Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Evolution of a Drawing

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“What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing.” – David Hockney

Earlier this summer, my friend asked me if I would do a drawing for an auction to raise funds for her neighborhood swim team.  This was technically my first “commission”, so I was nervous that I would not meet her expectations. But since Stacie and I have a strong connection to that pool (we used to belong to that club, and we have a lot of friends who still do), I agreed to give it a shot.

I don’t normally take pictures of a drawing as I am working on it, but I wanted my friend to understand what I was creating, so I sent her these updates as I worked through the drawing.  And since I saved the photos, I figured I would share them here, as some of you may be interested in the steps I took to create this drawing.

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To make sure I had the basic building blocks and the correct proportions, I started with an outline using a 2H pencil.  So far, so good.

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Then I drew over the pencil with a Pigma Micron 005 black ink pen.  At this point, I was feeling confident that the drawing was on the right track.

image-2Okay, the ink is largely complete.  Do I really need to add color? This is looking pretty good as a black and white.  What if I screw up the color now?  Alright, fine – time for color.

image-3The sky – never easy to capture the sky, but since it’s mostly blue and cloudless during the summer at the pool, that’s the impression I went for.

image-4Now for the water – Tombow markers with a wash.  There was major potential for mistakes, but I like how the wash made the water look like water.  Do I really need to paint the trees?  Aaaah, the color green – Nature’s delight, but an artist’s burden.

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I played around with some different shades of green, stole some techniques from Pete Scully, and finished the trees.  I wanted to keep the drawing airy and light, but at this stage, the drawing still looks flat.

image-7So, I added some black ink to the palm trees to give them more contrast.  And to complete the drawing, I drew Kermit and the Woodlands flag on the shed.  Done.

A big thanks to my friend, Angie, for asking me to do this drawing, and for taking all of the source photos.  It was a team effort.  Go Woodlands!

P.S. Since I haven’t yet convinced Stacie that we desperately need an artist’s drafting table in our back room, I sometimes take over our dining room table.  This is what my creative process really looks like.
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P.P.S. This is my 100th post.  I was feeling rather proud that I was about to write my 100th post until I remembered that Seth Godin recently published his 5,000th post.  I could say that quality trumps quantity, but Seth Godin’s stuff is really good (albeit unrelated to sketching or art).  Nevertheless, thank you for visiting The Hipping Post, particularly to those of you who have stayed tuned through two years of my evolving experiment.  There’s more to come – so please stick around.

The Hiatus – 30 Days With An Empty Cup

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A common expression in the martial arts is, “Empty your cup.”  The phrase is an analogy for knowledge and learning.  Those who think they know everything have a full cup.  If you try to teach these people something new, their cup overflows.  Therefore, in order to learn and to grow, you must first empty your cup.

For the month of April, some friends of mine and I have decided to go without alcohol.  In law school, one of these friends didn’t drink between the day after St. Patrick’s Day and June 1st.  During that time, he dedicated himself to studying and to getting fit.  I love the idea of committing specific time to learning, and to cleansing the body, so this year, we decided we would revisit his tradition.  Since we don’t have exams to study for, we decided that being alcohol free for 30 days was plenty.

So if you are up for a challenge of self-knowledge and personal improvement, empty your cup, and join us for The Hiatus.

Tyler Durden

I just bought a new set of art markers (Chartpak AD Markers), and tonight, I played around with them.  They’re fantastic.

I need some motivation to improve my strength and conditioning, so I used my new markers to sketch Tyler Durden.

Deep Waters

“Be formless, shapeless like water.  Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

When Bruce Lee said the above quote, he was talking about the martial arts as a metaphor for life.  To be successful in life, like in the martial arts, you cannot be rigid or dogmatic.  You have to be flexible, adapt to change, and be open to learning.  The rock in the river is steadfast, but the water detects its presence and flows smoothly around it – over time, the water grinds the rock to sand.

As it pertains to the martial arts, no style embraces this philosophy quite like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Unlike “striking styles,” like karate or kickboxing, BJJ does not use kicking or punching.  Instead, BJJ is a “grappling” martial art, and a player uses an opponent’s weight and momentum to his or her advantage.  Practically, BJJ’s premise is that most fights eventually end up on the ground and to properly defend yourself, you have to know how to submit an opponent on the ground using a variety of techniques, including choke holds and joint manipulation.  BJJ also recognizes that a smaller person can defeat a larger opponent, and that by employing the basic physics of leverage, a smaller person can eliminate, what might otherwise be, a larger opponent’s natural advantage.

A friend of mine who studies BJJ says that it’s hard to get it out of his head.  It constantly invades his thoughts and he can’t help but think about how he can improve.  I have read articles about BJJ players who similarly testify that with jiu jitsu, there is always room to grow.  BJJ does not offer a static set of techniques – it evolves, and even the best practitioners are always learning.

