EDM #32: Draw something metallic

This is the work of my fine Lamy Safari and a hint of sumi ink. But most of the credit goes to  patience, to slowing way, way down and just enjoying the calm that enveloped me and my desk. I drew this last night as Jack was at a concert in Brooklyn and my dogs were working on rawhide bones at my feet. The Dixon Brothers (Howard and Dorsey) sang about Jesus, whiskey and penury from my speakers and the air conditioner hummed in the corner. I studied each reflection in the corkscrew, breaking it down to three or four tones and carefully recording them.

I knew where I had fudged a line here and there, despite my care and slow pace, and I could still here that recriminating voice muttering in a corner of my skull. Whatever the hectoring spectre was that hung over me recently (addressed so lovingly and helpfully by all of your comments about my last post), it was still lurking when I recapped my pen so I started drawing a grid in the background and then filling in squares. Still unsatisfied, I pulled out my calligraphy nib. Then I just left my book on my desk and went to bed to read. I’d enjoyed the process but was still unsure about the drawing. And the muttering.

This morning, I passed through my study on the way to get some iced coffee and saw the page and thought “not bad.” Maybe some shoemaker’s elves worked on it over night or maybe the self-doubt has lifted.

In your comments, some of you suggested that the limitations of the EDM Challenges could be to blame, that having proscribed assignments was making me stiff and restricted. I think that’s probably true but it’s also part of the process. For me, now, being forced to work on one mundane drawing after the next is driving me deeper inside drawing, making me do something specific each day, filling the page, making marks, and thinking about art each and every day. Sometimes it’s painful and raises demons, sometimes it’s a mess, but I think it’s the only way to fight back the excuses and just keep at it until I breakthrough to something new.

Watching the Olympics is reinforcing my commitment. Imagine working day after day since you were a little kid on balancing on a beam or running 100 meters and then having all of that work and sacrifice come down to a single instance on a  single day in a far-off land in front of billions of eyeballs. It’s pretty extraordinary. And the miracle, the fluidity of the moment is only possible because of all the discipline, the repetition, the working through pain and boredom that preceded it.

We all want to be able to draw beautifully every time. The myth of ‘talent’ is that we are either born with it or not, just like sprinters are genetically determined to have long legs, swimmers to have broad chests, hurdlers to have elaborate hairstyles. But the fact that I will never be Michelangelo or Picasso or Phelps isn’t going to stop  me from being Gregory, from being as good at being me as I can be. Greatness isn’t necessary to proceed. And the occasional low score from the judges wont make me hang up my leotard.

I’m not going for the gold. Just for the stainless steel.

33 Comments

  1. Pauline Leger

    oh Danny, this post makes me happy. So glad you’re not gonna hang up your leotard. ;-)

  2. Jane LaFazio

    wonderful page, drawing and writing. But unfortunately, I can’t get the image of you in a leotard out of my head. :-)

  3. Rita Cleary

    Well said, Danny. And a superb job on this challenge! I have had that same experience (at a far less accomplished level), where it just is bugging me when I’m working on it, but then looking at it after some hours, days, weeks, years have elapsed, it looks better. I think there is something in the brain when the work is in progress that causes self-criticism. My family will comment how I am “getting better”, and (while I like to hear that), I think to myself “what’s wrong with them? can’t they see how off it is?” In the end though, you have concluded as I have. When things are not flowing as I’d like, I step back and ask myself what is my goal here anyway? Mine is not to publish or be acknowledged in any public way. I seek to celebrate and document my life–all of its joys and struggles–as mementos for my kids and grandkids to enjoy down the road. What I wouldn’t give to find writings or sketches by my own mother or grandmothers! I did have the neat experience of finding letters which my grandfather had written to my father when he was away in the Army in WW II that were accompanied by little stick-figure sketches of the little everyday things of home. I never knew he had that inclination!

