Tag Archives: Life

Why I Sleep Better


My grandfather once told me that the hours of sleep before midnight were better than those afterwards, so he recommended that I get to bed at a reasonable hour.  In order to wake up early in the morning to draw, I try to get to bed before 10:00 P.M.  I always thought my grandfather’s suggestion was just some folksy aphorism, but when I go to bed early, I sleep better – go figure.  Thanks for the advice, Opa.

P.S.  My grandfather’s favorite expression was, “Courtesy costs nothing, gains much.”  He was a wise man, and I miss him.

Why I Sketch For 30 Minutes Every Morning


“We have failed to recognize our great asset: time.  A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing.” – Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805)

In high school, my art teacher advised his students to sketch every day.  Even if it was just for a few minutes, he said that daily practice would result in dramatic improvements in our work.  It seemed like sound advice, but I could never last more than a few days before I got side tracked by some other activity.

In the last two years, I have been better about finding time to draw, but until recently, I have struggled with doing it every day.  But the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which I read based on Tim Ferriss’s recommendation, convinced me that not only could I manage my time better, but also that in doing so, I could draw and paint more often.


In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey writes about the habits of 161 creative people (writers, painters, scientists, composers, etc.), “to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work, and vice versa.”  Currey just describes the respective rituals, and does not suggest which ones might be better than others – although, I would not advise adopting Jean Paul Sarte’s daily habit of chewing twenty pills of Corydrane (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin that was “legal in France until 1971, when it was declared toxic and taken off the market”) to increase your writing productivity.

Although some favored creating whenever they felt the desire, many stuck to specific schedules, and would work at their craft at the same time every day.  Some had other jobs or obligations, so they would have to create either early in the morning, or late in the evening.  For example, in order to earn extra money to support her six children and sick husband, Frances Trollope, mother of novelist Anthony Trollope, “sat down at her desk each day at 4:00 A.M. and completed her writing in time to serve breakfast.”  Since my evenings are not always predictable, I decided I would try to draw early in the morning.  Since the beginning of June, with few exceptions, I have woken up at approximately 5:15 A.M. and sketched for 30 minutes.


My morning ritual looks like this.  After I wake up, I go to the kitchen and make coffee.  I could make it the night before, and set the timer to brew so it’s ready for when I wake up, but I like the process of making coffee in the morning.  Doing so also allows me to start my day by completing a simple task.

Then I make a smoothie, or bacon and eggs, and once I finish breakfast, I draw for at least 30 minutes.  After which, I pack up my materials, have a shower, change for work, and then join my family for 20 minutes or so before I leave to take the train to San Francisco.


If you want to increase your creative output or productivity, I highly recommend reading Daily Rituals for inspiration.  And wherever you are Mr. S____y, thank you for your advice.  I wish I had followed it 20 years ago.

P.S.   “Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

It’s Time To Smell (and Draw) the Roses

Yellow rose

“What a lovely thing a rose is!…Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In the past few weeks, the roses in our backyard have blossomed.  Normally, at this time of year, I am too annoyed with allergies to notice flowers.  But this year, I was taken with watching our roses grow from little green bulbs to full colorful flowers.  I could try to explain why I wanted to draw them, but the quotes I included in this post do a much better job.


“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”
– Henri Matisse

pink rose

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
– Dale Carnegie

Sketchbook Journal


I sketch because I enjoy doing it, but I also draw because it helps my memory.  Sometimes the past feels like a blur.  When my kids were infants, I bought them each a baseball glove.  Now they are playing little league, and I wonder where the time went.

Pinewood cars

So at the beginning of this year, to offset the risk of fleeting memories, I started a sketchbook journal.  It’s like my other sketchbooks, where I draw different subjects, but this sketchbook is chronological, and is meant to preserve specific events in my life.  It’s not a diary, as I don’t mind if people flip through it.  It’s just an illustrated record of memorable moments.


Most of my sketches are of good memories.  I haven’t sketched my boys fighting with each other, and I didn’t sketch the crack in my windshield that I noticed this morning.  Maybe eventually I will capture the bad with the good, but for now, I’m drawing what I want to remember.

plane_the ba

Included in this post is a sketch of the back of an airplane seat.  I can’t say that moment made me particularly happy, but I have been traveling a lot this year, and I thought that a scene from one of my flights was appropriate to include.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

I don’t know how many more of these sketches I will share on The Hipping Post, but I figured you might like to see some examples of my other experiment in sketching and writing.

