Practicepracticepractice… aaand repeat.

Voracious V - 0215
Voracious V – 0215

I continue reflecting on my drawing practice and experimenting with ways I use the internet and computers to augment that practice. This morning it boiled down to… “what am I doing with the drawings I generate at Dr Sketchy? where are they going? what’s the point?!”  I have a desire to share them with others, and to use them as stepping stones as I work through this thinking out loud, but have many questions about platforms, presentation styles, plugins, and on and on and on.

What inspired me yesterday was coming across a tumblr blog of a buddy from the Sketching classes, Mr. Vincent K. Smith A.K.A Creepstown. He’s set up a tumblr blog for his sketches which is FANTASTIC, and whose site I at once want to copy.

Then of course begins the second guessing. What is all this about using a 3rd party social media site, when I have a perfectly functioning blog right here? Why should Tumblr get me content for free (and the traffic!) when I could be generating that energy at BUT… there is a community of tumblr blogs out there that I follow, why not join them? The lightbox is pretty good and SEPARATE from my blog, a good place to post “quick and dirty sketches” without having to commit to a thoughtful post, and I get the benefit of the huge tumblr audience and all their reblogging and favouriting to help get my work seen. But is pure numbers my objective here? Also, I am an instagram user, and found a lovely little plugin that takes all my IGs and imports them into my blog for posterity.  It saves as ‘draft’ by default, by I like the idea that I GET TO KEEP MY INSTAGRAM posts, and could do so wether IG stays afloat or not. There could potentially be similar plugins for tumblr.

I have come to no ultimate decisions about how I will proceed sharing my sketches, but I will make the effort to do so.  Not the finished pieces, but the sketches.  The 1, 2, and 5 minute poses that we do during our warm up. I often throw these away because I cant keep everything, but inevitably there are little pieces of magic in these drawings that I love and want others to see.

What I intended for this post which was to scan the drawings from my last session and share them in a gallery here and that is all. I am not sure tumblr will play a role but honestly if I can have my cake and eat it too why not?

In this practice I can say it is the actual scanning and file maintenance that is the most tedious task and biggest barrier to sharing. I am going to focus on scanning, uploading and sharing and will continue to experiment with different Gallery tools, Social Media and Plugins to share them in a meaningful way.


Learning to see – A drawing activity

Below is a prototype for a drawing activity and presentation I have been experimenting with. It came about during an “instructional skills workshop” in which we are asked to prepare and deliver a 10 min. mini lesson. This activity is designed to get participants to see the world in a new way using a classic drawing technique called “blind contour drawing“.  The images below are meant to be printed out and used during the lesson, but additional materials are needed to conduct a proper blind contour drawing activity.

Scribble zone
Scribble zone

Scribble zone

Can you draw? In either case try out the Scribble zone! This is a warm up area for you to doodle in. If you complete this activity, you WILL draw an amazing picture, trust me. :)

Draw from your imagination
Draw from your imagination

Draw from your imagination

It's not alway easy to distinguish if we are drawing from our imagination (what we think we see) or drawing from observation (what we really see). Lets try the former first, drawing from imagination. Please draw a picture of your favourite chair, as realistically as possible.

Blind lines
Blind lines

Blind lines

Blind contour is a challenging activity that artists use to 'unlearn' the way they are used to seeing. The rules? there are only two but this activity could take a bit more - Do NOT look at the paper while you are drawing, and once your pen touches the page it stays on until the end. A set up of this activity is in the post below.

I did a quick search for a more detailed instructions for a blind contour drawing activity, and came up with a couple of links. One of which was a very generic and solid .pdf from Xavier University, which I have copied and pasted below. Some others to check out…


Blind Contour Drawing 
The purpose of this assignment will be to familiarize students with a exercise in drawing that has been used by artists throughout history. Students will learn the significance of line in drawing as well as train their hands to truly draw what the eye is seeing. They will complete multiple quick blind contour drawings and then finalize with a image where they are allowed to focus on the object. Emphasis is placed on the development of the hand to accurately execute what the eye is seeing after the exercise not, on the quality of the blind line drawings. 

