Me Time


My grandfather died last winter at 98 so I’m not even half his age yet. Maybe I’m only approaching the midpoint of my life, or maybe I’ll have massive heart attack and keel over at my desk this afternoon. There’s no telling.
Regardless, I know each day and hour are precious. But it’s hard to keep the relentless tsunami of stuff, or responsibilities, of things I want to do, from swiftly wiping each day off the board before I can even wipe the sleep out of my eyes. Life moves quickly and the further along the road I get, the faster the pages fly off the calendar.
Knowing this, trying to hold it on my mind, can help me to prioritize. But it’s still tough to keep the world at bay and to decided how to spend my time well. Often I lie in bed and think, damn, when am I going to get to read all those books I want to read or spend more time drawing with Jack or more time cooking dinner with Patti. When am I going to get to live in Micronesia or the South of France or in that little house in the meadow? When will I get to spend two hours a day at the gym or four hours a day doing oil paintings or six hours a day reading Proust? When will I learn Italian? Learn to drive a motorcycle? Defend my heavyweight boxing title?
I’m not filled with regret because I somehow feel I will get to do these things. I’m just not sure how or when. Perhaps my appetite is just larger than my calendar. Fortunately I am often insomniac so I get to spend 3 to 4 a.m. thinking about stuff I didn’t fit in during the day (most of it actually just anxious nonsense).
Anyway, this consideration of my gallon of ambition and my pint glass of life set me on the way to a new project. It’s something I’ve mulled over for a while and finally out into action. It’s an effort to really think about the things I wished I could have fit into a day and then an attempt to fit one of them into the next day.
I have just completed a project called ‘Me Time’, which is an attempt to find an opportunity to pursue the many things, small and large, that my normal waking hours just don’t allow for.
I created a record of this process, in words and watercolors, had it printed up in a cute, square format, and I must say I like it a lot.
This summer, I published “Bad to the Bone“, my first book with, and I was pretty pleased with the results. The printing quality was great and by squeezing my markup I could offer it to for a pretty reasonable price. The book itself was a collection of drawings and paintings of dogs I’d done earlier in the year, combined with some slight doggerel, a noble but ultimately experimental effort.
‘Me Time’ is pretty different. It’s also a small and affordable book,but it was conceived as much more of a book than its predecessor. It’s tightly designed, carefully written and profusely illustrated. I also think that, as a lifestyle experiment, it was illuminating. I think that it might give readers a few ideas about how to make more of their own time, and add depth and richness to their lives. If not, well, it has a few good jokes and a couple of nice paintings.

If you’d like to check out the book and maybe order yourself a copy or two (I think it might make a nice, modest year-end gift for friends, at least that’s how I plan to use it), click the preview link on the box below.

If you order a copy, I’d love to know what you think and, whether I should continue with this sort of experiment.

How I found an ext…
By Danny Gregory

Bad to the Bone

coverMaybe it’s because of my initials, but when I was little, I was determined to become a vet when I grew up. In fact, I got my first job at the age of 11, working for a vet at the local dog pound. It was only when I was in high school, and proved abysmal at Chemistry, that I realized I’d have to take another career path.
At any rate, I have always loved dogs. The dogs I loved the most weren’t the Lassies and the Benjis, the dogs that rushed to the rescue and did tricks and were cute and cuddly. No, my favorites were the ones that got into trouble, that showed character and individuality, the dogs that are bad.
For the past few months, I have been concentrating on drawing bad dogs of all types. And, inspired by Ogden Nash and Edward Gorey, I’ve been moved to write some little poems about dreadful pooches.
All of which leads me to the surprise part.

I love my new publisher and can’t wait for An Illustrated Life to come out this Fall. In fact, I am so impatient for a new book that I decided to print up a limited edition book on my own, collecting about forty pages of those bad dog drawings and painted ripped from my sketchbooks.
This little book is only a limited edition. It’s four-color and I am really happy with the quality of the printing. I think it really captures the intensity of the watercolors I’ve been doing. Some of the drawings are done with a Rapidograph but most were drawn with a dip pen and they have a good energy that captures the mischief nature of their subjects. There’s a lot of experimentation with the quality of the line and the way I’m using color. It’s a bit of a departure for me, an intense exploration of a single topic but the folks who’ve seen it so far think it’s pretty funny and beautiful.
So, as part of this publishing experiment, I’ve decided to share this little book, Bad to the Bone, with my readers. I’m selling it more or less at (a super-low) cost, because I’m interested to see if this is a good way to make and share books. If you like it and want me to make more books of this sort, let me know and I’d be willing to give it a go.

CLICK TO ORDER: Bad to the Bone
Drawings & doggerel
By Danny O. Gregory

I am really pleased with this book. I hope you’ll like it too.