P.S. To see more examples of unique sketchbook journals, check out Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life.  It’s fantastic.


The range_Paper

I have a hard time committing to any activity for an extended period of time.  I have a long list of “tried and abandoned” pursuits, including the piano, the harmonica, Spanish, speed reading, and CrossFit, to name a few.

Even in my artwork, I don’t stick to a specific media.  Sometimes I sketch in pencil, other times in pen.  In my art class, I paint in acrylics on canvas, but at home, I usually paint with watercolors in my sketchbooks.  I love using art markers, and on rare occasions, when my kids haven’t hijacked Stacie’s iPad, I’ll doodle in an app called Paper.

Range watercolor

As an example, in this post, I included two sketches and a painting, all of the same subject, but each using different media.  The first is a sketch in Paper, the second is a watercolor sketch, and below is an acrylic painting that I recently finished.


Sometimes I think I should focus on one media in order to develop my skills.  But I like the variety of trying different tools and materials.  And I think my sketching helps my painting, and vice versa.

The question is whether or not I will add artwork to my list of fleeting interests.  I like to think that all of those activities just led me back to art.  I finally feel committed to drawing and painting, even if it means I have to postpone trying jiu jitsu, gourmet cooking, and DIY home renovations.

P.S. The image I sketched and painted is from a photo my friend took of the Rocky Mountain foothills outside of Calgary.  Thanks for letting me use your image, Jess.

More Every Day Matters

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” –  Pablo Picasso

In my last post, I wrote that I was thankful for the big things in my life.  When I asked my kids what they were thankful for, they said things like, “My family,” and “You, Daddy” (correct answer, son!).

But they also said things like, “my trains,” and “the Jelly Belly factory.”  In the lives of little boys, simple things are important.

As Picasso implies in the above quote, the problem as we grow up is not just how to remain an artist, but how to maintain a child’s perspective that simple things and moments matter.

Included in this post are more of my sketches from the Every Day Matters Challenge that I previously wrote about in my post, “Every Day Matters.”

PS. For those of you who don’t know Flat Eric, in 1999, he was featured in a brilliant TV ad campaign for Levi’s Sta-Prest clothing line.  Below are the first two commercials – a cult following ensued.

PPS. Pete Scully, a wildly talented sketcher based in Davis, CA, has embarked on his own EDM Challenge.  You should check out his posts, here, here, here, and here.

Do You Like Darth Maul?

For the past couple of months, my youngest son has been bugging me to draw him a picture of Darth Maul, and last night, I finally did.  When I showed my son this drawing, I asked him why he likes Darth Maul so much.  He said, “Because he’s red and black, and he has spikes on his head.”

I said, “I know what he looks like, but why do you like him?”

He responded, “Because he’s cool!  And he has a double light-saber!”

I wasn’t a big fan of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, but I admit, I too thought Darth Maul was cool, and I was disappointed when Obi Wan defeated him.  It’s not that I wanted Darth Maul to beat Obi Wan, but it would have been nice if Darth Maul had escaped and lasted for at least one more movie.

Star Wars is as popular today as it was 30 years ago because George Lucas created compelling characters to depict the external and internal battle between good and evil.  Part of the genius of Star Wars is how it presents evil.  Darth Maul is bad, but he has moves unlike any other Jedi, and he does have the best weapon.  Darth Vader is maniacal, but his strength and power are alluring.  George Lucas recognized that evil resides inside all of us, and he uses Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and Luke to illustrate how we may be tempted by the Dark Side.  By introducing bad guys who we partially like, George Lucas also forces us to participate in this struggle.

My wife and I try to teach our boys right from wrong, and we believe the lessons they learn on Sunday morning will slowly sink in.  But I also think stories, like those told in Star Wars, help kids frame good and evil.  Andrew may think Darth Maul is cool, but he also knows that good always triumphs over evil.

P.S.  My prayers are with all those who are suffering as a result of the tragedy in Colorado.  Given the shootings last week, I was reluctant to publish this post.  I don’t mean to be uncompassionate to the families of the victims by addressing evil in the world through fictional characters (particularly since a similar analogy could be made using Batman and The Joker).  But my five year old is slowly learning about good and evil, and I shouldn’t have to tell him about what happened in Colorado.  Frankly, the violence James Holmes committed is a form of evil that I can’t comprehend nor explain.  Until my son is older, Star Wars is one lense through which he can see and understand evil.