Challenge: Improve Your Art in Minutes!

Do you want to know how you can improve your drawing skills ONLY within a few minutes? If you’ve been hitting a plateau lately, then this challenge is for you!

Watch my youtube video here for the full challenge:

In essence, this art improvement challenge (I’ll call it the Instant Improvement Challenge) is something that you can also do on a daily basis to help you form healthy habits with your artmaking. It’s also super quick to do if you only have time once a week to squeeze it into your schedule. Honestly, if you spend only a couple minutes on each drawing, you can finish this challenge in only 15 or 20 minutes. You can even use it as a warmup tool in the morning to get your creative juices flowing!

 

So, as a recap for the challenge:

  1. Get a word prompt, and begin drawing from memory with 2* minutes on the clock.
  2. After your time is up, stop. Find some reference and spend a SHORT amount of time drawing from those reference images.
  3. Put the references and practice drawings away. Time the clock with the same amount of time you used in Step 1, and try it again.
  4. Repeat this as many times as you’d like!

*Tips to keep in mind:

Your first prompt drawing doesn’t have to be 2 minutes. You can spend however long you’d like on your drawing-from-memory or your reference drawings, but I recommend spending less than 10-15 minutes on these. Doing so will train you not to overwork your art, and to concentrate on recurring shapes and patterns instead of the smaller detail.

img_2584

If you would like personal training with Instant Improvement Development, or even with feedback on your sketchbook or portfolio, feel free to get in touch with me over on my contact page and we can look to set up a program specifically tailored to your needs! Or if you have any questions or want my opinion on your artwork, then please get in touch!

 

img_2585

Raw Halo Chocolate

Lately, one of the things I’ve been trying to incorporate to combat the effects of stress is to eat better: include more fresh fruit and veggies, and remove gluten and dairy. This is because fruit and veggies are full of micronutrients that the body uses to heal and keep the brain healthy. Gluten and dairy can actually cause brain fog, headaches, and other symptoms in people who are typically in highly-stressful environments due to a weakened immune system*.

I still like to make room for yummy treats occasionally. Especially chocolate. I freaking love chocolate so much that I have to be conscious to have it in moderation. Recently, I was overjoyed to discover that I was the winner in Raw Halo’s recent chocolate giveaway. Their chocolate is dairy-free, super tasty, and actually of so much GOODNESS that you won’t feel guilty at all on indulging in one of their bars.

img_2805_resized_01

Raw Halo is an artisan chocolate brand that makes handmade, organic, refined sugar free, gluten-free, and 100% natural Peruvian raw chocolate.

Handmade: These guys use only trusted organic farmers and hand-craft their chocolate in small batches to ensure the quality is always there. Handmade in the UK, they are also soil-association approved; organic crops have 90% fewer harmful metal and chemical traces compared to non-organic crops.
Quality Ingredients: To sweeten these bars, Raw Halo uses only a little organic coconut sugar and lucuma (fruit) powder. Both of these ingredients are great for diabetics because it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much as unrefined sugar does. Lucuma is also rich in betacarotene (a type of vitamin A). And why raw? Raw chocolate is minimally heated to maintain more nutrients found in raw food. Instead of using milk powder, Raw Halo uses ground cashews to give the chocolate that creamy, luscious taste.

Oh, and for those of you who are allergic to nuts, Raw Halo has some scrumptious dark chocolate that you can definitely get your hands on.

img_2810_resized_01

Yes, there is chocolate out there that is healthy for you. This is totally not a sponsored post. I just needed to spread the word! Why not choose to have a treat that’s nourishing? Pick up some Raw Halo online or at a store near you!

*You can read more about the effects of stress on the digestive system in Patrick Holford’s The Optimum Nutrition Bible.