Time: three to four class periods (broken up among other lessons) 
Class: All levels 
Materials: 18”X24” drawing paper (white & black), pencils, chalk & oil pastels. Several objects for still life. 

1. become familiar with line as contour. 
2. Be able to develop their hand - “minds eye” coordination. 
3. Deconstruct drawing from a serious painstaking work to one that is quick and intuitive. 
4. Express the emotion in the line. 
5. Explore the variation of materials used to make the lines. 
6. Blind drawings and finished drawings must be completed on the same piece of paper. (front & back if necessary) but, students need to # drawings to allow them to reflect on the process. 

1. Set up still life in corner of room and have students arrange their chairs so that they must have their heads turned away from their paper to view objects. 
2. Pass out paper and pencils to students. 
3. Demonstrate to students how to do a quick 1 minute line drawing. Emphasizing that the drawing will not be high-quality and thats “ok”. 
4. Explain that students are to draw the same perspective every time no moving or selecting a different area of interest. 
5. Time several quick drawings varying times from 1 to 3 minutes. 
6. Pause for reflection after the first 3 drawings. Ask students to reflect on what they see vs. what is being produced on the page. Do they see emotion in the drawing? Can they see some formation of the objects they are attempting to draw? 
7. Allow students 15 minutes to execute a drawing of the still life after completing 5 blind contour “takes” of the objects. 
8. Display quick drawings so that students may see that all struggle with this exercise and see how each develops from separating the eye from the hand. 
9. Discuss with students the exercise. Did they find it useful? Freeing? Was it easier to execute their drawing after the blind drawings? Would they do it again? 

1. Referring to the position of the hand on the paper is minimal. 
2. Demonstration of an attempt to accurately render the objects is perceptible. 
3. Progression from the first drawing to final finished piece shows and increasing mastery of contour. 
4. Constructive participation in classroom discussion of the method. 

1. Execute 10 quick blind line drawings of 2 objects over 3' tall or 3' wide.

Moss vs. Brick.

Moss vs. Brick

Last week, I instagrammed a picture of moss that I walk past each day. I like this image and others did as well, so I thought I would share the original capture.

One thing that strikes me with images of this kind is a permaculture expression I learned last summer, “Everything wants to become forest“. As humans we are constantly trying to improve our environment, but our attempts are fleeting as nature so quickly comes back to take over. Even if at first its just moss.


Moss vs. Brick.

A photo posted by @dragginz on


16 panel biography, a comic book assignment

Facial expression images from "Making Comics" ~ Scott McCloud 2006
Facial expression images from “Making Comics” ~ Scott McCloud 2006

It’s been almost two years since I participated in Scott McClouds’ comic book workshop, and there are lingering artefacts and ideas which I see and think about all the time. Above is a series of images from Scotts’ book Making Comics which he had printed on 8.5 X 11, and taped up over a window on our 2nd day of class. They show the idea that there are six universal expressions, and that by combining them, you can illustrate the full palette of human emotions.  This idea is dynamically modelled in the interactive project, Grimace. I took this sweet pano on the day of because the light was so good, and still use as my desktop wallpaper on all my computers to this day.

I haven’t delved deep into this book, and for some reason mostly choose NOT to include faces or facial expressions in my visual practice as can be evidenced by the way render most of my characters. ( I will explore that idea later). But I am amazed by how much I have wanted to keep that image present in my life. Another artefact, one that has been on my fridge for the past two years was the result of some homework Scott gave us to draw our entire life history, in a series of 16 panels. This was a terrific assignment, but quite a challenging one in that it makes you dig deep into your personal experience for inspiration. Since the pedagogy of the workshop was critique format in which we hung our works up gallery style and in turns would tell the life story of the person NEXT to our piece, essentially reading out loud an individuals story based on the images that were presented to us. And people presented some very personal and intimate moments. Life, death, abuse, discrimination, tragedy and triumph. There were a few moments it felt almost too personal but it really led to an impactful discussion and Scott handled the critique like the pro that he is.

