No title. Really, that’s the title.

ArtistI think my mother was the first one to tell me, “You can’t call yourself an ‘artist’.  Other people will decide that for you. It’s pretentious to assume the title for yourself. It’s like calling yourself a  genius. Maybe you can say you’re a ‘painter’. But not an artist.”

My mum is humbling like that.

“Teacher” is another title I am loathe to assume. I don’t have a degree in teaching, I don’t work at a school. And I think teaching is one of the most important and difficult and unrecognized jobs around. I really do think that’s a title you have to earn.

But I guess I do spend a fair amount of time telling people stuff, instructing them on how to live, to drawn, to think. So I’m either a bullying bore or I am maybe a teacher. Not that the two are the same thing, of course. It’s just that if you walked into a bank and started criticizing people’s penmanship or cracking knuckles in your local Starbucks because people have poor posture and are chewing gum, well, that wouldn’t fly. Teachers get to know better because they do.

I’ve had loads of corporate titles and they all seemed sort of ridiculous. Yesterday, a guy gave me his business card and said, “There’s no title there because I still haven’t quite figured out what it is I do.” He was being modest (he was actually the boss of a really big company) but I liked his attitude.

Let me get to the point.

One of the biggest irons I had in the fire when I left my last titled job was to put together an online class.  I’ve alluded to it here a bunch of times since — but it never seemed quite right to me.  Maybe it’s because of those two titles, ”artist” and “teacher” and the even more daunting combo: “art teacher.”

A couple of weeks ago, everything changed.

As result of number of amazing conversations I had in Amsterdam, most importantly with Koosje Koene, a clear, bright path has opened up. I now know what I will be doing next and I think it will be amazing.

It combines everything I have been working on for the last decade. Making art; sharing with other people; meeting so many amazing “artists” and “teachers”; thinking about creativity and all of its gifts and obstacles; the Internet and the global nature of everything; Everyday Matters and what it has come to mean on Yahoo! and Facebook; the thousands of emails I have received from great people everywhere; my decades in advertising helping big companies tell their stories —  all of this mass of rich stuff lumped together in one beautiful stew that finally is really bubbling.

A group of us are working on something that I really think is fresh and fantastic. It’s an answer to all those people who have asked me to do more workshops or to teach online or to give them advice or make more Sketchbook Films, all the people who are interested in art and want to make it more a part of their lives. And I think it’s a great answer, like nothing out there.

We still have a lot more work to do but we think we will be ready to roll it out in March. Gulp

It’s a lesson that settling for an existing title or solution or direction may not always be as good as making up something brand new.

Which is what we are doing.

If you find this, whatever it is that I’m going on about, interesting, stay tuned.

And if you’d like me to update and include you in our project, send me an email. Please do. Even if you are only intrigued. Or vaguely interested. Or utterly confused. It’s gonna be big. And probably won’t involve titles.

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51 thoughts on “No title. Really, that’s the title.

  1. You are an Inspire-er, Danny, be that ay making art or videos or teaching or simply living your life uniquely. I “found” you online years ago and if I dug up my sketchbooks to see when they came into use I could tell you when it was. You helped me discover the joy of sketching, explore the internet to reveal the wealth of art and creativity here, re-opened the door to art in my life. And now it’s spread to others in my community who meet regularly to sketch together.

    I look forward to your upcoming Something Fresh and Fantastic.

  2. I decided I am a maker of of beautiful things whether it’s watercolors knitting or art quilts or a bed quilt. Artist is just a part of that. Call me Pollyanna but I don’t like to make ugly things.

  3. very cool. sounds like you are meshing all your gifts together to bring something unique out into the world. That’s artistry right there and it sounds like you’ll be teaching :). I myself feel like titles can be limiting. :)

  4. You a such a tease! You think we can wait until March for heavens sake?!
    I need to know yesterday. Patience is not one of my strong suits.

  5. Can´t tell you all I´m thinking about your news now… it sounds really fantastic new, inspiring and intriguing – waiting for more… hopefully not toooo long… ;-)

  6. What is it? What is it? What is it? Inquiring minds want to know!!
    You know, it will be great and think of all of us out here, waiting, in the support line.
    Whatever it is, I bet the time is right-it’s going to be well-recieved and fantastic, no worries.
    Best of luck on this one.

