How to make an artist.


When I first started drawing in a journal, almost twenty years ago, I didn’t know anyone else who did it. I bought books on drawing and I looked at catalogs of art workshops and courses but none of them described what I was getting out of drawing and recording my life: a real personal transformation. I wasn’t just interested in mastering media and technical challenges.  I wanted to change how I saw the world.
Then I found one book that described illustrated journaling. It was called “A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal” by Hannah Hinchman. Hannah draws beautifully but underlying her lovely illustrations was the message I had been seeking: draw your life and you’ll live it more deeply. I carried the little paperback everywhere ’till the binding broke and the pages fell out.
Next I discovered a  ‘zine in a record store in the East Village. It was called “Moonlight Chronicles” published by D.Price who lived in Eastern Oregon. It was a simple illustrated journal, drawn with a pen in a book and chronicling his life.  Just what I was doing.  I wrote to him and asked for some back issues.  Soon we were writing to each other regularly and we became fast friends. We traveled across the country to meet up and draw. In Manhattan, in Oregon, in California, in Death Valley. Our lives were completely different. I was an ad guy living in Manhattan. He was a hobo living in a kiva in the woods. But we had this thing in common, a thing that could include the world.
Then, as I spent more time online, I met Richard Bell.  He was recording his life and observational drawings and sharing it on a web site called Wild Yorkshire.  We started corresponding and eventually I started keeping a blog, just to share things with him.
One day, I was walking through the East Village and saw a guy sitting on the curb drawing in a book.  As I got closer, I saw it was my old pal Tommy Kane.  We hadn’t seen each other in a half dozen years.  I told him I also drew in a book He said he knew, he’d read my blog and it had given him the idea.
Fast forward a decade. Now I have thousands of friends around the world who all love what I love: recording their lives in drawings in a book. This simple habit has changed my life.  But what has made it all the more rewarding is sharing my drawings, learning from others, getting support and encouragement.
Maybe you also draw in book. But maybe you don’t know anyone else who does. Maybe you live far away and feel all alone in what you are doing. You may have joined an online community but deep down you would love it if someone you knew shared your passion, someone you could sit with on the weekend, someone whose journal you could hold, someone who could share their experiences and experiments. A neighbor, a relative, a colleague.
You can make it happen.
Just pick up an extra sketchbook and pen and ask them to sit with you. Show them the basics you have learned. Show them the work you admire. Help them overcome their own fears about not having skills or talent. Encourage them in what they do.
The habit of making art is wonderful. Sharing it is sublime.

Living in the real world.

Things that happened so long ago were real.
The pain was real.
The marks were real.
As I grew bigger, other bad things happened.
Unexpectable things. Unimaginable things.
Things that were all too real.

But the worst things seem to be the things that could be.
The sound of approaching sirens that could be heading to my house.
The boss who could be getting ready to fire me.
The smell that could be smoke.
The leading indicators that could be a sign.
The cough from my son’s room.
The phone ringing in the night.
The falling buildings.
The impending war.
The news around the clock.

Bad things happen.
But worse things could.
What does happen can be cleaned up or treated or paid for or even buried.
But what could happen must only be dealt with one way.
By refusing to fear what could be.
By accepting that all that matters is all that is.
That no matter how bad it is, we will live with it.
That the world that skulks out of the midnight recesses of your head is just your creation.
And that you can put your imagination to better use.
And insist on living only in what is.

Ready to kickstart your creativity?


I am excited to announce that Sketchbook Skool klasses will begin again in January — and that you can sign up today!

Just click here!

Three amazing kourses, each with 6 weeks and 6 different teachers.
Together we’ll explore:
– drawing, pen & ink, watercolor, colored pencil…
– still life, portrait, urban sketching, nature drawing, even some calligraphy…

But best of all we’ll give you a creative habit to last a lifetime. Starting with the new year.
Join us!

Pass it on.


Think of all the people who’ve inspired you. The authors you love, the directors whose movies have moved you, the musicians who kept you company in the studio, all of them. And now think of your creative work as payback. Rather than being intimidated by the greatness of the people you admire, see your work as a way to pass on the favor.

Maybe your mentors will see your work and be inspired by it (I’ve had that experience and it is one of the most gratifying there is). Or maybe your work will inspire a total stranger, someone in need of your help. That is the greatest kind of gift —  to give anonymously — and do your work has the potential to do that.

Think about these things next time the monkey is trying to squash your productivity. Think of those who will not benefit from your unborn work.

Starting again.

The road ahead

If you haven’t gone to the gym in a long time, how do you start again?

If you haven’t done a drawing in a long time, how do you start again?

If you haven’t written a blog post in a long time …. how do you start again?

You start by starting. By picking up a pen, a dumbbell, and getting to work. There is no magic trick, there is no massive process for preparation. There is simply the active of sitting down at the computer, opening a new document, and starting to type. It may seem painful, it may seem scary, but all that misery goes away as the first letters march onto the screen.

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'”     — Maya Angelou