I’m in a new book: The Pulse of Mixed Media

Some three years ago, I taught the one and only class of my career, a 12 week program at the Open Center. I learned a lot and met a number of interesting artists over the weeks. Seth Apter was in my class and I began to visit his sumptuous website, The Altered Page , and to talk with him about drawing and art and the creative process. He interviewed me for his blog and again, the conversation broke new ground for me/
Last year, Seth began work on a book, The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed, and invited me to participate.
Now, I have been a part of a number of books that collected the work of many artists, and generally it’s a simple and painless affair. In fact, while putting together An Illustrated Life and its upcoming sequel, An Illustrated Journey, I found myself in the reverse position of having to badger other artists to join up and then send me pages from their journals and answer my questions. It’s a fair amount of work but one learns so much by shepherding this sort of book.
Anyway, being a part of Seth’s book was more than I initially thought when I signed up. That’s because Seth really demanded that I think a lot about myself and my process in answering his questions, think in ways I’d not been asked to do before, not even by myself. He’s a psychologist and he challenged me to really explain the many things I take for granted in my work, the media I use and the ways I use them, what defines my work and what does not, He asked me questions like “What three words do not describe your artistic style?” and “If you could sell one piece of art to anyone in the world, whom would you want to buy it and why?”
Seth asked these sorts of questions of me and many, many other artists. From what I’ve seen of it, the resulting book is a rich and beautiful tapestry that explores the deepest aspects of the creative process, and provokes and inspires over and again.
The Pulse of Mixed Media will be officially published at the end of this month but apparently it’s in some stores already. You can also get it direct from the publisher.  Meanwhile, Seth is doing all sorts of things on his site to dimensionalize the content, with samples and peeks inside. Seth has promised me that the actual book will be in my hands any day now but my trips to the mailbox have been for naught so far. I hope to share a deeper dive between its covers in the near future.
Meanwhile, if you get a copy, do let me know what you think.

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From The Private Sketchbooks Of Artists, Illustrators And Designers

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An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers is my newest book, a collection of illustrated journals from 50 different artists. It’s 272 pages of four-color inspiration at an amazing price! Buy Now From Amazon

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.

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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

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

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

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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.

Assignment of the day

It’s hot as a bastard and we are all recovering from four performances of Annie Get Your Gun in three days. I have spent the past two mornings in the air-conditioned apartment working on an assignment for The Morning News which is about to launch its year long redesign. Rosecrans, my editor, asked me to draw three illustrations to work as launch-pads for the serialized books that appear on the site every couple of weeks.
I had already done a couple of different icons for Peanut:

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This one is meant to look like a sonogram of a peanut. It’s okay though a little gimmicky.

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Then I came up with this one based on a photo of an embryo, sort of 2001-ish but not really uniquely mine.
I decided to start from scratch with more conventional ink and watercolor drawings, each about 4-5 inches square. I painted this fairly scary drawing; still it’s somehow cute in a plucked chick kind of way and I like it.

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For The letters of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, I bypassed my initial thought of painting some instruments ( I have recently done three different illustration jobs requiring sketches of guitars) and decided to try to capture some rock’n’roll energy. I did this drawing fairly quickly and I like it too.

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I struggled most with The Education of Elisabeth Eckleman. It seemed that every story had Elisabeth in tears at some point so I decided to tackle it this way. I was a little worried that I had been overly influenced by fantasies of Molly Ringwold and was listening to too much of the new 9 Inch Nails album and Elisabeth isn’t quite in that nexus.

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I fired off an email to Sarah Hepola, Elisabeth’s creator, who wrote: “She’s a cute 18 year old girl — brown shoulder-length hair that’s a bit curly/frizzy (she likes to straighten it out), a little girlish pudge in her cheeks. Blue eyes. She’s from a small town, so she doesn’t have that natural college girl look yet — she wears a lot of makeup, probably earrings. she probably wears a lot of tank tops and shorts.”
I’m no expert on the nuances of 18-year-old girls anymore and I was a little tense as I went back to the drawing board.

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This was my second and final effort. It has personality and particularity more than the first but tells less of a story and has a little too much Walter Keane in it
I’ll let Rosecrans pick.