Simplicity In Design, Relaxation, And Decision Making

Jordan and Nicole vector drawing by Pete Ippel

Jordan and Nicole vector drawing by Pete Ippel

When I was in Europe in May I flew through London and got to visit with a very close friend of mine. Nicole and I met at Cornell, and we really hit it off athlete to athlete. She was studying in the hotel school and I was studying fine art. The ways in which we spent our time were very different besides our academic pursuits. She was in the pool practicing her water polo shots and defense while I was doing everything to run faster and jump higher at the track. Despite our disparate likes, both of us shared a love of sport.

While I was at school, she gave me “The Little Book of Olympic Inspiration”, what a thoughtful present it was. So many of the pages are dog-eared and offer up pearls of wisdom. A personal favorite is from Bobby Joe Borrow, a runner who struck gold in the 1956 Melbourne Games, “Whatever success I have had is due to being so perfectly relaxed that I can feel my jaw muscles wiggle.”

This resonated very much with me before I approached the bar to leap 2.15m in 2001…absolute calm and clarity led to a successful jump. This clarity wasn’t an instant type of thing that you can turn on and off. It is learned, practiced, and developed over long periods of time.

I’ve talked in the past about decision making and when to nuke ideas, I want to share a small excerpt from Daniel F. Chambliss, who is a sociology expert and also a coach.

Great accomplishments, we often assume, require heroic motivation: an intense desire to be the best, an inner strength beyond all measure, some special love of school, of family, of country. Some one of these, must, we think, drive the superlative athlete…In fact, world-class athletes get to the top level by making a thousand little decisions every morning and night.

If you make the right choice on each of these — decide to get up and go to practice, decide to work hard today, decide to volunteer to do an extra event to help your team — then others will save you ‘have’ dedication. But it is only the doing of those little things, all taken together, that makes that dedication. Great [athletes] aren’t made in the long run; they are made every day.

Jumping back to the summer of 2002, I can remember the best answer I ever heard to the question “What is an artist?” was from a 20 year old art student I was dating named Katie.

She simply replied, “Artists make decisions.”

That graceful answer has been with me for 8 years, I’ve never heard a better one…I’ve listened to many other people try to explain what an artist is, but it gets too complex and grandiose. Frequently people, including other artists, will lose their train of thought and become scattered in their definition.

Before I edited my artist statement for this year, it used to read “I’m in the business of communicating ideas. I solve problems. I think abstractly. I make decisions.” So applying Chambliss’ concept to an artistic career, one must make the same assumption — that an artist must, every day, make critical decisions that all add up to success…

So fast forward to 2010, presently Nicole is an water polo playing hospitality expert and will be marrying a British soccer fanatic in 2011. Clearly she’s been making the right decisions…Her club team the Otters has even competed (and won) against some national teams from eastern Europe. Recently I was asked to design their “save the date” card. I really enjoy looking at the happy couple in their respective sporting outfits in a simple red and black composition.

Press Release: “The Fantastic Solution to Global Warming and Other Conundrums” An art show by Pete Ippel


“The Fantastic Solution to Global Warming and Other Conundrums” An art show by Pete Ippel
May 16-31, 2008
Opening Reception: Friday, May 16, 6-9 p.m. with DJ music and indoor-jumping photo souvenirs for guests. EDITORS: You, your reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the event.

Icthus Gallery
1769 15th Street (between Valencia and Guerrero), San Francisco, CA
Gallery hours, weekdays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; weekends, by appointment
Admission, Free

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For more information, contact, Pete Ippel, artist
Phone, (415) 425-8863
E-mail, pete at
Web site,
The Fantastic Solution to Global Warming
“The Fantastic Solution to Global Warming”, 40 x 60 inches (101 x 152 cm), gouache, ink, pencil, and watercolor on paper

SAN FRANCISCO, Monday, April 28, 2008 – The Fantastic Solution to Global Warming and other Conundrums is an exhibition of new artwork by San Francisco based artist and athlete Pete Ippel. In this collection of drawings, photographic prints, and videos he explores themes ranging from nuclear waste processing to the pairing of art and sport.