If you have never seen BJJ, please go to www.jitsplayer.com, and check out some of their photos and videos.  Or as Sam Sheridan, the author of The Fighter’s Mind, suggests, go to YouTube and type in “Marcelo Garcia.”  The speed and ease at which Marcelo Garcia submits his opponents is mind blowing.  You may not like fight sports, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the skills of top BJJ players.

I haven’t studied karate in over seven years, but I still love the martial arts.  After talking to my friend about his passion for BJJ, and after watching some of the videos I reference above, I thought it would be a fun challenge to sketch BJJ players in action.  The sketches in this post are for practice, and the images I used are from www.jitsplayer.com.  But once I capture some of my own images, I look forward to completing a series of BJJ sketches and paintings.

I once read that rolling on the mats with a BJJ black belt is like jumping into deep waters and not knowing how to swim.  I am told that as you progress in BJJ, you learn that the waters are much deeper than you originally thought.  To study BJJ, you have to be physically fit and mentally committed.  But what impresses me is not that BJJ players are great fighters – it’s that they chose to swim in deep waters.  We all learn more about ourselves in the deep, than we do in the shallows, and it is the lessons learned in deep waters that are most useful on and off the mats.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.  San Francisco has many popular attractions, like Fisherman’s Warf and Alcatraz, but none symbolizes the Bay Area quite like the Golden Gate Bridge.

In 1999, when I moved to San Francisco, I lived in an apartment in Russian Hill, and from the roof of my building, I had a clear view of the Bridge.  Many Fridays after work, I would stand on the rooftop, drink a beer, and watch the fog pour over the Presidio and envelope the Bridge.

After our engagement, Stacie and I moved into an apartment just around the corner from my first apartment.  From our kitchen window, we had the same spectacular view that I had from my old rooftop.  There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning than sharing a cup of coffee with your new bride while staring at the Golden Gate Bridge.  But when we found out we were having twins, Stacie and I traded our three-story walk up, two bedroom apartment for a house in the East Bay, and we said good-bye to the Bridge.

I still work in the city, and our family often drives in on the weekends.  One of the activities my boys like best is to go to Crissy Field, play in the sand, and run away from the water as the waves roll up the beach.  Sometimes the weather is warm, and sometimes it’s cool.  Sometimes it’s sunny and other times foggy.  But always, the Golden Gate Bridge is our magnificent backdrop.

I am thankful to the city for much of the happiness in my life.  I met Stacie here, all of our kids were born in San Francisco, and I have made many great friends in the Bay Area.  A team of amazing doctors, nurses and support staff at UCSF gave me a new lease on life.  The Hipping Post would not have been the same without them.

The city is in the midst of a day-long celebration.  According to the official 75th Anniversary website, the festivities are “designed not only to commemorate the Bridge but also to celebrate its unsurpassed setting and unique place in the hearts and minds of Bay Area residents and fans from around the world.”  That sounds right to me.  The Golden Gate Bridge symbolizes San Francisco, and reminds me of all that is good in life: my family, my friends, and my health.

Happy 75th Anniversary, Golden Gate Bridge!

P.S. I did the above sketch, using only my finger, on Stacie’s iPad, in an app called Paper by FiftyThree.  It’s a great way to keep a sketch journal, but be careful, it’s addictive.

My Teeth Too

Today was my seven month follow-up appointment with Dr. Vail, my hip surgeon, and yesterday was my semi-annual checkup with my dentist.  When I saw these calendar items nestled side-by-side in the monthly view of Outlook, I realized that I have two doctors advising me on two different prostheses.

When I was seven, a dog attacked me.  I was at my friend’s house, where my friend and I spent the afternoon playing with his 18-month old golden retriever.  Shortly after my mom arrived to pick me up, the dog lost patience with me, and I ended up spending the next five days in the hospital.  If turning my cheeks into torn curtains of flesh wasn’t bad enough, the dog also knocked out my new adult front teeth.

A plastic surgeon used 118 stitches to repair my face, and a dental surgeon replanted my teeth.  Although the dentist hoped my roots would reattach, after a couple of years, it was clear that my front teeth were dying.  The dentist replaced my natural teeth with fake teeth fixed to a retainer, a device that resembled a small plastic rabbit.  The scars have faded, but dentures still fill the hole in my smile.

As a kid, I enjoyed having false teeth.  I took out my teeth to make my vampire and rugby player Halloween costumes more realistic.  I impressed my friends by flicking my teeth in and out of my mouth without using my hands, just my tongue.  I didn’t need tooth picks.  I used the edges of my retainer to pick out the food that got caught between my teeth.  The added benefit of doing this at the dinner table was that it drove my brother crazy.  “Stop doing that!  You’re disgusting!”  I’m sure it annoyed my mom too, but she saw the dog attack me, so she rarely asked me not to play with my teeth.

