Death Valley Sketchbook


A decade ago, I did a week-long drawing trip through Nevada and parts of California with my pal, D.Price. The sketchbook I kept (only my 7th to that point) was the first step in my publishing career. When I shared it with an editor at City & Co., who liked it so much she asked me to assemble a book of my journals. Ultimately, though I ended up placing that book with Princeton Architectural Press (Everyday Matters), it was so nice to have someone interested in my work and this concentrated drawing trip was the kick-off point.
I was flipping through the original journal today and thought I’d make a little video tour. It’s also notable as several other firsts — one of my first hand-bound books, one of the first times I made a dedicated journal for one trip, and one of the first times I experimented with watercolors.

The film I made ended up being eleven minutes long, so I cut it into two episodes. You can see them both there.

Oh, and if you like this sort of thing, let me know and I’ll do more if it. (Though I am not trying to make anything technically sophisticated with these little films, I would love to know if there’s any particular information you’d like to know about my sketchbooks). I appreciate your comments and insights.

18 thoughts on “Death Valley Sketchbook”

  1. Of course I loved seeing this, and maybe sophistication ain't the aim, but to tell the truth the nervous movement makes me, well, nervous. . . If you would try putting the book down and showing us a page or a spread at a time, with an ocassional zoom for a detail. Also, it could be done more slowly, so we could read some, not necessarily all, of the text. I like the sound of your voice and the information, but it also seems like you have a person asleep in the next room and you are sort of sotto voce, so as not to wake them up. So all my comments are about production values–but you know I loved seeing it, and all your sketching pleases me very much!


  2. Yes, Danny, please show us more of your journals. You have given me ideas of where else I can look for things to draw when I think there isn't anything to draw. There's always a surprise in what you share with us. Thank you.


  3. I'd love to see MORE. I am especially interested in how you "edit" visually when you sketch to simplify really complicated vistas. Also some information on materials. What do you use now? Paper? What paper do you put into the journals you bind yourself?
    Enjoyed these a lot.


  4. I love seeing this! I'm curious about composition of the page. The mix of blocks of text and drawings fascinate me.

    Could you say something about decisions you might make, perhaps on a particular day of sketching, in scattering drawings across a blank page, and then adding text later? Or does text ever come first? The look is immediately magnetic to the viewer.

    I second June's comments about jittery camera and zooming in and out. I'm a bit woozy from the bumpy visual ride 🙂


  5. This was wonderful and yes, I would love to see more videos like this. I enjoy very much your honesty sharing with us your journals from years ago. Clearly, you are able to appreciate the changes in tools, materials and techniques you've learned over the years. But also I like how you gently point out what you did then, and why, without judging. Thank you!!!


  6. I always love seeing your journals. Could you also talk about how long it takes you to do some of your drawings. Obviously on this trip you were sketching with someone else who likes to do that and that was the purpose of your trip, but you seem very prolific and I'm wondering how long you spend of each day making the drawings. I keep my own little journal but it seems like I'm always rushing to get things down and then finishing them later. I have yet to approach the level of polish your work seems to have. Even in your small drawings, you seem to manage to capture a lot of detail. I love the work, please keep it coming — it's very inspiring to your readers.


  7. Thanks for this refreshing and unedited stroll through your journal — it was delightful! I would also echo Chris's question above –what kind of paper do you use in the journals you bind yourself? Still haven't found any I'm totally satisfied with for that use.

    Yes, more, more!


  8. Love this! It's fascinating to see your older journals, and to hear your comments on your use of color, technique, etc. I'd love to know more about how you make your journals – what binding do you use, what paper. Thank you for sharing, and as the others have said – more, please!

    I do have to agree with the folks on the video – maybe place the camera on a stand while you film. Some of us get seasick too easily! 😉


  9. Hi Danny,
    I am so impressed and am a big fan. Thanks so much for letting us in to see your work from years ago. I am very critical of my old stuff and I think that was brave. You are very talented…I would like to know what paper you used in the journal and what brand of watercolors etc. I want to bind my own and I use watercolor and mixed media. Love your journal and would love to see more. Thanx again.


  10. In the video you showed your shelves with all your sketchbooks, I found that very exciting, the sheer amount and variety of them. I'd love to see more, even if it's only a couple of pages of each. What about the giant sketchbook? Have you done anything with it?


  11. Hi,
    I am quite new to writing journals (I have been doing it for about 5 months now).
    I am, however, enjoying it very much.
    You are a great inspiration to me and I have found that writing and drawing about my experiences and thoughts has really helped with many aspects of my life. It has opened my eyes up to the small things I used to pass by, it has also helped my drawing skills (due to drawing every day).
    Thanks for sharing your journals with us.. they are a constant source of fascination. 🙂


  12. Hi Danny, I enjoy your videos very much. I like the ones, too, that you've done while you're drawing—you know, showing the process. Those are fun to watch. Also, someone else made a comment about your voice, I like your voice. It's very easy to listen to, quite soothing. Thanks for sharing your work.


  13. hi danny! i like the video tour of the sketchbook… like a film with the director's track 😉 i panicked the first time i saw your new site.. i thought i missed the oldstuff too much. they were really colorful (i love the color swatches a lot).. and yet when i explored it, i saw that i can still get back to the old entries (attachment, tsk tsk) and enjoy the new format with more videos and voice track which is more dynamic and interactive… so yup, i LOVE these posts.. i LOVE your books too.. i was so glad that i got An Illustrated Life in Asia pretty fast after you just released it in the US. anyways, missed you on the web thank god for your tweets we know that you are still out there drawing.. and still inspiring as ever 😉 so, i will end this chatter and head out to draw.. i think i will take out my dip pens today.. keep rollerblading on paper 🙂


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