A new drawing film: Red Hook

(This film was shot, and is best viewed, in full-screen HD. If there’s  a problem, you can go to it directly on Vimeo here.)

A few months ago I decided I wanted to make a series of films about illustrated journaling. Not a how-to, step-by-step sort of thing but films that capture the adventure of drawing, the discovery, the spirit, the fun. I hope they will inspire you to make drawings (and films, if you want) and to keep an illustrated journal as a regular part of your everyday lives.

My son, Jack Tea, has joined me in this project and together we have worked through lots of technical obstacles to make films that look as good as we can make them on no budget. Our inspiration comes from the Cooking Channel, from Etsy’s vlog, and from too many decades of loving movies.

We shoot on our Canon 7D, rent different lenses each weekend (in this case we relied heavily on the 100/2.8 L IS Macro), use Jack’s skateboard as a dolly, and rope our friends in for help and opinions.

Here’s the newest film in the series, a portrait of my great friend, Tommy Kane, as he rides around his neighborhood in search of something new to draw. Tom is a great traveller — he regularly posts sumptuous journal pages made on his vacations and business trips. His favorite home-away-from-home is Korea and he has made many amazing drawings on its streets and in its markets.

This time, we decided he should travel through his own neck of the woods, see it anew like a visiting stranger and capture a mundane little corner and fill it with his particular brand of magic. Normally Tom works mainly on site, dragging out all of his materials onto the pavement around his little folding stool but instead we decided to expand the scene and show you some of Tom’s home and studio and incidentally some of the wonderful big paintings he’s done on canvas. (He took the unusual step of using a reference photo he shot of the scene to jog his memory once back at his studio).

When journaling, he works in Uniball, watercolor and pencil, sometime in books, sometimes on loose sheets of bond or watercolor paper. He is a meticulous crosshatcher and spend hours on some of his drawings.  When we draw together, I invariably start to chafe at the bit and beg him to finish at home as I am tired of sitting in his shadow, my own drawing long finished and yellowing on the page, glazing over as he crosshatches more and more details.

We shot the film in two days — on the streets of Brooklyn and in Tom’s home where his lovely wife, Yun, made us lunch and watched our obsessiveness with a bemused smile.  It was the height of a baking summer and storm crowds rolled in and out, marring our continuity.

We shot an extravagant amount and it took a month to wade through it all and pare it down. The first cut was twice as long as what you’ll see today, but we resharpened our blades and ruthlessly trimmed back to the bare essentials. We tried to retain the essence of how Tom works, the way he layers media and adds detail. It’s fascinating to see how his drawing builds and builds — when you see the final result, it’s often hard to figure out how he got there. With this film, please share in how the journey unfolds.

73 thoughts on “A new drawing film: Red Hook

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating glimpse into how Tommy Kane creates his art. Inspirational! Thanks for posting your new film for all of us to enjoy.

  2. VERY inspiring!!! I love the video; the drawing and paintings are great,… and I am a little jealous of Tommys skills and apartment ;-) Thank you for sharing!!! Lookin forward to the next video you guys will make!

  3. watched it, then watched it again! Great close up shots. Love his apartment! Wonderful natural light. I’ll be sharing this with my graphic design students at Houston Community College. THANKS!

  4. Danny and Jack Tea, this is so well-done! I loved it and will watch it again. I love Tommy’s work and really enjoyed watching his process. All three of you are such great inspiration. I loved the “end” sign and Tommy’s squirrel with a gun! To think this great film and all your other inspiration and help is free! Thanks!

  5. That was wonderful. I loved it – his art and how he creates. Love his studio too! Your filming of this was superb, in my opinion. It drew me right in. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  6. Same here- watched it- then watched it again- and I can´t wait to see it all over before I go to bed. What a sweet surprize- that you made another film!!! Too good to be true- Feels like christmas today- and I´m so grateful to you, to your son Jack Tea and to Tommy Kane. Next time I will look out for Jack´s skateboard as the dolly when you glide through Tommy´s studio- it looked soo professional- I thought you had used a professional film-team- I really did ( and I have worked as an assistant on several advertisement-movies). Yesterday- I received all the colors of the Dr. Ph. Martins Radiant Water Colors- and I sat up late last night- trying them out- getting aqquainted with them- and then- to get to know your friend Tommy and to see how he works- what a treat!!!

    What would I have done this year- if I didn´t buy your book “Everyday matters”?? ( Then all the other ones you´ve made too). They have made me draw EVERY day now- and I´ve regained my happiness to be alive!

  7. This is brilliant, I enjoyed watching this video so much! You, Jack and Tommy got me all fired up to do some serious journal illustrating on my upcoming trip to the Canary Islands!!! :-D

  8. Well this video is a revelation to me. Learned a few things about how Tommy does his magic.
    Great work and of course great subject.

  9. Love these videos! Keep making more, please :D
    I love seeing how different people go at a sketch. Tommy works kind of like I do, diving in with pen and working out from a point of interest, but he has much, much more patience for detailing than I do!

