EDM #31: Draw something you collect

I got my first piece of taxidermy when I was a teenager, a moldering old fox head. Over the decades my collection grew; Patti and I gave each other stuffed dead animals for birthdays and anniversaries until we had a full-blown Adams Family effect. I have culled our collection a bit but there are still snouts and beaks peaking around most corners.

These guys fill the wall of my study — five calm sentries watching over me while I type this. I have drawn them many times as they are interesting from every angle. This time I tackled them with a Faber Castell PITT pen with an XS point. It was a frustrating reminder of why I love my fountain pens. While the PITT doesn’t stain my fingers and has a decent black line, like the specimens on my walls, it dies all too quickly. Sure enough, midway, the pen began to cough and splutter and finally gave up the ghost as I drew the last antler. I finished things up with my Lamy, a dip pen, and a brush with a  bit of sumi.

Let me be honest about something—while I have drawn every day for the past month and some, I can’t say I have done more than one or two pieces I actually like. This one again is not one of them. I need to do some soul searching now that I am back from vacation and figure out what is up. Is it the pace? Is it the hour? Is it the subject matter? The materials? My brain? There’s no question that its a good thing to sustain the habit of drawing each day but I would like to be more pleased with the results.


21 thoughts on “EDM #31: Draw something you collect”

  1. Here is an observation from a total stranger–that you did not ask for: from reading your posts from the last month you have been very self-deprecating both about your work and your appearance. I have been reading and thinking all along that you must be going through something. Maybe an unexpected down-cycle due to your loss and your son going off to college, or maybe just a plain old mid-life crisis kind of menopause for men thing. Anyway, you know more than anyone that all artists go through these times of hating everything they produce. It will pass. Look back at the body of your work and you will see what your admirers see–talent and a great style that is enviable. Maybe really shake things up and try something totally new–learn to knit or sculpt–how about a printmaking class? You have the art world at your fingertips in New York!


    1. Hear hear, Sheryl! Pertinent oberservations, well worth pondering 🙂

      Perhaps, Mr Gregory, you could ask yourself “what’s the last thing I made I really liked, and why?”, and see if you can do more of that.

      But sometimes producing stuff you don’t particularly like is just that, a phase, and wonderful stuff awaits you when you enter the next groove.

      I understand your feeling. It would be nice to be able to ask guys like Rembrandt or Da Vinci whether they had phases like these and what they did about them. “Non pensarci. Gewoon doorgaan!”


  2. Well- maybe you are too close to the work? I look forward every morning to your drawings and always find something full of interest. The ” not liking thang” is an issue I have also—so have resolved to leave that behind entirely by setting specific goals for the pieces I draw. The goal might be ” getting a sense of light” or some such notion.Narrow goals. Freeing oneself from emotional judgment. Liking one’s own work is an issue for most artists, since a fabulous shrink once told me : Every artist only feels as good as his last piece. HOLY MOLY! Serenity NOW! Love this sketch by the way! You have met a goal of ” combining many elements with a sense of depth”! BRAVO!


  3. Danny….I do absolutely “get” how you’re feeling now, after a month or so of faithfulness to the EDM challenges. I have started them at least twice; allowed busyness to interrupt the every-day flow of it, and eventually pooped out. I too wasn’t sure what the problem was. Maybe it’s because even though we know it’s good to draw anything and everything, some of the prompts direct us to daw things that just flat-out don’t inspire us, so that the exercise becomes more of a chore than fun. At least that’s how it was for me. That being said, what I have really liked about yours is that you vary the media and you give each mundane subject your own “spin”. A chair is not just a chair in the DG world–there is a story with it. This is great fun when it’s done, but takes a degree of creative energy that may or may not be present when one is having breakfast!


    1. “Maybe it’s because even though we know it’s good to draw anything and everything, some of the prompts direct us to daw things that just flat-out don’t inspire us, so that the exercise becomes more of a chore than fun.”

      I also have never been able to to the daily challenges for this very reason! I just have to draw when (and what) I draw.


    2. I’m going to agree with the above insights. I will add that when I find the challenge, um, less than inspiring, I try to find a way to make it more interesting. When drawing an eye, I considered drawing the London Eye, for instance. Or I could have drawn piano keys or churchkeys (bottle openers) for the key challenge. I also considered drawing dust as something I collect.


  4. Dear Danny, the first step to overcome any issue is to recognize it and, in this way, you have done your part very well. Thanx a lot for share good and bad. I think we all who follow you learn a lot from your insights. We love your work, independently from the result, you are fantastic!


  5. I wonder why we expect everything we do to be “wonderful”? I often comment my dissatisfaction with my sketches, and have to remind myself that they are mere momentary recordings of a tiny space in time, and are “sketches” after all. It is an indication of determination to put things out there that we don’t think are up to par. Actually I am encouraged when I see that you are continuing to draw even when you aren’t emotionally “into” what evolves. I usually get comments about my inner critic being too harsh, but actually, I don’t mind trying to rightly appraise what I do, whether it be good or not so good, or even bad! Sheryl’s advice is good. Try a shake up, but continue to be honest with self appraisal.