  4. To read that an artist as accomplished as you are is still questioning his ability is a relief, quite frankly. I didn’t read the replies from yesterday, but if I had one to offer, it would be this: I’m no artist, but I like to draw. I draw for the same reason I ride my bicycle or take long walks instead of driving: to keep me sane. When I grip my pen too tightly, it not only makes my hand cramp, it makes my head and heart cramp up as well; thereby, making my drawing less than what it could be. Perhaps it would be helpful to look at these EDM challenges not as exercises, but as therapy. I know I do. As always, thank you for sharing your drawings and thoughts with us.

  5. wagonized

    Great post about being as good as being oneself as one can be — and the myth of talent.

  6. Linda Kelly

    Your post this morning makes me smile, and your drawing makes me want to pop open a good bottle of wine, but it’s a bit early for that! I think your inner critic needs to meet mine – her name is Genevieve – she wears half moon Calvin Klein readers on a blingy silver chain, and for summer is dressed in a smart deep purple pencil skirt and jacket with matching sateen stilletos. She clips around inside my head making snide comments about my writing and attempts at drawing. Frequently, I have to flick her off my shoulder and send her tumbling arse over tea kettle!!
    I appreciate that after some time away from your drawing, it didn’t look half bad. I’m finding that for myself, as I struggle to learn. And, your commitment to drawing one piece at a time, even though it’s not of your choosing, keeps me inspired. It’s easy for me to say “I can’t do this” or “this really looks like crap” but with each attempt, I’m learning something new and stretching my skills just a bit further. I’m so glad I discovered your blog through your interview with Jane!

  7. AnAis

    Bravo, Danny!!
    I’m absolutely agree with you and, most of times, our worse enemies are excuses…
    I know, more than anyone, that I was born without the “magic touch of the natural artist”, but the more I draw, the more I believe I can keep on trying it and every single step is a great achieve for me. And the most important thing: I ENJOY drawing each sketch! :)
    Cheer up!

  8. Karen

    Very inspiring, & I couldn’t have said it any better.

    Your daily challenges have driven my back to sketching every day. Sometimes they are better than others, but it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is putting my creative energy to work however good or bad it might be that day!

    Eventually, my drawings will improve, they’ll get more interesting, & complicated.

    Thank you for the daily inspiration

  9. Dee

    Hooray for you!

  10. Joyce

    Great job on this challenge…and love the thoughts too. I’ve been thinking the same things about the olympians, and thinking I need to dare a little more, and also to pour myself back into daily drawing. When I draw in volume and with regularity is when I see the gems….

  11. Lynn

    Glad you worked this out for yourself. Too many cooks…sometimes…
    I think your work today is great. Glad you liked it in the morning.
    I too find getting away from it for a while, a day, allows me to see mine through new eyes.
    Keep dancing!

  12. Nadya

    such a great post! really inspiring for young artists like myself to keep drawing!!

  13. gypsysnail

    Yes yes you are totally Gregory and that’s how we want to know you always! :) Ur style is you and I am glad too u wont ever give up

  14. ChrisF

    Drawing is a muscle. I suspect with the events of the past few years you’ve let it go a bit and you’re just getting back into it again. Plus you are coming to these from a different place in your head. Sometimes that wakes up the inner critic.

  15. Moira aguilar

    Bravo!

  16. Ellen Ward

    Danny: SO many of us are going through the artistic jim jams at the same time—-as other posters have said it may be your next book! Something about silencing that inner critic. I recently started a new approach to the whole ” mistake idea”—use a light colored pencil for a loose drawing – do not erase, leave as pentimento- then draw again using it as a guide not a tracery—in a bolder ink. This has really worked over the last few months. Love this drawing and all your narratives: they say what so many of us feel. We are your tribe!

  17. Alissa

    Great page – I like your comment on the shoemaker’s elves – it is a rare and wonderful time when they visit a drawing overnight. Your books and words have made me look at the seemingly mundane and they become objects that are interesting and specific to draw and observe.

    AND I will look at the Olympics differently now, with a special consideration for stainless steel position on the dias ! (we are all slightly obsessed by Gold)

  18. Brenda Swenson

    Thanks for the words for encouragement to be the best “we” can be… I will never one of the greats but becoming “me” sure has been a fantastic journey!
    And the the way using the grid in the background was a stroke of genius! I consider you one of the GREATS, and I know I’m not alone.
    Happy Sketching!

