Drawing away the veil.

like drawing because it helps me to see. It shows me what is actually in front of me. That is important to me because I’ve tended to live in my head a lot. 

I think that started when I was very small, when a lot of time the world around me wasn’t very nice and the hard walls of my skull offered me protection. I disappeared into books. I constructed theories about the world that would explain a lot of things that even to this day are inexplicable. The seismic changes in my life that were beyond my control, peoples’ disappearances, the random and selfish behavior of grownups. In my head, things could become rational, orderly and manageable.

toaster reflection

But my constructions weren’t accurate. They couldn’t be. They were purposeful distortions that worked to protect me, at least for a while.  I didn’t really want to live in the real world, to face reality, because it wasn’t a good place for me. Reality didn’t use to be a friend of mine.

As an adult, when the world did mean things to me, it was very tempting to move deeper into my intellectualized view of the world.  By creating my own logic to explain the world, I could save myself from random acts.  But one pays a heavy price for disconnecting. It’s impossible to understand other people, to get a real bearing on one’s life, and ultimately to be happy. Because when you live in unreality, you can never trust your feelings.

And that’s where drawing has come in. When I hold a pen and look hard at something, I am piercing the veil and stepping out of the Matrix. It may not last for long, like diving deep to see a coral reef. But the bursting of the bubble, again and again, means breaking the temptation to disassociate from reality and run away. Instead of making habit out of fantasy, I force myself to see.

I’ve learned that being here now is not as scary as it might seem. I find now that it is easier to face even awful things things than to dwell in a fog of denial and fantasy. Some things in the world are harmful, most aren’t. Clarity makes it easier to distinguish them rather than establishing a blanket policy that keeps everyone and everything at arms’ length.  Anxiety comes from repeating old patterns when they are no longer appropriate. Treating every noise as the approach of a saber tooth tiger may have protected our ancestors but it can leave us as quivering messes. Better to face your fears, one a time, and vanquish them.

Drawing has made me look the world in the eye. That’s the only way to do it. That’s why I rarely draw from my head any more, rarely draw the cartoony faces and silly monsters that filled the margins of my high school notebooks. Now I look at a half-eaten piece of toast, a pile of bills, a broken tree branch and I boldly examine its every inch. And I do it with a pen, like an upright sword, compelling me to advance out of the shadows, to see and be seen, to take my punishment if I must, but to never again run away in fear.

24 Comments

  1. Rita Cleary

    Danny…that was an astute comment about anxiety. I may use it as my email signature for a while, with your permission (I will acknowledge the source)…

  2. Mary G

    Hi Danny, can you still love cartoons and also be a world realist?

    • dannygregory

      I do and I am. I was just reading my compilation of R.Crumb’s Weirdo last night. It inspired me mightily.

      • Mary G

        Hi Danny ok gotcha . Absolutely.

  3. Karen Rand Anderson

    As ever, so well-said, Danny. I particularly resonate with “When I hold a pen and look hard at something, I am piercing the veil and stepping out of the Matrix.” Thanks.

  4. lynn cohen

    Love the image in the toaster that so clearly shows your meaning of distortion, obviously. Beautifully done.

  5. Shelly T.

    ” And I do it with a pen, like an upright sword, compelling me to advance out of the shadows,…”
    Reminds me of cutting away all the extraneous BS to get to the Truth…..Love this post, Danny!

  6. Nikira (@nikiraa)

    Awesome drawing, and I feel related to your words about being the most comfortable in my own world. And drawing for me is the way to relate to reality and people.

  7. bohemianopus

    What a wonderful piece. I totally relate to this.

  8. Elizabeth YP

    So pleased you are moving forward, slowly joining us outside the matrix. Remember that all your experiences are what enabled you to be the the wonderful artist you are, despite or perhaps in spite of what happened.

  9. marjunblishen

    Thank you for your honesty . I understand running away for ones fears. For me the 12 step program has helped. The meetings have been a safe place to share my fears and still feel accepted. It has slowly cleared the fog from my eyes and yet it will be a life long journey, I know. I’ve begun to focus on doing abstract art as I love colors. Life is becoming good and more clear, one step and one day at a time. All the best to you:)

  10. Patti

    Love the drawing. Love the words. Now I just have to face my fears and try not to keep everyone and everything at an arm’s length!

  11. marksshoesbyevamarks

    We all try to channel something from inside to outside and face the music.Your work is a reflection of who you are and that is the beauty of it! On the end of the day we’re all singing together only the melody is a bit different for each of us. Love your work and the reflection on the toaster!

  12. eSeN

    This was lovely, thank you. I like the way you look at things – it always makes me think about things in a different way and break through the stories I tell myself. You’re an inspiration :)

  13. Darlene Campbell

    That drawing is fantastic!

  14. Anna (@Mystica_love)

    This got straight into my heart. This is the best piece of text I have ever read in my life.

  15. Kathy Kelly

    This touched me because I now realize that I am drawing my way out of a nightmare. You are such a blessing!

  16. Patricia

    A piece falls into the puzzle of why I am so drawn to your words and art. We grew and drew from very similar roots. Very eloquently stated. Again I am deeply inspired and grateful for your sharing.
    .

  17. Mary

    fantastic! – this is the main reason to draw for me: to be Right There

  18. Susan M

    Yes to this article. I recently left to get out of a 27 year long very abusive marriage and am now a single parent of 10 children. There are so many reasons to disassociate and to not trust people. Drawing and photography are my way of “drawing away the veil” and forcing myself to stay grounded in life and be there for my children. Well, that and training for triathlons, but that’s another story. Thank you for all that you do. You inspire.

    • dannygregory

      Wow, and people ask me how I have time to create? I am blown away that you can make time with all that’s on your plate.

  19. Pedro Alfarroba

    Gosh! I’ve passed from that stages. Didn’t realize that, recently – one year, or couldn’t understood or explain this thing. Sometimes people says that drawing or painting are therapeutic. But they only see other aspects, such as concentration, abstration. However, Touché! This is the main important thing. Thank you soo much.

  20. jeffrey

    Well said Danny. I just wanted to add a little remark: I can fully support your idea of actually looking at the world through drawing. However I also sometimes find it limiting to only draw “realistically”. I would not want to discredit “drawing from the head” as you call it. At best I see that the one can support the other, back and forth. Realistic drawing can be as much as a limitation as a liberation IMHO.

    • Patricia

      On the flip side, I noted that my continually sketching when I was at social events prevented me from really being there and experiencing the interaction with others. Granted, sometimes this works very well, as some social interaction I …well, enough said. Fortunately I find myself involved in more and more heart-felt events that I have chosen to experience without the “book” between me and my involvement.
      .

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