes before I should have been picked up by the mini van to be brought to the shop in Capelle I felt some bowel movements. Not knowing what these feelings meant I called in sick again. Which turned out to be a good decision. If I had gone I would have had an other crisis.
After that I stayed at home for a few weeks. Thinking I should first learn to distinguish between the different feelings I have in my bowels.

Two weeks ago my counselor came by again.
We talk al lot about the toilet problems I had been having and he pointed me to something that I hadn’t noticed for some reason.
I was getting afraid to leave my house.
To go down town I have to cycle down a 2 kilometer long narrow road with water on both sides. When going down town I was getting afraid that I might accidentally drive into the water. Strangely enough on the way back I didn’t have this fear although I cycle down the same road.

Thinking about it some more I realized that I never had a problem with toilet habits. It always was more of a phobia and although it has something to do with toilet habits it’s more of a fear of travel. Since fear cause diarrhoea it’s an easy mistake.
The best way to deal with fobia is to face them right on. The more you think about your fear the bigger it gets. If you just deal with it usually it passes.

I went back to work last Tuesday and had two anxience days in which a took I lot of anti diarrhoea medicine and had four very frightening travel experiences.
On Thursday some one asked me what exactly scared me. Not something I wanted to talk about because I thought that my fear would increase if I thought to much.
But the opposite happened. I realized that I wasn’t afraid that I would soil myself. I was afraid of the feeling it self.
The moment I realized that the fear was gone.

BTW I read that some autistics are afraid of public toilets.
Although I never feared them I do have a problem with a lot of public toilets.
There are two types of toilets. In homes you usually find the type with a plateau on which the stool comes to rest before you flush it down.
In public places you tend to find the type with a watery hole in which the stool disappears.
I’ve always had the problem that I couldn’t feel my stool coming. I still have the problem that I can’t feel how big the stool is.
To know if the rest of my day will be “save” I have to look down. It’s quite scary when that isn’t possible.