Now that I’m older, the novelty of dentures has worn off.  My kids love it when I take my teeth out, but I’m teaching them manners, so I try not to pick my teeth at the table anymore.  Prior to my hip resurfacing, I considered having my dentist install a permanent bridge that would attach to my incisors.  Alternatively, my dentist could implant permanent teeth by drilling stems into my skull.  I would have to spend over six months in braces to realign my upper teeth before the implants could be installed, so I nixed that option.  But now that my hip surgery is behind me, I am once again thinking about replacing my dentures with a bridge.

With removable teeth and a metal hip, I feel like Mr. Potato Head.  A friend pointed out that I’m just like all the celebrities in California.  I didn’t think Kim Kardashian and I had much in common, but as my friend said, we each have “lots of replacement parts.”

Although it’s time I retired my dentures, unlike the Kardashians, I am in no rush to undergo another surgery.  My dentist explained that installing a permanent bridge is not a complicated procedure.  It can’t be harder than replacing a hip, but the follow up appointments will be more stressful than those with Dr. Vail.  Dr. Vail doesn’t lecture me about flossing.

PS. My friend, Stu, took the above photo after he and I jumped out of a plane.  I was afraid that during the free fall my front teeth might end up somewhere off the coast of Hawaii, so I left them in the car.

Don’t Forget

In the next paragraph, I give away the ending to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  If you have not read the last two books in the Harry Potter series, and you intend to, please stop reading.

Two weeks ago, I read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the Harry Potter series.  I read all of J.K. Rowling’s previous books, but I forgot that at the end of the sixth book, Severus Snape killed Albus Dumbledore.  I double-checked my list of “read books” to ensure that I had read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – I had, but I had forgot that Dumbledore died.

I am not a forgetful person, but I have memory lapses.  I have a mental block that prevents me from remembering garbage day.  It is Friday night, so I can safely say that garbage day was today.  But next Thursday, I will forget.  Stacie has stopped reminding me, and now she puts out the garbage and recycling bins.  The kids often help her, so my forgetfulness has helped teach my boys about household chores, but it has also irritated my wife.

I am not alone in forgetting.  A few weeks ago, I drove behind a car with an open gas cap cover.  The gas cap was bouncing around on its cord, so the driver must have forgotten to put the cap back on before leaving the gas station.  I told a friend this story, and he confided that he had done much worse.  Not only had he forgotten to put the gas cap back on, he had also driven away from the station with the hose still connected to his car.  My friend said, “I’ve done that three times.”

Forgetting to put the garbage out or to screw your gas cap back on has minor consequences.  When doctors forget, the costs are high.  Atul Gawande, the author of Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, explains that in the U.S., two million patients a year get infections during their hospital stay.  Ninety thousand of those patients die.  The primary cause is that doctors forget to wash their hands.  We think doctors should be perfect, but they are not.  They are human, and they also forget.

Fortunately, we have tools to help us remember.  I use Microsoft Outlook to keep track of appointments.  I also create daily “to do” lists.  I always carry a pen and a notebook, so when I think of an idea for The Hipping Post, I can jot it down.

Even doctors have tools.  As Atul Gawande explains in his essay, “The Checklist”, Dr. Peter Pronovost, of Johns Hopkins Hospital, asked doctors and nurses to use a simple checklist in the I.C.U. to help prevent line infections in patients.  Intensive care physicians work in complex environments, so they are bound to forget certain procedures, like washing their hands.  But by following Dr. Pronovost’s checklist, line infection rates dropped from eleven percent to zero.

I don’t know if Dr. Vail used a checklist, but before my surgery, his chief resident signed my left leg with a Sharpie – it was a crude, but effective reminder for Dr. Vail to operate on my left hip, and not my right.

Checklists and “to do” lists are helpful, but my favorite memory aids are stories.  I started The Hipping Post to share my hip resurfacing story.  The scar on my left butt cheek is a permanent reminder that I have a prosthetic hip.  But I did not want to forget the details of my pain before the surgery, or my support and struggles during my recovery.

I read my kids stories that remind them to respect others, to think for themselves, and to stay healthy.  I wish I had a story that would remind my sons to flush the toilet and to turn off the bathroom light.  When I get together with my friends, we tell the same stories over and over, not only to remind us of our shared history, but also to strengthen the bonds between us.  Some stories I wish I could forget, but those stories are my friends’ favorites.

I don’t mind that I forgot Snape killed Dumbledore.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, but J.K. Rowling’s stories are not important to me.  The stories that matter most to me are retold over and over by my friends and family.  Those stories make me laugh, keep me humble, and remind me of life’s lessons.

So if you drive away from the gas station with the hose attached to your car, don’t worry.  It makes for a great story, and if you have good friends, they won’t let you forget.