    By the way, I spent nearly two hours yesterday going through your recommended blog sites, and loved seeing Virgina, Dallas, and New York through your eyes.

    I identify with your emotional struggles. We just have to admit that lots of times life is just hard. Healing takes time..but it comes.


  6. I understand how you feel, please write à book about that very topic, please! I’m struggeling Daily with the same lack of satisfaction, working so hard to feel excited & pleased…

    If I could draw like you, I’d be thrilled. But as we all know, that’s beyond the point…


  7. I would just do the challenge over again until you and your inner critic can come to a compromise. Bring into play your arsenal of art supplies and attack what ever it is with your creativity. Fill ten pages or more of your sketchbook with challenge 31 in all colors, with watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, pen and ink. Every artist has one of those days even the best of them.


  8. Your drawings always are great to my eye; your collection, on the other hand, would weird me out no end…all those eyes watching me draw from every nook and cranny…oy vey!
    I appreciate your sharing your real feelings about life and your art. It makes you very human, as I watch and drool over what you can do with your variety of tools/pens/inks/paints etc. You continue to inspire! That alone should satisfy that even though you don’t always see it yourself, your works of art are examples of what others aspire to attain. Please keep drawing and posting! I too look forward to my Danny Gregory Fix every morning!


  9. This comes from someone who can’t draw shite without lots and lots of work.

    Your work is amazing! I admire the things you are drawing and you have given me wonderful examples of where I would like to go.

    I know what it’s like to not like a ding dang thing you’ve drawn… to date, in 47 years, I don’t think I’ve drawn a single thing I like. I’m quite embarrassed by the things I put out there but I figure I won’t get any better unless I do it.

    And besides, I’m doing it for me…. 🙂

    I hope you have a wonderful day!


  10. Your honesty is so engaging and encouraging, Danny. I think drawing every day is an exercise akin to blind contour drawing: it’s not the result that is important– it’s the development of “seeing” skills. That’s what I try to keep in mind.


  11. These are all such wonderful thoughts. I am not sure I can add anything new and different. I will say that I sympathize with the challenge of silencing the inner critic and enjoying the process more and worrying about the outcome less. You are so much more than your drawings. You inspire with the sharing of your thoughts – sometimes funny, sometimes moving and often a combination of both. I try to focus on the beauty in the unique lines in all drawings (harder with my own of course) because they are individual like a signature. These are yours and no one else’s. Perhaps a shift in focus or a change-up as several others mentioned above to bring back the excitement you feel for your work. You have taught many of us to feel graditude for the little things we see each day and to show this appreciation through our sketches. This is a bump in the road. Keep going – this too shall pass!


  12. I just wanted to let you know that, in the last few weeks since I’ve discovered you, you have inpsired me to consider (how’s that for hedging) drawing regularly. I am a fiber artist for a reason. I do not have an innate ability or aptitude for drawing. But I do have a love of building things with my hands. Drawing, I’ve read, can help me to ‘see’ things. And I’ve always wanted to be able to draw; I just haven’t wanted to practice. Soooo, seeing your drawings everyday has inspired me to consider (:)) making a book (with my hands) that i can then just draw in for fun. And practice. Not for anyone to see. Or judge. So in spite of your questions regarding your daily drawing and the answers, it has certainly served your readers well and delighted me immensely. thanks!


  13. I’m right in there with Sherri – as someone very new to the challenge of drawing, I delight in each of your posts, learning something new about the crafts of drawing and writing with each one and being inspired to keep trying, even though my chairs still look like odd shapes with legs, my proportions are all off, and my family is teasing me about the “scary people” I seem to create! 🙂


  14. Sometimes I have to let go of drawing from life and just let the pen and my imagination take over and draw from an internal, intuitive place. This works especially well when I am going through difficult issues in my life. It’s the best therapy I know, and usually works to get me excited about drawing again. You can see some samples of this process here: http://susandorf.com/susandorf.com/Art_Journal.html
    Hope this helps- you have been such an inspiration to me!


  15. I’ve read that the part of your brain that does the criticism (left hemisphere) is not the part of your brain that does the art (right hemisphere), so it’s literally like having an incompetent backseat driver making comments while your’e trying to “drive” the drawing. For me knowing that the voice that says, “this sucks,” is incapable of even doing the work takes away its authority and quiets it down.

    That being said, it’s comforting to know that even you aren’t happy with your sketches sometimes, and it takes some of the pressure off me when I start into something that I may not be happy when I’m done with it. Your work is always inspiring.


  16. I think it’s just normal and common to have more down and not to like some of your wonderful sketches. These are all sketchings so they cannot never be bad (as you write in your books). And seeing our projects good and fully satisfact I think it will happen to every one: it could be that you need a boost or a relax. Probably you can boost by relaxing some more? Not drawing 1000 sketches a day but just one tenth letting you inspiring more. Just guessing. :)))
    Your sketches are always wonderful indeed…


  17. Dearest Dan…bet you’re exhausted now, eh? (But I think they might have a point, even though it came out of the blue)…


  18. Maybe it’s better to only refer to the list when you really haven’t got a clue what to draw. Working down a list every day might make it feel more like a chore than something you enjoy, which will reflect in your drawings.


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