Arguably THE BEST Doughnut in the World

If you know me, you’ll also know that I’m a doughnut-fanatic. And as a doughnut-fanatic, I seriously need to spread some incredible news to you all: I have found the best doughnut EVER. Yes, EVER. Even if you don’t like doughnuts, you’ll like these. I promise.

img_0408_resized_01

Let’s start with a bit of history. For literally the longest time, I have been on a quest to find the perfect doughnut in the UK. I wanted a doughnut that wasn’t just good, but one that would take be back to memories of my childhood in Canada. I never used to have them too often when I lived in Toronto, but moving away made me realise that a good doughnut is actually really difficult to find, so I began to crave them. Doughnuts from the supermarkets tasted like stale sugar-coated bread, no matter what variety I tried, and since bakeries usually just offer jam or custard-filled, I’ve always been left a little bit disappointed. Let’s face it, American-chains like Krispy Kreme just don’t compare to the homemade variety. But where are my apple fritters? My cruellers? My beloved old-fashioneds? Why are doughnuts so unpopular in this country?!


Luckily, last weekend, I stumbled upon a doughnut-revolution:  a Brighton-based coffee shop called Glazed Coffee that only started up in May of this year. And I am serious when I say that these babies are possibly the best doughnuts I’ve ever had! (And I’ve had my fair share of doughnuts around the world.)

img_0416_resized_01
Blueberry, Raspberry, Chocolate-Coconut, and Peanut Butter!

THESE babies are what I have been searching so long for.

img_0401_resized_01

Yes, THESE babies take doughnuts to the next level. Trust me when I say this: I have tried all of the other recommended places: Bread Ahead, St. Johns, Crosstown, YouDoughnut, FlintOwl, Churros Garcia, and more.. and whilst they are good, they have nothing on Glazed Coffee.

I really recommend you take the trip to Brighton to visit and support them. Glazed Coffee offers deliciously soft, pillowy, chewy, vegan (yes, vegan) doughnuts. (Check them out on Instagram, too.) The owners James and Eva are a delightful pair who clearly have a passion for what they do, so go give them a visit and try all of their delicious goodies and rotating flavours. Although I haven’t tried every doughnut in the world, I can definitely say they are the best I’ve had yet!

img_0414_resized_01

 

Beat the Art Block by Travelling!

What better way to beat art block than by just having fun! Read on to find more tips to get you back on that creative path!

 

Are you suffering from a creative block? Travelling is a great way to get unstuck! You don’t have to travel far, either! Just go outside. Here are a few ways how travelling can help get the creative juices flowing:

New experiences = New ideas:
Travelling opens you up to new experiences, perspectives and it can definitely inspire you to create. Being there in person gives you new experiences and associations, which can spark new ideas. It’s much more beneficial than just seeing pictures or reading books- this is because you can completely immerse yourself. It makes you grow.

Breaking a Habit:
Habits are great for when they’re in place for a specific goal, but you can become stagnant if you’re just going through the motions day in and day out. While habits are great to get you to produce, sometimes you will want to switch things up. Travelling helps you to break your usual routine, which can stimulate the mind and make your brain work in a way that keeps you fresh and your work exciting!

Taking a Break:
When you travel you force yourself to take a break because you’re breaking a habit.It’s a well known fact that your body needs rest; that’s why we sleep! We need to refresh ourselves. A break can be extremely beneficial. Going to a new place allows you to ground yourself and hit the reset button. Sometimes you need to step away to see what you’re doing wrong. Stepping back gives you fresh eyes.

If you happen to come across the opportunity to travel somewhere exciting, I urge you to go! It really works!

IMG_0048_resized_01

IMG_0146_resized_01

 

I recently went to Vienna to attend NUCL.AI a very special conference that focuses on Artificial Intelligence with a big emphasis on developing for games. As part of my work as a games animator, I took part in Animation Tracks, Workshops, and Roundtables that exposed me to aspects of my medium that I never considered possible before. With art for videogames, things can get extremely technical, so being able to interact with like-minded individuals and ask questions was really rewarding. I met some amazing minds and watched some really cool talks which left me inspired and motivated to try new solutions to my own specific workflow issues.

Now if you’re in Vienna and you don’t have access to creative conferences, there are many other ways to get inspired:

Visit some museums and historical sights!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to, but there are some really fantastic sights in Vienna that you can discover just by walking around. The inner city is full of galleries and museums and you’ll be able to stumble into any within a few minutes’ walk.