Everyday Matters – now in Korean!

This afternoon, Patti called me at work to tell me, “It’s here!”. And when I got home, there, sure enough, it was. We immediately started drawing parallels. Jack reminded me that Homer Simpson had found a box of Japanese soap in the dump with a strange Japanese version of himself on the label that he discovered was a major animated character. We talked about Bizarro Superman and, even more bizarre and àpropos, Bizarro Seinfeld.
But nothing was as odd as seeing my book Everyday Matters translated into Korean. Not just translated but painstakingly reproduced in Korean. The calligraphy, the rubber stamps, everything was done absolutely perfectly. It is such an unusual feeling to stand in my living room, loking over the journal pages I made right here, and to now see them in this other skin, one made on the other side of the planet and yet so in tune. I don’t know if I can fully explain the oddness of it all.

The wonderful translator, Suh Dongsoo, wrote to me several weeks ago:

I haven’t met you, but I feel like I am familiar with you.
Maybe that’s because I spent several months reading your book, and trying to feel like you, writing your sentences in Korean.

I really enjoyed translating your book. I was deeply moved by your book.
Right before I started translating your book, I had a very unhappy experience myself.
Maybe it wasn’t such a big disaster for other people, but I was very shocked by that experience, and was living with an empty heart, thinking how should I live from now on, everyday, every minute.
And then I met your book, and I felt so attached to the book.
I believe translating the book was something very important in my life.
I can’t forget one afternoon when I had to cry leaning over my computer translating a sentence.
I want to thank you for giving me the chance to translate this book.
Thank you very much.

How wonderful, and how lucky I am.

The book is apparently doing very well and is about to go into its second printing. And for those of you waiting for the 2nd printing of the book in English, I understand it will be ready in a just a few weeks.

Odder still, as readers of this blog may appreciate, was my discovery of this site, whose contents I don’t understand at all, apparently about my book.
I used Google to tranlate part of it and came up with the following:

Love hero unit of be picture lost chance ni that ley ring (Danny Gregory) It was born from Great Britain and when to 12 flesh moving in New York the State of Israel back and and until, the blood chu bug, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia and Republic of Pakistan, it came and went enough. phu lin su then It studies a political science from the college, nothing after the that el the printed style of writing it eats and and it does not live to be in agony, about 20 it worked from year between advertisement industry. 1995 year wife phay the mote in subway accident the lower half of body after becomes disabled, it draws the picture, it started.

What a weird trip we’re on.

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are


My guide to discovering and increasing your creativity. It’s over two hundred pages of essays, ideas, and watercolors. Here’s a peek inside.

Buy Now From Amazon

I got the first note from someone who has bought my new book at Barnes and Noble today and I realized it is high time I shared some more details about the book with everyone. First of all, I have put together a crude little gallery with a few representative spreads from the book, generally one from each chapter.

Next I’d like to share some opinions from people who’ve gotten their hands on it. I hope to do this less in the spirit of self-congratulation (though I am quite proud of this book) and more to just let people know what the whole things is about and hope fully to inspire some readership.

Let me also say something quite important up front. I have written this book and kept this website going for years now for a simple reason. Re-awakening my creativity and sense of myself as an artist changed my life and helped me to deal with the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me: the day Patti was run over by a subway train and her resultant paraplegia. I am not exaggerating when I say that Art became much of the reason for me to carry on with my life.

I believe that we are all born creative and that, at some point in most people’s childhoods, they lose the urge, but not the ability, to make art. This is a tragic loss. Through the history of our species, ordinary people have always made paintings, sung songs, decorated their homes, expressed themselves in a hundred ways. Today, however, we are increasingly creatures who expect others to provide us with entertainment and culture. We take for granted that creativity is the domain of professionals. We are convinced that if we cannot be perfect, we should not try.

What a loss. I believe fervently in the spirit of amateurism. I know in my heart that it is far better to do an inaccurate, clumsy drawing than not do one at all. It is better to sing off-key than be mute. A scorched home cooked meal is far more nourishing for the soul than a frozen dinner. And I want to rekindle that spirit in whomever I can.

I make a decent living at my job. So I don’t do drawings and watercolors and write essays about creativity or even publish books in order to make money. I do it because I feel that it is important to encourage others (and simultaneously myself) to give oneself permission to be the artists that we all truly are.

My book is called The Creative License but of course, I can’t issue such a license. I can’t give anyone permission to be themselves. All I can do is provide examples, suggestions, encouragement and hope that magic happens.

