Scan 10

When I’m anxious, I do something, I make something.

It feels like making something changes something and therefore I will be okay.

Or is making something, “look, I’m a good boy” credit that acts as a bulwark against whatever the monkey is needling me about?

Or is it just a distraction?

Is that how real artists feel? Soothed by their creativity?

I guess I have always been anxious a fair amount and that’s why I have always been pretty productive.

I don’t think much about the quality of what I’m making, it’s just the process, the act that acts as protectant. And if anyone comments on how much I get done, I feel more embarrassed than proud, as if I was getting credit for nail biting or nose picking.

I’m being particularly self flagellating right now, and maybe writing this down will just reshuffle the deck and I can get on with things again.

Could be worse, I guess — I could be a drinker or pick fights with strangers.

Instead, I’m writing this to you.


  1. Karen Amaden

    I hear you Danny – my anxiety is further fuelled by NOT being creative enough when I have the opportunity – for example I have been up since 6:30 on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning- great opportunity to finish my SBS fast slow sketch in peace and tranquility. Instead I have spent 3 hours cleaning up after 3 teenagers who had a bit of a party last night, laundry, garbage and drain unblocking. Also placating a very anxious Border Collie who needs a walk. Sigh. Good job I do enjoy drinking and picking fights with strangers.

  2. Dorien

    I feel sympathy reading this. I know how hard it is when you’re so critical about yourself. Maybe making something gets you a little bit of breathing room, which is what you need in these moments. So maybe you’re doing the most sensible thing. And I still like your drawing very much!


      I like how you caught the way you feel in your painting. Good way to express and release.

  3. Shirley hedman

    At least, Danny, your anxieties gives pleasure to you and your viewers. Mine just makes me search the fridge. I hope, though, that your students at Sketchbook Skool aren’t adding too much stress!

  4. Becky

    Ahh, the deck is reshuffled, I just heard the slap of cards on the table and today is a new day. Art is a great way to move through anxiety – I have often used it as therapy. Hope this day is a good one for you, Danny!

  5. Jan Pentz

    Love your honesty Danny. Being transparent about your “humanness” really helps the rest of us feel more normal! Thank you!

  6. Nancy Vogt

    Absolutely, creating is addictive, and serves a different purpose for each of us. Your creative addiction has provided so much for the rest of us. I hope it is as positive for you. Brush off that monkey.

  7. Karen Winters

    Why pathologize it? The welling up of your creativity might not be a response to anxiety but just a natural part of your self that seeks expression. Sometimes it comes during anxious times, but no doubt it also comes during calmer times. It is a release of energy – and like a deep bubbling caldera, it’s always there. Sometimes it’s the heat that gently warms a hot spring, and sometimes it’s the force that powers a geyser, or as I’ve heard you say, “a fire hose.” Accept it and the gifts it brings from deep inside. K?

  8. Roxane

    Thanks for being real on the page and transparent with us. Many of us will find validation for our own experiences through your words. I surely do.

  9. Linda Patton

    WoW! That is one of your most interesting drawings! Shades of Klimt. Unfortunately for me, my factory shuts down when I’m anxious. Workers go on strike. This cuts out a lot of potentially creative time. I’m going to work on changing this.

  10. Lynn Cohen

    I think it’s kool that you did Koosje’s homework assignment to kool your anxiety! Works for me too.

  11. Claudette Panico

    Thank you for this insight and sharing a part of yourself in this way. There are others who made some very good observations of them selves as well…..I find art as an escape, a pleasurable one but not a total vacation type of escape because there is always the do it right monkey watching over my shoulder. But then there are those glorious moments when everything is flowing and I know it is all worth it.

  12. cagey

    I know how you feel sharing genes with you.

  13. Michael Wysong

    Thanks for writing this blog, and sharing it with everyone.

  14. ehwilson2013

    Thanks, Danny! As I produce something, especially art, I have to shift into looking, seeing, eye to hand, hand to eye mode and I am soon sucked into a space where I am not talking or listening…..the monkey hates it!!!! It also produces a space that allows me to recover.
    I needed this, this morning….getting ready for a trip and the monkey is doing a real song and dance show about what I should be doing!!!

