The art of living.

flowers

Life is not an oil painting, sealed behind varnish and clamped in a golden frame, hanging in a white walled gallery in Chelsea, waiting to be bought by a hedge fund manager’s third wife.
Life is not an edition of etchings, a long series of identical impressions.
Life is not a mural, intended as a public display or the backdrop to an expensively furnished room. Life is not wallpaper.
Life is not a bronze sculpture, cold, monumental, an abstracted, idealized image of a hero long forgotten.

Life is a shelf.
A long shelf partly filled with journals. Some of the journals are hand-made, some store-bought, some in ornate covers, some stained and dog-eared.
Some of the journals are completely filled, others are abandoned half-way, maybe to be taken up at a later date. Some of the books are filled with paper that felt just right under your pen, smooth and creamy, bold and bright. Others were experiments that failed or overreaches, made of materials you weren’t ready to master quite yet.
Sections of the shelf may be filled with identical volumes, a type of book that you found comfortable at the time and stuck with it, disinterested in experimentation and change so you kept filling one after another. On the shelf, they may look the same, identical spines all in a row like a suburban cul-de-sac. But inside, each page is different, drawn by the same hand and pen, yet recording unique observations, days that fill up identically-sized boxes on the calendar but were all filled with different challenges, discoveries, lessons and dreams.
Each page of each journal is always different. Some are perfectly drawn and brilliantly written, insightful and illuminating. Others are a failure, with poor perspective and distracted lines. Some of the pages are dappled with raindrops or a splash of champagne, others are drawn in haste, still others crosshatched with great intensity and care. Some contain shopping lists, phone numbers of new friends, boarding passes to far-away places. Some are bright and colorful, witty and bold. Others are intimate and personal, never to be shared. Some pages describe loss and death, others a drawing of a gift you took to a baby shower.
None of these pages is an end in itself. No matter how good it seems at the time, eventually, you turn each one over. Even the ones at the end of a volume are merely leading to the first fresh page of the next. You fill the page, maybe you like what you drew or maybe it was a disappointment, but there’s always another to follow and another beyond that.
You try your best with each blank page, try to make something fresh and beautiful. Some of the time you feel excited and proud of what you’ve made, at other times you are disappointed and desperate. Often, a page you thought was just a turd looks a whole lot better when you come back to it years later. The drawing you thought was clumsy and flawed reveals some new insight and truth about who you were at the moment, fresh energy, naiveté, hope, darkness before the dawn. Each drawing, whether you know it at the time or not, contains truth. You just have to trust it and keep on drawing and writing and living your life.
Life is a process, and every one has the same end result: that last volume, partly-filled, cut off when we thought there was still art left to make. No need to rush to get there. Make the most of the page that lies open before you today.

29 thoughts on “The art of living.

  1. Danny, if I may call you by your first name, you are a delight! I have been following you for about a month or so. I visited NYC as part of a conference this spring and I am SO kicking myself for all I missed. Now here you are in a totally different setting. This prairie farm girl, who is a wanna be journal maker, is so inspired by your livability (?) and practicality, not to mention your inspiration. Luv the new truck, btw! THANK YOU!

  2. Thank you Danny. Your wise words remind me of similarly comforting words about the art process by a wonderful painting teacher, AImee Erickson, in Portland. Essentially, she said: you don’t want to wish away each step of the process just to get to “the next step” or to be more advanced (better) than you are. Each step is a building block for the others and you can’t get to your own next phase without each step. Thanks for your blog. It really helps.

  3. Thank you. This is an inspiration to keep on drawing and journaling and experimenting and creating and learning And to enjoy the moment. Today.

  4. A quote about Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo got no closer to complete scientific theories than he did to finished works of art. It is the process, the journey, that mattered to him as both artist and scientist, and the pleasure of following his mind is that of exploring a meandering river’s unexpected course. The Lost Battles by Jonathan Jones.

  5. Today is full of endless possibilities and dreams. In many cases, we are limited only by our fear and lack of hope, in others and ourselves. Each new day we are given a clean page to live in our book of life.
    Thanks Danny

  6. Is this true, or what?
    You bet it is!
    Your words will ring in my ears and I’ll pass this on to others-to those
    who wonder what they are doing, pursuing their art, whatever it may be?
    And to me: who wonders what in the world she is doing!
    I’m just sayin’.
    All the best to you,
    Sandy

  7. I agree with Lynn: America seems to be having a very good effect on you. Your writing is so much more interesting, funny and profound from out here in the Wild West. And I plan on copying this gorgeous drawing to see how much I can learn about how you came to make something so elegant with such a minimum of detail. Thank you!

  8. Não podia estar mais de acordo :-)
    Palavras sábias. Como sempre!
    Tambem adorei o post anterior sobre o Dan Price….porque tambem é um exemplo de vida para mim ;-)
    Thank You

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