One of my first readers seems to be getting this. Tonight, after reading just a chapter she writes:

After only the first 11 pages, I feel like you are a voyeur in my life. You said it very well when you talked about people who just have to create. (When I see something beautiful, ugly, interesting–whatever, I don’t just want to look it–I want to get it down on paper and recreate it). But you really struck a nerve talking about those of us who put that creativity into a box and try to keep it there for whatever reason (Will my kids really want those journals that I fill when I’m gone?–yeah, they probably will.) “So with the very first chapter you have looked deep into the heart of people who know they are creative, but stifle it, and the people who are afraid to find out that they are creative. And that encompasses pretty much everyone! I realize that the title of the book is “…giving yourself permission…” but the “familiar” tone that you use to expose those thoughts about creativity almost make it feel like it’s OK for the permission to come from an outside source–the author–someone who has a grip on the understanding of the creative process. “

I hope her enthusiasm doesn’t wane and that the ensuing chapters continue to fuel her creativity and lead her to new places.

Finally, here is a very generous review from one of my favorite artists, my watercolor teacher and mentor, Roz Stendahl, one she recently posted to the Everyday Matters group:

“I was fortunate to be able to read the proofs of Danny’s new book, “Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are.” First a disclaimer for those of you on the list who don’t remember my name from my infrequent posts. Danny is a pal. We’ve corresponded, chatted on the phone, he’s visited, we have drawn together. You could stop reading this email right now because of that, expecting a bias.

But I also am a life long journaler and I teach visual journaling at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts so I read almost all the books that come out in this field. I want to provide up to date recommendations for my students.

I think these things put me in an interesting position to tell you something: reading this book is just like spending time with Danny. His sense of humor comes through. He is silly and playful, wry and sarcastic by turns, but always engaging. Something is always popping out of his brain. He’s gathered all this up and put it in a book. And he wants to encourage you to draw and tap into your creativity.

There are a lot of books on creativity on the market. Some of them try cheerleading and cajoling, some encourage you through psychology, and others practically shame you into picking up your art materials. Danny’s approach is different. Like the great pitch man he is, he creates an analogy (creative license is like a driving license) and then joyfully explains and expands until you want in. The nice thing about this approach is that you don’t end up with two dozen vegematics in your attic like Opus. You’ll end up with a visual journal that records what’s important to you and you’ll be more connected to your life.

Danny’s book is organized in such a manner that it can be read straight through or dipped into. There’s an introduction which establishes the groundwork for you to view yourself as a creative being. The driving license analogy is introduced here.

This is followed by nine chapters which deal with everything from how to draw (giving you instructions for exercises to get you up and running today) to shock (getting out of a rut), resistance (going on), and identity (self acceptance as an artist). (And lots more.)

Each chapter is further divided into smaller sections, often only a page spread or two, dealing with some aspect of the chapter topic. These sub sections read like brief meditations, parables, or pep talks.

I feel this type of organization is one of the best aspects of the book. It allows the reader to come back to the book for small tune ups so he can get back on the road (keeping with the driving metaphor).

Throughout the book Danny provides his readers with suggestion upon suggestion of things they might want to draw, examine, think about, or respond to. If you are new to drawing, visual journaling, or doing creative activities in your life, this book will help you realize how you’ve been a creative being all along. Now’s the time to reengage your life, dreams, and creative self. Danny’s book will give you enough gas to get you a fair ways down the road and the insight to be able to spot refilling stations.

If you already have a creative license and use it daily in your life, the book will still encourage you. Chances are your take on visual journals and creativity is skewed differently because you already understand your process. But a fresh view, another angle, can help you appreciate what you have and enable you to flex your creative muscles even more.

After reading the book I felt that the experience was like being swept up into a brainstorming meeting where there was a lot of laughter and enthusiasm but also serious, earnest work. I believe you’ll enjoy this book.
I’ve only seen a black and white proof, but I’ve seen many of these journal sketches in person. The book is going to be a colorful and visually entertaining book.
Danny can sell an idea and he does it clearly and with humor. I’ll be taking this book along to my journaling classes so that my students can benefit from the perspective Danny brings to the topic.
Danny didn’t ask me to write a review, but I felt compelled to because there are a lot of “creativity” books on the market and we talk about books on this list. Why buy this one? If you’ve enjoyed and found Danny’s insights on his blog helpful, if you like the supportive aspects of exchange that happen on this list, then you’ll enjoy this book which grows out of this seed. The book will speak to you in accessible ways that other creativity books might not.”

If you gotten this far, I hope you’ll check out the book. And if you do buy a copy and read it, I hope it’ll motivate you to expand your creativity. And finally, I hope you will evangelize, gently helping others to see their own creativity, helping make the world more present, more forgiving and more beautiful.Peace out. Commercial over.