In Ippel’s brightly rendered, fantastical 2-D world, a box of lightning, some incandescent light bulbs, and a gigantic, biological-organic turbine are coupled with wind, tide, hydroelectric, nuclear, volcanic, solar, and geothermal power sources to sequester carbon dioxide. Under intense heat and pressure, in a star-powered fusion-cooker, diamonds are produced, thus solving the dilemmas of green house gases, vacant mines, and human rights issues associated with diamond mining.

The exhibition also highlights artifacts, photographic prints, and video informed by Ippel’s work as an athlete and a coach. After completing a successful collegiate track and field career as a high jumper in New York, Ippel made the move to San Francisco to pursue a Masters of Fine Art in the New Genres Department of the San Francisco Art institute.

It was here in the Bay Area, inspired by local artists Tony Labat and Tom Marioni, where Ippel began to craft projects that married his passion for jumping to his artistic practice.

“When I saw that Tony had devoted a year of his life to boxing, and Tom was drinking beer with friends in the name of art while making movement based drawing and prints I felt empowered,” said Ippel. “And I’ve been fortunate to spend time with both of them here in San Francisco. I really respect their work,” Ippel added.

“The Jump Series” grows out of the tradition of New Genres where actions are performed for the camera. The body of work is based on the premise that to push of one’s self off any surface and into the air by using the muscles in one’s legs and feet is a glorious and enjoyable act; essentially human flight. The modes of lift-off on display include skateboarding, high jumping, jumping off of architecture, leaping into panoramic scenes, jumping over objects, and choreographed jumps with other individuals. Ippel utilizes a tripod and a remote control or the camera’s self-timer to execute this body of performative photographs.

TSP Athletics, also on display, is a competitive vertical jumps team, social club, and acts as a collaborative vehicle to generate images of athletes in flight. It blurs boundaries between art and sport while acting as a vehicle to temper the shock of moving away from traditional competitive athletics.

“When you have something obscure like the high jump that has been your top priority for so many years, it’s foreign when it’s gone,” says Ippel. “Because I went directly to SFAI from Cornell, it was quite a challenge to no longer have the support of my team, nor be able to celebrate my athletic gifts in competition. I went through a real period of grief.” Ippel satiated his needs by creating a one-person team and traveling alone to meets a few times a year. “I made a uniform, started a website, and I kept in touch with my jumping peers. When I was at the meets after being away for so long, I started to see the beauty of the action and the camaraderie and wanted to capture it, and still keep it active in my life.”

The project has developed as an answer to what collegiate athletes do upon graduation to keep in touch, keep jumping, and make art.

Since its inception in 2004, TSP Athletics has grown to include former NCAA qualifiers and university record holders. Ippel’s plan is to produce limited-edition prints with participation by distinguished jumpers who are invited to be athletes-in-residence for TSP. In the frame of social sculpture these artists/athletes will each, contribute to the TSP Archive to add to its expanding collection of images and memorabilia.

Pete Ippel was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA and has been surrounded by the arts since birth. He moved to Morris, Illinois in 1989 and started to participate in athletics rather than dance. After high school, Pete attended Cornell University where he earned a BA in psychology and a BFA in photo / digital art making. He continued to follow his sporting dreams in the high jump, which culminated in a school record leap of 7 feet 1/2 inch in 2001. In May 2004 he attained an MFA degree in the New Genres department of the San Francisco Art Institute. Presently Pete is a practicing artist whose work is in numerous private collections. He’s also the residence manager for the San Francisco Ballet, a fitness professional, coaches basketball and track at University High School, and still high jumps from time to time.

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Gah, Another Tough Friday Lecture

Well, another Friday lecture down the tubes, I wonder if it’s a prerequisite to be an awful speaker if you’re being a visiting lecture. Tonight she was yawning to her own slides, AND THEY’RE HER SLIDES! It’s a damn good thing I’m becoming an artist, because I want to create change when I come back to SFAI, people will have fun, and the lecture is going to be SHORT, because I don’t want to waste grad student’s time.

In other news open studios is tomorrow, and I’m stoked.

In other, other news, I want to high jump so bad I can taste it, and I finally have a goal, I want to compete in the State Games of America in CT this summer. I’ve got a long way to go, as I’m a bit soft right now.

Gotta tone down the skating too, my left hip is getting funky from skating 6 miles a day to and from the studios…skate to stay young.