    • Tina

      Big Hug from Macedonia, where the Humming from our five airconditions disappears when I get to see & read your uplifting contributions to Every day. It sure matters! With or without leotards ;-)

  19. Yvonne

    Somehow, you always manage to eloquently express that pinprick of emotion that rises and disappears before I have a chance to capture the words. Here, I often find the permission I need to forgive my artistic “errors” and to continue to do what I do. Thanks for being one of my creative, imaginative mentors!

  20. Cookie

    We are always our own worst critics…
    I thoroughly enjoy studying your drawings, and absorbing your comments and self-critiques. Your insight is invaluable, and in turn keeps me connected to art, and inspired.

  21. broworkshop sketching

    This post and your inner analysis is something that is pure palladium. More than stainless steel and even more than gold.
    Great!!

  22. David Ruiz

    LOL!
    Danny, your last paragraph is very motivating… fantastic illustration!

  23. Kate

    I really like the your “assignments”. Please keep this up, it is so helpful. I found my own corkscrew and tried it myself…thank you!

  24. Virginie

    Perhaps the EDM drawings (as restricting as they might be) are a warm up, a time to try out different styles, techniques, etc. Maybe, you can use this warm up to try a completely different type of art – photography, perhaps. Maybe composing a picture in a completely different way will inspire your drawing. You’ve had a trip away from home, now take a trip away from drawing for a while. Then, like last night, you’ll enjoy being back.

  25. Owen

    Danny, I embrace the idea of celebrating or at least paying attention to what seems ordinary, moot, mundane, The greatness isn’t necessarily in the “finished” item (and an interesting FaceBook EDM thread recently grew out of comments related to what is and what is not “finished” art where sketchbooks are concerned) but in the process and in the serendipitous discoveries that would not have or possibly not have happened had the drawing not been made. For instance, I made this drawing http://owenswain.com/1/edm-7-draw-a-bottle-jar-or-tin-from-the-kitchen/ and in my short post accompanying the drawing I mentioned how I thought my Mom had come into possession of the tin (EDM#7). Apparently I had remembered wrong and my Mom wrote to tell me how the story actually went. I subsequently added that to my post. I learned about a dear friend of my Mom’s and of her generosity. This brought to mind other things about my Mom’s friend and about my Mom that were important in a way for me to remember. Also, celebrating this very ordinary object, one we see every time we visit Mom and which she sees daily, was also a way of celebrating Mom herself and her dear friend (who has sadly, long since passed). This is the serendipitous power of discovery that happens as one challenges oneself to stick to the prescribed EDM Challenge. Woo hoo!

  26. gibson99

    Your Words are beautiful and the sketch is fantastic!!!!

  27. neowatercolour

    Please will you draw your leotard ? (or I hope it comes up as an EDM Cahllenge !) Really beautiful corkscrew :-)

  28. Cecile Somers

    Leotardo Da Vinci, I love this post and your honesty and insights and thoughts and the generosity with which you share them all so freely. Love the corkscrew, which I think is called a Charles de Gaulle (because when you unscrew the cork with it, the arms go up in an exuberant “Vive la France!” gesture).

    And yes to the Olympians and their unrelentingness: keep practicing, fie boredom – this way lies glory.

  29. wethree3

    Well said! Your terrific post has inspired me to try out EDM.

  30. Robert Hendricks

    Danny,
    Your books/words/art are an inspiration to me. After reading “Everyday Matters” and “The Creative License” I picked up a pen and began to draw again after a 15 year hiatus. Drawing has sharpened my eye and raised my awareness and appreciation of the little things and details in life. Thanks for everything!

  31. Lisa Richards

    I’m thoroughly enjoying your EDM blog and your YouTube videos. I start nursing classes this week, so I may have less drawing time, but I hope to stop by for inspiration now and then. Your books are on my wish list. You are an inspiration, not to mention FUNNY! :)

    • dannygregory

      I should think nursing would provide ample opportunities for drawing — supine patients, jars of pills, stacks of bedpans, etc.

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