Get “lost”!
Not in the rude sense, (and I don’t actually mean for you to get lost) but I urge you to just start exploring without a real purpose. Just walk! You never know what sort of things you’ll end up finding that could inspire your next project.

Go places or events that you’ll enjoy!
Check out what’s going on whatever place you’ll be visiting during the times you’ll be there. Local events, like festivals,  things that you personally love. I found out there was an amazing film festival going on during the days of the conferences, so in the evening I went there to experience great music, films, food, and fab company. It helped that there was great weather, too. I love food, so I made sure to go to the 3 best sweet shops in the city!

Travelling nourishes the mind and definitely gets the artistic juices flowing. By getting away, you broaden your knowledge and get ideas (even if they don’t come right away.) Be patient and just enjoy the new experiences, and you’ll eventually find that they will help you grow as a person, and as an artist, too!

IMG_0036_resized_01

And feel free to share some art, music, or photos that you’ve taken away from your usual routine and surroundings. I’d love to see them!

The 3 Best Sweet Shops in Vienna

 

 

Vienna is renowned for its cakes. You really are spoiled for choice in this city! It can be overwhelming with this much choice, so here are my top 3 favourite places in this wonderful city (all within walking distance of each other!)

Xocolat Wien

Probably my favourite place in Vienna. I’m a chocolate-lover and this place certainly has your fill of chocolate, but what sets it apart from any regular chocolate shop is that it focuses on craft chocolatiers and fine cacao. Owner Maria brings together some of the greatest bean-to-bar chocolatemakers around the world and hosts everything from raw “criollo” bars to homemade truffles. (Freyung 2, 1010 Wien, Austria) http://www.xocolat.at/de/en/

Zuckerlwerkstatt: (Candies made by hand to old, traditional recipes)

We all know sugar isn’t the best for you, but if you’re looking for a funky souvenir, this place makes some very interesting handmade sweets. If you have time, you can order your own bespoke candy, too! (Perfect for events, businesses, parties, or just for something special.) You can even sample favours before buying or watch the candymakers at their craft on the counters! Either way, popping in for a blueberry-flavoured moustache shaped lolly is an absolute must! (Herrengasse 6-8/4 , 1010 Wien, Austria)  http://www.zuckerlwerkstatt.at

Simply Raw Bakery

It’s hard trying to watch your waistline in a place like Vienna, but Simply Raw Bakery makes it a bit easier. This cool café is all about raw, vegan, and healthy treats! Yes, that means everything is nutritious, ethical, and delicious! From apricot dumplings, to gluten-free pizza, the fresh lunches, homemade iced teas, and the quirky atmosphere will have you wanting to come back for more! (Drahtgasse 2, 1010 Wien, Austria) http://www.simplyrawbakery.at/

Do you have a favourite sweet-spot abroad or at home? Tell me where I should visit next in the comments below!

Beyond Bread: The Best Gluten Free Bread in London

A fellow animator and friend of mine recently stressed the importance of eating well in regards to keeping your mind sharp and unfoggy. Did you know that wheat and dairy could contribute to artist-block*? Well if you’re not willing to give up the bread and cheese just yet, but you want to stay productive and creative, have a look at these new and delicious alternatives that I recently discovered in London.

 

Beyond Bread is a completely gluten free bakery I discovered recently in Fitzrovia, and I personally think it’s seriously one of the best bakeries (gluten-free or not) around. Their brioche was amazingly soft and surprisingly easy to slice! Usually most gluten-free breads will crumble just by looking at them! But these bakers really know what they’re doing; they have everything from baguettes to danishes. I’m just hoping they can add some amazing croissants to their menu soon (especially since Genius didn’t do a very good job at them.) Oh, and doughnuts please!

DSC_0144_resized_01

To accompany my lovely toast, I have some of Gozo Deli’s Casheese; a cream cheese alternative that tastes even better than the real thing. It’s one of the fluffiest, most amazing spread I’ve tried. The basil flavour is to DIE for. I really wish that they were stocked closer to where I live (in Horsham) so I can try some of the other flavours! But you CAN indeed order their stuff online, and if you’re a Londoner, you can find some of this lovely stuff at Planet Organic or Wholefoods in London. Next time I visit, I’ll need to stock up!