  10. Great work! I love it. I love the cobblestone beginning, the graffiti, the bulldozer working its arm, the bike wheels turning, the music (great choices, really fit the mood,the 2nd piece may feel better if started after the bike is put away), the synch point of musical highlight and the Bar discovery (at this point, a scene of him looking to his right does not seem to belong), Tommy’s innocent baby like face looking up at the Bar while he drew, the momentary scene of this other room with some collected items, the ending with Tommy relaxing and standing at an interesting spot with a drink. Tommy seems to know exactly where his next line or dot is going to land. There is no mistake whatsoever. I admire this perfected skill in artists very much. Love his studio. Not sure why he skipped the details of the wall of the Bar. Those triangular shapes are beautiful to me. If I have more time to watch it again and again, I’ll see more. Thank you Danny, Jack, and Tommy for this beautiful creative work. I love your name Jack Tea Gregory. I thought it sounds cool. 4 great beats together sounds like a refreshing bird call. Oh, not sure if it’s a true reflection of the Empire State building? That’s neat.

  11. What an awesome next step in showing “drawing matters” after the publication of Illustrated Journals! To see outstanding artists working live is such an inspiration to my sketching. Thanks, and I would so be pushing a donation button if you had one! Would love to help fund these projects! (Have you looked at Kickstarter.com ?)

  12. Great flick Danny. Perfect. Always love to see other artists at work. Gives me ideas. Tommy is fearless, no pencil, just straight to the ink! Great job Tommy.
    …dave

  13. Wonderful, is all I can say. Danny, your journalling films are the best! There’s so many online, but almost always clumsy handiwork which also has its charm. But your films show journalling for what it is…way more than a creative passtime. Your films show it’s a wonderful combination of art and the personal. You’ve done two fabulous jobs already and I can’t wait to see more! If you make a series of these, it will be much like your book ‘An Illustrated Life’. I loved the book very much because it didn’t only showcase several journals, but was wonderful especially in letting the artists speak of what the journal means to them. To see them at work in a film gives it that much extra, though. To see techniques, how people look, or don’t look at the object they’re drawing, how they use colour, where they work…and doing that with the style that you have used is simply fabulous! Not just inspiring, but also a very good portrait of this art form; that it is to be taken seriously! hehe
    Chapeau for you and your son! You make a very good team!

  14. well, I must say, this has been a wordless wednesday. the art of Tommy Kane is inspiring, and the film itself is outstanding. you editors are far above average. this is about as perfect a sketching demonstration you can get.

  15. Wonderful! It’s SO great to watch the process, how each person sketches.
    How about a DVD like “Illustrated journals” ? And the quality of this film is
    top-notch — kudos to you all.

  16. I watched The Art of Breakfast 3 times today. The relaxing music starts to grow on me. I found myself humming it just while I was brushing my teeth after dinner. It almost sounds too perfect. Yet, it seems so fitting as the way you draw shows not a trace of contrived effort. I found that the magic in your drawing is that you make everything you draw come to life or even more so than the real thing. It is as if I am watching an animation movie, yet the movement is totally STILL. I love those whimsical moments of faces sort of staring and greeting each other and the audience, again they are coming to life as if… from an inanimate material existence. The use of the steel nibs reminds me of fountain pens which certainly are filled with so much more character than pens and pencils, and your drawing shows it. I feel nature never repeats itself. Thus, in re-creating what God has created, the most difficult blockage to me is how to be as care free, as random like, and as effortless as nature is. Only in losing myself in the creative process, the painting can emerge. I think too much. Your work has that rare quality of being real, free, true and innocent as a child. This exactly is the gift you and Jack are giving to the world – reconnecting us to the innocence within us. Thank you for being so alive.

    p.s. Everything looks so delicious!!! I miss NY bagels…

  17. Thanks, Danny & Jack & Tom! I love this video and look forward to seeing future ones! I found it helpful as a fellow sketchcrawler to see another’s techniques. Jack did such professional job filming! So fun & the pacing is great. I love that this is also a little Sneak Peek into Tom’s apt! (Love the Grace Kelly & Wicked Witch portraits!) Way to go guys. 3 cheers!

  18. Hi Danny –

    We are having some trouble locating your email address, but we wanted to talk with you about your film, in relation to our upcoming film festival. Please send us an email at redhookfilmfest [at] yahoo [dot] com

    Thanks!
    The 5th annual Red Hook Film Festival

  19. Absolutely loved this, the glimpse of Tommy Kane’s life both in his home and out sketching on the streets. I watched this with my 16 year old art mad daughter who also thought it was brilliant. If you didn’t know you might think this has been put together by a team of professionals, not a father and son team on a barely existant budget.

  20. WOW! This is my first time visiting your blog, after reading about it on Amazon. The film is stunning! All the little glimpses of the amazing spots to stop and sketch…. You guys did a fabulous job!

  21. LOVE THIS! Jack and Danny – you two are amazing. This was such an inspiration! I will watch it again and again, and promise myself – someday, to take myself on a sketching trip to your vibrant city. Thanks for giving us such an inspiring glimpse of an amazing artist at work.

  22. Fabulous video! I loved watching Tommy work…the drawing and watercoloring and pencil coloring are all brilliant, and so inspiring. I hope you will continue making and sharing these movies with us.

  23. Great video! The Aha moment when he found what he would paint came through. As an upcoming Sketchbook Skool student, I really liked seeing him work and the materials he used. Great cinematography!

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