  7. well, whatever it is, it’s a DannyGregory thing, and as we all know, these things are always remarkable…. How could you POSSIBLY be even more inspiring than you already are?! :~) Awaiting with bated breath. (not baited breath.)

  8. I read your post with vast interest!!! The first part grabbed my attention because I too wondered how pretentious I was being at calling myself an artist… or an author… since I am still working on my book and haven’t published anything except blog posts to date.

    Having recently retired as a bookstore owner, and then becoming an empty nester, I was at a loss for what to say I DID for a living!!! I was no longer a day to day mother, a wife, a business owner (top banana as I was affectionately named), or anything! When meeting someone for the first time and they asked what I did, I hemmed and hawed, then coughed and squeaked out, “I’m retired”. One day however I took a deep breath and answered, “I’m an artist. I work in Mixed Media”. Problem solved.

    The second part of your post sounds so cloak and daggerish. I can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve!!! I am certain it will be AWESOME!!! Please keep me informed.

  9. Whatever it is, it has to be good if you are involved. I’m excited for you and for all of the rest of us that will be able to be involved.

  10. SO excited!! your books, your drawings, your writing, your humour, your truth, YOU, have had such an amazing impact on me as an artist and getting back to my art roots. I am truly looking so forward to learning more from you when you’re ready to unveil this great project!

  11. Spot on as usual, Danny. I never called myself an artist for the very reasons your mother described. But so many do that I decided to put “artist” on my new business cards. Then i decided to go for broke and I wrote “artist and writer”. Now i have to get my new book finished, out I’ll have to chuck out the cards (that was the idea).
    Last night i had some friends around. They are the people that i boss in a bullying fashion. I waxed lyrical about Everyday Matters (book) and they are all buying a copy…

  12. I, too, have always felt uneasy calling myself an artist, for the same reasons that your mother described. But I’ve just had some new cards made, and I wrote “artist” on them. Then i thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, and i added “writer”. I’m hoping this will force me to finish my book…otherwise I’ll have to chuck them all out.
    Meanwhile i bully in a bossy way some ladies every Thursday evening. They are very impressed with Everyday Matters and are ordering their own copies.

  13. While I soooo understand your qualms about being called an artist and/or teacher….Danny, you are utterly and completely both! Even, for me as an “art teacher” to K-8th graders, it is an uncomfortable title. I often wonder if “teacher” actually means: someone who has the tiniest bit of boldness to say–”Come along with me and let’s explore this together! I’ll share what I’m learning and I’ll learn from you as well!” In our school, where we work out of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, this is how we view what we do as teachers: we spread a feast before the students and we all take from it what we can and will. Sounds like you’re getting ready to spread a huge feast for us! Can’t wait! Thank you. and thank you. (ok, I think that’s the longest comment I’ve ever left on a blog…sorry for the long-windedness!) -Jennifer

  14. Ironically, calling myself an artist (after 7 months of actually making art) is the easiest title I’ve claimed in 49 years. Insurance agent, database-designer, zumba instructor, stay-at-home-mom, homeschooler, …, none of those felt like me. Artist does!

    So happy to see you and Koosje “cooking” up something. I’m sure it will be tasty.

  15. I too have given classes in drawing and painting. Never got a degree in teaching. My answer to this question is I am an enabler. I show people what they can do with a pencil, with a pastel. I show them how to trust their own hand when it makes a mark. I encourage them to believe in their own inner voice not the cruel third grade teacher who told them what they just made on paper was not a fish. I do not make them draw like me. I enable them to see how they can draw. I have been an enabler. When I am not doing that I work on being better in pastel painting. A pastel painter. Hmmm, now there’s a provoking thought.

  16. Danny, I found you many years ago and you have inspired me to art learn, Ive been on a path ever since. I do not put my art up on blogs ect first do not have the scanner printer and I’m not really the type to show my art it scared me of others opiions but thank you for being here when I needed you I have gone through my last parents passing, my own health issues and if it was not for you and your wonderful words, stories and art I would not have my journal to get me through my path so thank you Danny for all the years and titles I just call you friend who knows art and loves to incourage us along I know we have never meet but for the last 8, 9 years that I’ve been following you I just like friend.
    Can not wait to hear what your up to friend,
    Linda

  17. I see you have enlisted a number of artists i follow for you adventure. I am very much looking forward to what you have in store for us. Thanks for putting what ever this is together!! I hope Andrea Joseph is included too!

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