From the category archives:


The end of a path

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday January 3, 2010

in development

It’s a good thing that keeping a new years resolution is a process and not an act. Otherwise I would have failed it already. Yesterday I did draw for more then an hour but I didn’t come around to writing this article 🙁
Ah well. Here it goes.

As my regular readers will have noticed, I haven’t done anything for some three months.
I had found that I couldn’t make the pictures I wanted with color pencil and had decided that I would start painting.
I had bought oil paints, an easel, a pallet and the lights I needed to photograph my paintings. I had even painted a few test panels.
And then everything halted.
It just stop.
I didn’t feel like painting any more.

I assumed that I would start painting again at some point. So I just waited.

The thing is that I have had this happening before. Often even.
I have had a lot of times that I am in the middle of some activity and for some reason just don’t feel like finishing it.
It used to annoy the hell out of my mother. She thought it meant that I was too lazy to finish my chores. (Although I never quite understood why she thought that joining a tennis club would be considered a chore.)

Over the years I learned that halting some activity for no apparent reason and then picking it up again a few weeks or months later, or figuring out what is wrong with it, is just part of being me.
So I waited.

The only thing that had me slightly worried was this blog.
This blog is linked to drawing and I felt that couldn’t keep all of you just hanging there. Not knowing what had happened.
I hate it when I’ve followed a blog for a few months or even years and it just stops. And I never find out what happened to the author.
Did he move on to other activities? Did he die?

A few weeks ago I started thinking that I should write some kind of brief explanation about why I wasn’t writing anymore. But a funny thing happened.
While I was thinking about how I should explain that this happens to me some times. That I didn’t know why I had stopped and didn’t know whether I would ever continue. I figured out why I had stopped.

Even better.
After I had realized why I had stopped, new ideas started flowing. And before I knew it I was drawing again.

I thought it would be best to first do a few drawing, to see if it would stick, and then tell you about my developments. But the drawing I’m doing right now is taking far too much time to do it that way. Although I drawn for more then an hour a day for the last week. I’m still only at about two thirds.

But still I feel curtain that this direction is so rewarding that I won’t stop after just a few drawings. I don’t feel that I have to test myself by finishing yet an other drawing before talking about it.

Why did I stop painting in September?
When I started thinking about it, it turned out to be fairly obvious.
I had lost my direction. I had lost my purpose.

When I started drawing early 2007 and started with this blog I had a very clear purpose.
I wasn’t trying to produce beautiful drawings. I was trying to find a way to express myself via drawings.

Being autistic and having a visual thinking process I find that I have to work very hard at expressing myself.
Before I can tell anybody anything about the people I meet and the places I go. I have to translate from the pictures and movies in my mind to words I can speak.
Although I’ve become quite good at it over the years, it’s still a lot of work.
Which means that I can write an article like this one, which is perfectly understandable.

But sitting on a stool in a bar I can either relax or talk with people. And since I go there to relax I never talk very much.
Lately a few of the costumers of my favorite bar have figured out that I’m quite knowledgeable on some subjects and they question me about them. And when they do, I answer them.
But it always feels like an interview. Never like a conversation.
To me conversation are just to much like work.

Three years ago I thought that since I have this visual thinking process and a photographic memory, it should be very easy to find a way to draw those people and places that I wanted to show the world.

But it wasn’t.
Using color pencil I quickly found that the pictures I drew never looked like the pictures in my mind.
For two reasons.
One of which turned out to be very obvious, when I finally thought about it. The pictures in my mind are of a photographic quality. Pictures I draw never are. Which, I suppose, is the charm of drawings. But it wasn’t what I had in mind.
The other problem is that I have a field of vision of 180 degrees. Just by the size of the paper that I’m using, a drawing is only about 30 degrees. Which is probably why a guy like Stephen Wiltshire draws such detail on such big canvases. It’s the only way to get the world in your drawing.