DSC_0145_adjusted_03_edited_01

* Seriously, I’m not kidding. Certain foods can help or hinder concentration and mental alertness. Try cutting some of these foods for two weeks, if you’re daring, and see how you feel! It might just help you get those projects finished!

Coffee Valley, Japan

In search of the best coffee in Japan? Look no more…

20160508_104501_03

Coffee in Japan is pretty different. You can get coffee both hot and cold from vending machines (which are pretty much on every corner), but cafes still can get pretty busy since artisan coffee is becoming more and more trendy. Some of the more popular chains like Starbucks also have exclusive items on their menus such as matcha-flavoured drinks and sweets. When I visited in May, I found that iced lattes were one of the most popular items, and that you can get free refills of any iced “americano”-style coffee, too! (Good to know, huh?) As a side-note, some of the trouble I faced during my trip was how to ask for non-dairy milk or how to ask for decaf!

Hands-down, Coffee Valley in Ikebukuro is the best cafe that I visited during my trip to Tokyo, Japan. The service was friendly, and the ice coffee was some of the nicest I had ever tasted, but what I loved the most about Coffee Valley was the ambiance and style. In a sort of a Japanese-Scandanavian-minimalism way, coffee is served on cute wooden trays and everything felt rustic with a slight modern twist.

04_20160508_111519
06_20160508_104706

If I have to make a choice, then I would definitely skip the maid-cafes in Akihabara and choose this place instead. Honestly, when I go back to Japan, I would seriously consider choosing a hotel in Ikebukuro just so I can wake up and enjoy spending some time here every morning.

What are some of your favourite coffee shops around the world?

01_20160508_104847

Why I’m Living a More Organic Lifestyle (Part 1)

I never used to concern myself with anything organic. I used to think organic was mostly just for those who had too much money to spend, or hipsters who mainly want to be part of a health-food trend to outwardly seem more upperclass. Strangely enough, I’ve found myself at a place where I am extremely concerned with making green choices.

I started to make the Organic transition over the past year mainly for health reasons.

Why?

Both my body and my mind had been placed under a lot of stress about a couple years ago, reaching my lowest point (and my lowest weight) at around 2013. I worked a lot on my anxiety, but I’m transitioning to this new lifestyle in hopes that it will help my body re-balance itself.

  • I’ve decided that the best way I can keep my mind healthy, is by nourishing myself with whole foods from good sources.
  • I’m trying to use Organic as a way to destress. Using natural oils and extracts are a amazing for this. I find that when I use organic beauty products, I feel more relaxed and my skin looks better.
  • I want to know exactly what i’m putting in my body. I want to know any sort of effects it can have on me health-wise.
  • I’ve always been a sensitive person so I see direct correlation between what I put on or in my body, and what effects it has on me.
  • I want to finally have lots of energy, positivity, balance, and to be able to help others with my talents.
  • I want to love myself fully from the inside out. I feel like going more organic really helps with this. It feels better to get products made from people who really care what they’re making and want to better the lives of others. I love to support them, and in turn, what they create supports me too!

What?

These are some of the things I’m doing:

  • I’m eating more fresh vegetables; it’s a healthy choice in general! I’m introducing more and more organic veggies, when I can (it’s true that it can be expensive!)
  • If I buy meat or fish, I choose organic/ local.
  • Avoiding milk/ dairy and wheat. This is a bit more of a gradual process, and I haven’t yet been strict with cutting out everything with milk ingredients (for example, sometimes spiced nuts have milk ingredients, or when I’m at a restaurant, something cooked with butter, but I’m slowly looking to do this.)
  • I’m currently seeing a nutritionist. (Stress is bad for your belly!) Who has currently recommended digestive enzymes, probiotics, and no fruit (only berries) to help with my belly bloat. I am also taking a tsp of apple cider vinegar with water 10 minutes before every meal.
  • I’m drinking lemon water, as I heard it is supposed to help with digestion, concentration, and has a lot of other little health perks!
  • Switching to a daily physical, not chemical, sunscreen.
  • Only using organic body wash/ shampoo/ deodorant/ other personal items/ etc.
  • Using Anna’s Wild Yam cream to balance my hormones along with gaining a bit of weight.
  • Trying yoga/ more relaxation techniques. I continue to go to the gym on average 2 times a week for 40 minutes.
  • Seeing an osteopath to see if that will help with my headaches (and posture from being hunched over my desk all the time!)
  • I am using pea protein powder to get a little bit more protein into my diet. I am still using whey protein, too, but after I finish my package, I will stick entirely to pea protein.
  • Avoiding artificial sweeteners.
  • Challenging myself to being less hard on myself. Working on self-acceptance.
  • Getting enough sleep (this is a tough one!)
  • My next steps will maybe be to try acupuncture and to try some herbs too.
  • I still allow myself to enjoy treats (like chips and chocolate!) because life is about enjoying a balance and loving what you eat, too!

20151010_083656

I want to send this message out to other people, especially with other artists, as I know that artists can be particularly stressed and hard on themselves. I find we struggle a lot with not being good enough.

With society being the way it is today, we are all really susceptible to having issues from stress. I hope that posting more about my journey can help inspire you to take better care of yourselves, and help you all find a balance, too.

Let me know if there’s anything that has helped you find a balance over the years in the comments below, and thanks (as always) for reading!

“Direct Trade” Chocolate Revolution

cropped-20160505_180607.jpgGood quality and ethically sourced chocolate is important to me. Want to taste the most amazing chocolate in the world? Check our what some craft chocolate makers are doing for the environment:
So what is Direct Trade?
A friend of mine recently opened my eyes up to direct trade. This is where the chocolate makers or manufacturing company themselves take periodic trips a few times a year to where they source their cocoa beans to make sure that traders and farmers are working in good conditions. Here they will show members of their staff how to look for quality beans and also work alongside farmers to get a better understanding of where their beans come from and how they are grown. The manufacturers are involved in every step of the way: truly a bean to bar experience.
Why is Direct Trade so important?
A few scandals have been popping up where chocolate can be labelled as fairtrade but are not actually following fairtrade standards. Craft chocolate makers who respect their trade will seek out to build long-term partnerships with the farmers and will ultimately harvest great beans and support the chocolate-making industry. What’s also great about Direct Trade is that it gives cocoa-farmers a healthy income as there are no middlemen taking a cut!  While fairtrade ultimately encouraged people to think more about how their chocolate is sourced, direct trade is truly a positive step to ensure that growers get “fair pay.” By doing a bit of research you can support good chocolate makers and support direct trade, too!
Direct Trade tastes the best. No questions.
The best chocolate comes from chocolate makers who have a direct relationship with the farmers they buy from, because they will have all the knowledge of soil conditions, climate, and complete traceability that can really impact the final product. These companies will manufacture in small batches and maintain high standards. Bars will be more complex and delicious because the extra thought and care has been placed into their products.
20150721_115648
Where can I get some?
Cocoa Runners* are an amazing organization which sources great Direct Trade chocolate for those in the UK. They will even ship throughout the EU, many parts of Asia and South America for the US & Canada for a small extra fee, and even to other countries. Some of the craft chocolate makers that they source include:
Åkesson’s Organic, UK/Madagascar/Brazil
I also have a soft spot for Soma Chocolatemaker since it was one of the first craft chocolates that I tried back in Toronto, Canada.
*Their website recommendation is solely of my own opinion, by the way! I just think they are great and they really know their stuff!
It also doesn’t hurt to ask! If there’s a chocolate company that intrigues you; take the extra time to send an email or tweet and ask how they get their chocolate. Support the farmers and support those who are passionate about their craft!
I hope that this post helped you to discover and savour more about the world of great chocolate. Next time you’re with some friends, be sure to share this post with your favourite chocolate-lover!