Bits and bobs

Maybe it’s ’cause it’s Spring, but so many things are blossoming in my life these days.

Spring: Our Sketchbook Film called “Spring” was just on the big screen at TELUS S20FE374F-0152-43BF-9A1C-B841FCD086D2park, the new Science Centre, in Calgary, Canada. People liked it, they tell me. It seems a zillion springs ago that I sat in the park drawing for that film. This year the spring in New York seems far grimmer and my sister texted me from the train platform this morning to tell me it was cold and raining and she was over it. I didn’t mention that our car thermometer registered 97˙ yesterday in an LA parking lot. I’m a nice brother.

Fullerton: I am going to be giving my first talk in California next week at Fullerton

156-08_FC_DannyGregory_finalCollege. I will be talking about my life, my discovery of illustrated journaling and all the things it has taught me over the years. I’ll also be showing loads of images from my books.  It’s open to the public and free, so if you are in the area, please drop by and say hi. It’ll be nice to just drive to one of my talks, rather than have to fly around the world. Well, I like doing that too.

HOW in Boston:  I am giving a big presentation at the HOW Design Live conference in a few weeks. I’ll be talking about some thing brand-new for me, the inner critic, based on posts I wrote here on my blog. They’ve asked me to do the speech twice so I will be spending the whole week in Boston.  shut your monkeyIt’s been loads of fun, writing and designing a new talk, but I must say the monkey does not like being talked about and I have had to wrestle with him daily.  Now the speech has really started to come together and I am feeling great about it and I really look forward to seeing all the designers who will be there. Not to mention Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and Stefan Sagmeister.

art Before Breakfast: My new book logois all written, illustrated and designed and is now with my publishers.  I just reviewed the galleys and it looks awesome. I am so excited about this one.  I hope it will have the same sort of impact that “The Creative License” had and help a lot of people to find the time and inclination to make art part of the their lives. Plus it has several hundred new drawings and paintings and is quite handsome. IMG_1678

Sketchbook Skool:  Our online school is humming along.  We had to cap the first klass at 2,000 students and those who couldn’t get in the door have already been signing up for when we repeat the next semester. We are well into production on the next Kourse. It’s called “Seeing” and our fakulty includes some real super stars: Cathy Johnson, Liz Steel, Brenda Swenson and Andrea Joseph. It launches on July 4th. We are doing even more elaborate and polished productions this semester and using professional video crews. I supervised Brenda’s shoot in Pasadena last week and tomorrow Liz shoots in Sydney with a director I found for her. Then Andrea will be joining Koosje in Amsterdam to shoot her klass. It’s all very international and exciting and I am now a producer, writer, artist, teacher, director, headmaster, entrepreneur, and fanboy. Koosje and I will also be teaching this and every term and I am really excited about the videos I’ll be making for my section.

Phew! Next I have to come back to New York to hang out with Jack for the summer. His term ends in a few weeks and then he begins a really exciting internship program working with some amazing painters and becoming part of the New York art scene. I am so proud of him and just know he will have a wonderful life making art. I have had such an amazing year. To think that twelve months ago, I was sitting in a meeting discussing marketing challenges for the oil industry!

In production.

dog-on-transformers

FIlming an action sequence on ink spatter.

Teaching used to be a fairly simple business. You get some chalk, a dunce cap, a book with all the answers at the back and you’re in business. In 2014, it seems to be a little more complex.

tom-and-guests

Tommy Kane and special guests on the set.

lord-of-the-rings

In production with “Lord of the Pens”

When I first started thinking about doing online classes, I wanted to make sure they were as exciting and interesting as possible. So, being me and living a couple of miles from Hollywood, I immediately started to go overboard. I started to talk to my friends, many of whom you know and who are among the best sketchbook artists in the world. We decided that it wasn’t enough to just slap together some recycled lessons, a couple of PDFs and some poorly lit snapshots. We wanted to make sumptuous, hilarious, inspirational, instructional films that would get you so fired up you’d have to start drawing night and day. Our inspiration was first of all, Bob Ross, then the Cooking Channel, then National Geographic, and now we’re thinking Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

beam-me-up

Our mission: To boldly go where no man has drawn before.

So while everyone else was drinking eggnog, we have been deep into production.

DOG demo 2

Warming up some ink.

Tommy and I spent several days in the depths of Brooklyn in production on his klass. Then we turned around and finished up filming my workshop. Meanwhile, Prashant is heading to India to rendezvous with a production team that will capture his insights about watercolors. Koosje is setting up lights and camera in Amsterdam.

kane-on-set-1

In the kitchen set, Tom gets his head into a drawing

Deep in a Minnesota snow bank, Roz is furiously pecking out epic scripts about paper and pens. And next week, I’ll be heading to San Diego to collaborate with Jane on her films.

Meanwhile, an elite team of even more amazing teachers are arrayed around the world, beavering away on the next wave of klasses. More on them soon.

If you want to know more about all of this flurry of activity when it is ready to launch, do sign up for our mailing list. Meanwhile, scrape together your pennies and polish your 3D glasses.

Happy New Year!

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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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A hut of my own.

hans and peter 1

There was a book I was just obsessed with when I was eight. It was called Hans and Peter by Heidrun Petrides  (originally Swiss, “Der Xaver un Der Wastl“)and it told the story of two boys who find an abandoned workman’s shed and convert it into a playhouse.

hans and peter  2They cover the walls with newspaper and then whitewash it, they install an old wood stove, they plant geraniums in a windowbox, and make gaily colored curtains. The book was Swiss and had bright pastel paintings on every page (they were done by a 15-year-old girl!).