When I moved to painting I just assumed that I would solve both problems.
Bigger canvas would mean drawing a bigger part of the world. And since you can layer with oil paint you can indeed get more photo realistic pictures.

The one thing I hadn’t counted on was drying time.
With oil paint you can layer different colors on top of each other. But after each layer you have to wait until it’s dry. Otherwise the different layers will mix and everything will turn a foul color of brown.
Drying time can be as much as two or three days.

So imagine what that means.
No doubt you have seen those beautiful portrait paintings where the artist has put a little dot of white paint in the pupil of the each eye to suggest life.
Those two tiny dots of white paint take three days to paint.
That is a few seconds for every dot. And then three days of drying time before varnish can be applied.
(And after that the painting has to dry out for several months before it can be used.)

There is no way that I can work that way.
Most painters work either from postcards or from sketches they have made.
I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to draw/paint the pictures and movies in my mind.
I started out with the pictures because it seemed easier to learn. But to really show the world what I’m all about I have to draw/paint the movies.
But of course they change over time.
There is no way for me to keep an image in my mind for the several months it would take to finish the painting.

The first painting I wanted to do was a simple one of an apple tree in bloom in an English landscape.
I’ve been wanting to do a picture like that for as long as I’ve been drawing. I could never find a way to do it with color pencils.
But even such a simple idea keeps changing:
Will I put the tree in the foreground or the background. On a hill? Against a blue sky or a stone wall?

And that are only the questions I ask myself.
The color arrangement also changes. But that isn’t something I consciously think about. It’s just the way the world around me changes.
When the sun shines the pictures in my mind have all kinds of bright colors. When it’s an dreary day the pictures in my mind change to low hanging fog. And then at night I “see” a lot of greys and blues.

There is no way I can show my world using paint.
But even if there was. It’s far the much work. I was looking for an easier way to show my world then by translating the pictures in my mind.
This is far to difficult.

So without realizing what was wrong, I had reached the end of this path.

This is turning into a very long article.
Tomorrow I will tell you about this new direction I have found


New years resolutions

by Henk ter Heide on Friday January 1, 2010

in development

First let me give all the readers of this blog the best wishes for 2010.

I came about an article about keeping new year resolutions.
It confirmed something I have always suspected. Namely that people hardly ever hold on to there new years resolutions. So I always felt that it was pointless to set them.
But then the article continuous by telling that the truth is that people who set new years resolutions actually have a 10 times better chance of effecting a positive change then people who don’t.

The trick is not to have unrealistic resolutions (loose 20 pounds by March) and not to think that just setting a resolution is enough to make it happen.
It’s actually the process of thinking about how you can effect the change that helps you accomplishing the change.

So here it goes:
My new years resolution is to daily draw and write one article in my blog.

The drawing part doesn’t seem to be that hard.
Last week I’ve found a new direction (about which I’ll write tomorrow) and as result drawing has become a lot easier and a lot more fun.
The writing part has a little more worried. Sort of.

I’ve always felt that you need a lot of inspiration if you want to write daily. So for the last few years I always waited until I had an idea for an article and then wrote it.
I didn’t write very much because I didn’t have very many ideas.

But if there is one thing that I’ve learned over the last few years is that it actually works the other way round.
Necessity is not only the mother of invention. It´s also the mother of inspiration.
Knowing that you have to produce some sort of article about anything does far more for your inspiration, then just sitting and waiting.

The other point of drawing and writing daily is that I must set time aside for both.
Which is actually the biggest hurdle because I´ve never done that.
I get home from work. Turn on my computer. Read a few articles. Find some music and art sites to post on my twitter account. And then it’s time to go to bed.
Doing it that way I never find time to draw and write.

So clearly I have to do it the other way round.
Turn my computer on. Turn my mp3 player on and draw for a hour or so. (Drawing is much more fun with a little music in the background). Write a little in my blog.
And then, if there’s time, do all those other things.