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I’ve wanted to scan these images and share them for awhile now.  People seem to like them posted up on my fridge and I am always talking about them, but perhaps this way will be better to spread the conversation and get more reactions. I used the native wordpress gallery to display them and put a watermark on each image before uploading. As an activity for practicing story telling I could suggest this to anyone. The final piece look like this.

Jason Toal 16 panel biography.
Jason Toal 16 panel biography.


Myself in Four Icons

Before jumping into the youshow with my first crack at an ‘icon story’ assignment or, “Describe Yourself in Four Icons #ysdaily14“, I watched this video.

Make a four icon collage of symbols or icons that describe you or your interests. Try to find ones that are graphically uniform in design – the ones above are from the Noun Project. Share a link to your image (can be uploaded to twitter or on your blog, the latter is better because you can give attribution).

I’ve admired this kind of assignment from afar as it appeared on the Dog as Five Card Flickr, and later on DS106 as ‘One Story / Four Icons‘. I like the latest incarnation with a focus on self reflection, which can be the most powerful (and challenging) source of inspiration when doing visual work. So without further ado,

Myself in Four icons





What was my inspiration and process? Check it out… Continue reading Myself in Four Icons

Drawings on the wall, and the internet.


Drawings on the wall - surround

I’ve been thinking about my life drawing practice lately. I always keep an arrangement of my best works displayed on a ‘gallery wall’ at my place, a habit I find both enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing. I can often have the same ones posted for months, but when its time, I think nothing of replacing them with fresh pieces. I do this now without so much a thought or intention, its just, what I do.

This way of thinking may be beneficial for me to consider in terms of maintaining my blog. The intersection of the physical and digital art spaces can be a murky for me at the best of times, I feel I have equal footing in both, yet cannot stay focussed long enough in one to achieve….  more. It’s always an oscillation between worlds.

Spooksy Delune
Spooksy Delune

On one hand, I would love to get a real studio and spend more time taking the lucky sketches that ‘make the wall’, and redraw them.  Scale them up, render them on a more rich substrate, complete the compositions that are lying in each one. I have done this a couple of times with great satisfaction and backlog in my head of art that needs to be made. In some cases I have identified who it will be made for. This is the life of the traditional fine artist that is in me. The space is key here, its impossible to do this work out of my small apt. I can make it work in short bursts but inevitably I’m far too prone to procrastination and distraction, usually from a computer. 

On another plane altogether is the one I am in now, the digital.  The world of my many affiliated organizations, networks, and devices. The world of technology. I participate heavily in the internet, all the usual suspects. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Linked, Tumblr, Flickr.  Vimeo, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Cloudcloud… multiple identities, multiple accounts. Lots and lots of typing, clicking and staring at screens. Maybe I’ve reached a saturation point with how much I can keep up with, but I have to say its been bringing me down!

I think its a thing right now because no sooner had I come this realization, and I stumbled upon a Benjamen Walkers ‘Dislike club’ series (couldn’t live without my podcasts!) which speaks directly to this issue.

… technology is interested in you in this world right you can’t get away from technology it’s the sea we’re all swimming in it’s like everything we do from you know our love lives to our jobs to our filmmaking is all mediated through the Internet right now. ~Astra Taylor

Not only did I find a common feeling across many of the stories, but also some hopeful inspiration that art and rich meaning can still be created on the internet. I cannot discount the connections, insights and delights the social internet plays in my life, but thinking about putting more energy here, I need to make sure it’s going in the right place, and in the right form. This blog will once again be the focal point. I will post up new bits of art, sketches, ideas on this online ‘gallery wall’, taking many fractured bits, giving them a frame for a time.