There was just something about this idea, of these boys making their own house, that was incredibly appealing to me.

hans and peter 3I guess it’s the same instinct that had us building forts out of sofa cushions and making a pirate ship out of the linen closet. I yearned for a treehouse or a tent or an empty refrigerator box — something domestic I could call my own.

When I was nine, I was sent to live with my grandparents in Pakistan for a couple of years. I had gotten a small tool kit for my birthday and when my grandmother promised me my own small patch of land in her garden, I had intense fantasies about using the tools to build a shed with a padlock at one end of my acreage. I was enormously disappointed when I arrived in Lahore and my grandmother pointed to a bed of snapdragons and said, “That can be your garden, Danny. You can water it whenever you want.”

The only apartment I ever had entirely to myself was my first one on Clinton Street in the Lower East SIde. It was the most dangerous neighborhood in the blighted New York of the early eighties but I was incredibly proud to have my own minihouse. I built a loft bed, a couch and cupboards, then upholstered them and sewed pillows in fabrics straight out of Hans and Peter. A year later I was gone from the ‘Hood and living with roommates, then Patti and I moved in together, and now I live with Jenny in this microhouse in Los Angeles.

However after all these years, I have finally achieved my Hans and Peter fantasy.

IMG_0126Our house has an old two-car garage, built in the 1940s and made of wood with a big swing-up metal door. Since the day we arrived in LA, I have been busily turning it into a studio of my own, a cubby house, a man-cave.

IMG_0117I spent a day on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, half chipped lino, half cracked cement. Then I built myself shelves, tables, and drawers to hold all my paints, pens, inks, and journals. I installed lighting, a sound system, and a grass green shag rug for the dogs to lie on while I work.

IMG_0116Slowly, I am filling the walls up with paintings — the first I have done in ages that are not in a small book.

It’s wonderful. I can work any size I want, a true luxury for someone used to painting in the space between my laptop and the edge of the dining table. I can work on a project, then at the end of the day leave it out, and resume work the next day. I can shoot videos in here and completely control the lighting and the sound.

I am realizing that my whole approach to art — small books, tiny watercolor sets, etc. — is probably a function of having had so little space and time. Who knows where this newfound freedom may lead?

AIDS is going to lose.

Two new commercials I just made. They’re among the ones I mentioned here a few weeks ago.

December 1st is AIDS Day. I have been working with Chevron to remind people of the battle against this scourge and to infuse it with some optimism. We have launched a big campaign to talk about how mother-to-child transmission of HIV is being overcome in Africa.

Me, my pal Chris, and my giant ad at the AIDS conference.

Last year I wrote an ad whose headline was “AIDS is going to lose” and it became a bit of a rallying cry, especially at the Global AIDS conference in Washington earlier this year. This year we are trying to encourage people to share this battle and information about how the spread of the disease can be beaten with education, testing, care and support.

AIDS is strong, but together we are stronger. If you’d like to help spread the word, please visit this special site we’ve built.

Giving Thanks

I recently told you about some of the commercials I’ve been making. Here’s the first one. It will only run for the next two or three days in the US starting tomorrow. If you have the TV on while you eat your turkey, you’ll be hard-pressed to miss.

It was shot by Jeff Preiss of Epoch films, edited by Charlie Johnston at Lost Planet, scored by Mark Isham and produced by Drew Lippman.

Backblog 2

Just to recap and explain my absence over the past months, here are some souvenirs from my second consecutive shoot. We are making a big commercial that will run on Thanksgiving Day — if you watch American TV for even a minute on November 22, you’ll certainly see it. If not, I’ll post a copy later this month.

We filmed around New York City and Westchester in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. In fact, we wrapped the evening the storm finally arrived on our shores.

Fall is here.

Our first location. This seems like ages ago, an idyllic Fall day in Brooklyn. Now all of these leaves have been blown away by the hurricane. Hopefully the house is still standing.

Jeff shoots in Ocean Park.

My director Jeff and I have made commercials together for over 20 years. We’ve shot in New York, California, Chicago, and Rome and the results are always spectacular. He’s one of my favorite creative collaborators and I can’t wait to see his feature film, scheduled to come out next year.

One of the three complete Thanksgiving dinners we prepared and shot.

We shot three scenes with large, extended, real families making and sharing Turkey Day. The food styling was extraordinary and cornucopian.

The crew films in a nut store on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave

We used real stores, streets, yards and homes as our locations.

Never mind the Bollexs. My director’s 16 mm. cammeras.

Jeff shot with several different cameras, film and digital: 35 mm., a Canon 5D, a Canon C300, and his personal collection of Bolexs.

A glass-blowing forge

We filmed a master craftsman as she and her team blew extraordinary glass vases.

Relics of the Industrial Age.

We shot a factory scene in a  giant warehouse full of old machines from New York’s dwindling manufacturing industry.

This isn’t a scene from “Armageddon” or “Independence Day”. It’s just the first arrival of Sandy on our shores.

On our final Day, we shot high atop the World Trade Center where crews were battening down their gear as the wind picked up.  Then we hired a ferry to drive us back and forth past the Statue of Liberty as the sky grew menacing.