  15. Roe

    Thanks for this post. I’m not an artist but just ‘hearing’ your voice sure helped shut my monkey up for the day.

  16. Mary Ellen

    Thanks for putting this one on the table, Danny, and I agree with ehwilson. When I’m drawing it’s as if I enter another space which requires so much focus and concentration that my thinking just simply isn’t able to do it’s monkey thing. Drawing steals back the part of my thinking that would otherwise be available to the monkey. Neuroscience supports the notion that monkey mind lights up one part of the brain and meditative activities (artmaking being one of them) lights up another.

    • Kristy

      Thinking about drawing and painting makes me anxious and pushes me away from doing it. But that is the exact thing that would help me ground and settle. Thanks for the brain science reminder.

  17. Sandra Deutsch

    The process soothes you, calms you. It is also similar to putting anxious and negative thoughts on paper…a way of getting them out of your system and then moving on, if only for a while.
    You are going through another big change – the move back to NYC – and seem conflicted. You said something to the effect, “Am I leaving Paradise or going back to Paradise?” Oh, to be able to blend all of our friends and physical places we love into one happy Eden!

    Obviously it is time to get out my journal, the big one, to write and sketch.

  18. Diane S.

    Must be something that’s going around? Whatever it is, it’s here now. This, too, shall pass, say I (to myself and to you). Brilliant drawing, ‘though. Funny how good work can come out of a blackish mood.

  19. Rene Wojcik

    Danny, you have gone through some troubling events in your life and I sense that you have found a way to deal with them in your own way. Myself, I have had a couple of medical issues that definitely changed my outlook of life and death. That is a different story which I don’t care to dwell on. Recently I read that people who live in the past tend to be anxious and to some extent depressed. My brother lives a good deal in the past and relishes going back to the simpler times of the 1950’s. My basic philosophy is that you can’t bring back that hour of the flower. It is gone. Time to move on. I tend to live in the present and I am happy to be in the here and now. I spend little time reflecting about the past nor do I fret or worry about the future.

  20. Marcie

    Yep thats me too, I feel bad, frightened or angry or anxious or lonely etc etc and whilst I am making something I am distracted from the worry or whatever the bad feeling was then at the end of it I can see I have achieved something productive and I dont feel so bad and I feel proud for having done something and not gone and got drunk, phoned someone up and left an abusive message or gone shoplifting or streetfighting….ha ha.
    love ya xxx

  21. Nicole

    Danny, sorry you are feeling anxious, it’s a difficult emotion. I was hoping to ask you a question about handling sudden grief. I’ve recently experienced a deep and painful tragedy in my life and I’m looking to others that have experienced similar things for how they were able to process through their grief? Any suggestions would be wonderful.

  22. Gina Sismilich

    We are all hard-wired differently – unless dealing with anxiety is a problem in your life, use it productively

  23. Sharon Gorberg

    Don’t know if you will get all the way down to this comment but… I took a look at your drawing and said Ohhh so that’s how we are feeling today… interestingly enough when I get really anxious I can’t work. However often times I do get a lot of emotional stuff out through my art work. The thing is this- YOU DO THE WORK. What ever is behind the reason you are doing the work I feel is less important than the doing of it. You are being productive which is terrific. Of course there are also anti-anxiety drugs…. you know better living through chemistry is one of my mantras. Either way there isn’t only one approach. You are showing up and doing the work. That what counts in my book.

  24. Drawdai1y

    My anxiety is really eased when I can splash color on a page, whether it’s a drawing, a lettered quote or an abstract scribble. I feel like the colors and movements of my hand shift my synapses somehow and change brain activity. Helps! And so do Sketchbook Skool videos!

  25. mepayal123

    I was feeling particularly anxious last few days and so I drew and I drew like crazy..and then I wrote the reason for my anxiety down in a notebook. And though it changed nothing about the situation, it was such a load off. It kind of reshuffled things like you said. So true. I’m sure the reshuffling helped you too. 😊
    Thanks for sharing!

  26. justaddwatersilly

    Huh… so you’re crazy too? Line forms to the left Danny.

  27. Jane A

    Absolutely love this drawing. Strong and true.

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