Houston Sketchcrawl: Cullen Sculpture Garden at the MFAH

We had our second meetup today; it was at the MFAH’s Cullen Sculpture Garden.  I sketched two statues using Prismacolor colored pencils and limited palettes.  I sketched quickly while standing, with a few wax-based colored pencils (can’t really blend any colors with these), so I didn’t try to harmonize the colors perfectly (as I would have with a serious piece).  The statue of the woman had a huge upper arm, a bit of a belly, and an ill-defined blob for a hand, so those were recorded in my drawing.

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Walk, Climb, Leap: A Metaphor for Personal Growth

Imagine yourself as an explorer of a new land.

You take walks to understand, with greater breadth, your immediate surroundings.  At first, your walks are random paths.  As you begin to understand your surroundings, your walks become more and more directed.  Sometimes, you stop and ask other travelers for directions.  You couldn’t find a map, so you’ve been slowly creating your own.

When you notice something interesting, such as a trail of foraging ants, you stop walking, pull out a magnifying glass, and observe that they are, for example, leafcutter ants.  (Perhaps you’re in Central America.)  You observe your surroundings with greater depth when you stop and focus.

Eventually, your world becomes familiar.  Life becomes comfortable.

You begin to yearn for a larger perspective on things.  There’s a mountain in the near distance.  You hike there and begin to climb.  It’s taller than you thought it would be, and the going is tougher than you expected.  You want to turn around at times.  Eventually, somehow, after much effort, you reach a subpeak.  The trees are very different at this elevation, as are the fauna and other flora you encounter.  You start walking again, start creating new trails.  At some point, you realize you’re much savvier than you were at the foot of the mountain.

Soon afterward, you realize that you’re comfortable again; everything has become, once again, familiar.  So, you start another climb.  You’re stronger this time, but that doesn’t make the climb easy.  Pretty often, actually, it’s downright demoralizing.

You stop at a breathtaking panorama and look around.  There’s a beautiful lake in the valley below.  You’ve never been to a lake.  You have no idea what that’s even like.  You’re dedicated to reaching the top of the mountain, though, so you keep climbing.

Soon, you reach the summit.  It’s a pretty small place.  You spend a lot of time there just recuperating.  You put your magnifying glass to good use, observing all kinds of interesting, unique phenomena you’ve never encountered elsewhere and documenting them in your journal.  Soon, you’ve filled almost a hundred pages.  You’re almost certain that you’re the world’s expert on the unique fauna and flora of this “island in the sky.”

You remember the lake in the valley below and ponder how to get there…

Ah, but your tent fabric is also used in paragliders!  You cut and join your tent fabric to create a paraglider, attach yourself to it, and leap off the mountain.

When you land on the lakefront, you meet a tribe of people you never knew about.  They show you how to paddleboard.  You find paddleboarding unusually fun–you never would have realized that without trying it out.  They also teach you how to fish.  That night, at a bonfire–you’ve also never been to a bonfire party–you roast the fish and find that it’s delicious and unlike anything else you’ve eaten.  You share a fresh mint-like herb from the mountain-top with the tribe.  They’ve never tried it–it’s completely new to them. They love it because it goes well with the fish.  You become friends.

If your personhood is a house, then you’ve added entire new wings onto that house since landing next to the lake with your paraglider.

After the celebration, you note in your journal that the growth-oriented person will not walk for too long in one place, nor imprison himself atop a particular mountain, nor avoid huge leaps to unfamiliar domains.

iPad Art: A Simple Fix for My Adonit Jot Pro’s Skipping Problem

For at least the past few months, my Adonit Jot Pro stylus has been skipping.  When I press down harder on the iPad screen, the skipping goes away, but this has scratched the screen and is not a fun way to draw.

Last night, I easily fixed this problem:  I took the plastic disk off the tip, sprinkled some shaved graphite into where it connects with the handle, and then popped the handle back on.  It now writes perfectly with minimal pressure and feels like one of those gel pens!  I look forward to creating more art with the iPad now.

(Update 10/7/16: the Jot Pro is still skip-free!  It writes as perfectly today as it did when I posted this article.  The shaved graphite was a permanent fix.)

Here are some quick sketches I’ve done recently, all in Paper by 53 for iPad.  (Why hands and feet, you ask?  Well, when you’re lacking for a subject, your hands and feet can be challenging and interesting subjects to draw.)  Note how many strokes it took to outline the hands–that’s what happens when your stylus keeps skipping!

The portrait of Hippocrates, below, was done at the first Houston Sketchcrawl, a Meetup group I created a couple weeks ago.  I used a tiny portrait of Hippocrates, about ten feet away, as a reference and then made up a bunch of details.  I believe that art is most fun in a social setting.  We’ve only had one meeting so far and already have ~50 members!

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Finally, here’s a quick sketch with my newly skip-free Jot Pro.  It’s much more pleasant to use!

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Draw or Paint to Become More Emotionally Resilient?

A good friend shared this with me today:  How Art Changes Your Brain.

It’s a fascinating study that suggests that the production of visual art in adulthood–as compared with art appreciation–leads to greater emotional resilience.  This conclusion rings true with me, especially with respect to drawing.

Drawing has always felt like meditation.  When I draw, I lose sense of time.  It’s a strangely soothing activity.  Especially during internal medicine residency, I felt that drawing provided a perfect counterpoint to harried workdays filled with often-stressful interactions with what seemed like a hundred or more people.

Many others who get into drawing feel similarly about it.

Today, after work, I went to the MFAH‘s First Thursday Sketching event for the first time.  It was fun.  A kid came up to me and asked if I would teach him how to draw.  I sketched an art school graduate and also sketched this skull in colored pencil:

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Backspace

I type with blazing speed…and then spend a third to half of my time rapidly hitting the backspace key with my right pinky.  The faster I type, the more mistakes I make, and the more I need to backspace.  This is a ridiculous situation.

Something else happens when I type quickly:  I throw my fingers at the keyboard with more momentum.  They land with greater force.  Sometimes, they begin to ache.  This was hardly perceptible until last week, when I realized that the distal interphalangeal joint of my right pinky–the joint nearest the tip of the finger–ached while typing.

I realized I had to “backspace” my approach to typing–I had to “rewrite” my approach.  So, I forced myself to type slowly, softly.  It was hard to slow down at first, but I soon realized that I made hardly any mistakes while typing slowly, so I didn’t waste time on the backspace key and therefore didn’t lose much efficiency.  (“Slowly”, I realize, is a relative concept.)

I noticed something else:  typing now soothes my fingers instead of hurting them.  It’s become enjoyable.