Learning to fail

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Failure Wake held by SFU’s “social innovation lab” known as Radius. I’ve become increasingly aware of  developments there through several projects I’ve worked on with some of the faculty at Beedie School of Business including visual summaries and animations.  I’ve been impressed by their “RADIcal ideas , Useful to Society.

Radius lined up a radical group of speakers for this event, in which they shared stories of their entrepreneurial failures and reflected on lessons learned from them, all of which I captured live with the following sketchnotes.

I found each of these speakers inspiring as they reminded me of the importance of taking risks, following your passion and believing in yourself. When all is said and done , your failures are only stepping stones to future success, and the more of them you can have the better! I think these sketch notes offer a glimpse into each of the speakers stories and what I took away. I’d be happy to hear if you have any reactions yourself.

I’m also taking this opportunity to work on my blog a bit and have invested in a new plugin for showing off my art called, ilightbox.  So far I love it though it seems it will take awhile to really exploit this to the fullest.

I’ll be looking to host most of my images on this domain from now on, but also have a backlog of pictures floating around on various social media sites that I feel need to be moved over at some point.


Whiteboard animation for International Development

A little bit about a recently completed whiteboard animation project using Videoscribe.

I recently wrapped production of a new whiteboard animation with collaborator, and illustrator extraordinaire Sarah Menard. The project we took on was a promotional piece for an academic work by prof. Martin Scott, working with David Girling from The School of International Development at UEA. Sarah and I are really getting into a groove producing these animations, and her style is a perfect fit for this medium.

A bit about our process. After we figured out  the concept with our client,  Sarah creates the finished artwork directly in Adobe illustrator using her drawing tablet. She is a master of <layers> and <paths> which is essential since  Videoscribe relies on the sequence of each one when doing the final rendering. Exporting the files in .SVG format, I can then import the artwortk on a scene by scene basis, and match it to our audio track. I like how the software allows to set the timing and camera  moves, and plan on exploiting that feature more in forthcoming projects.

I plan on writing up a bit more of our process in upcoming posts, specifically to tell the story of the development of our first project, but for now  will end and post this. Trying to get better at blogging this year, and actually posting instead of drafting all the time! Hope to see you soon. 8j

Dawson City Road trip w/ timelapse and maps

Compiling a few media artifacts from (one of) my summer vacation(s) this year, the Whitehorse -> Dawson City sojourn, I had to share this sweet timelapse video I created from the RV drive up. I was travelling with my sis and her family, to check out the Dawson City Music Festival, and if you don’t blink, you may be able to catch one of my nephews pit stops along the way.

Whitehorse —> Dawson City: Timelapse #DCMF – On My Way from jason toal on Vimeo.

The entire journey was 532 km, but we started the video on the second day from a little place called Carmacks. Total distance 355 km. In geeking out to write this post I created a G map to both check out the distance and give this video some context. To take it a step further, here is a test of the embedded map. (which was not as straightforward to create as it should have been).

View Larger Map

You can’t post a timelapse video without a sweet piece of music to bring it to life, and I got lucky with the audio here having recorded many of the performances I saw at the festival. Listening back to my archives I came upon this amazing track from Sam Martin recorded SANS the haggard, but in a gospel set at the St. Pauls Anglican Church. The lyrics to “On My Way” (Mavis Staples version) not only fit the theme perfectly, referencing travelling to freedom land with my sister and brother, but also was a match at 3 minutes and 33 seconds exactly!

To complete this post I felt some photos were necessary, since I got some amazing ones of the churches in Dawson and as well I’ve been trying to figure out a workflow to use google services for photo sharing.  Nothing good to report here!  I created an album in G+ which I think is public but I cant embed here as a slideshow like I might with flickr. There does seem to be ways to accomplish this using Picasa, but synching these photos to cloud services is still confusing me greatly. Finally I gave up and stumbled into making a collage in in Picasa.

Dawson City Music Festival 2013, A roadtrip with nephews
Some churches in Dawson City while on roadtrip with my nephews to check out the #DCMF