Dutch doors


Since I first started drawing again, more than fifteen years ago, I’ve discovered that drawing in a book is a lot more than making nice pictures. 

Observing one’s life, recording one’s days, contemplating the details of the everyday, being more present, finding the beauty all around me, these are powerful experiences that have been transformative for me, particularly in difficult times — and I have always hoped that I could discover how to share this discovery to help others. I’ve long wanted to go beyond the world of Art and illustration and talk to people in schools, hospitals, and prisons about how drawing can help them discover the world as it truly is: beautiful and full of meaning.


Since leaving my job in advertising, I have been thinking about and working on how to do this. I’m not there yet, but this week I took another step forward.

IMG_0798I’ve just come back from five days in Amsterdam, where I gave the keynote address at an educational conference, addressing 1800 teachers from 213 schools in 37 countries.

IMG_0767 After my presentation and workshops, I had loads of interesting conversations — about the true meaning of drawing, how to encourage teens to reignite their childhood creativity, how to get children to express their inner lives in their own journals, how drawing can go beyond the art classroom to be a part of all subjects, and much more.


These conversations opened new doors. I got invitations to come  talk with students, teachers and parents in Germany, Czech Republic, England, Tanzania, Malaysia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I don’t know what will come of all this but it’s very exciting.

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.  — Aristotle 

Many of you were enormously helpful over the past few months as I prepared for the conference. Dozens of teachers generously shared their experiences with illustrated journaling in the classroom and sent me the wonderful work their students had created.
Their stories and images helped build a bridge between the work I have done and the needs of the teachers at the conference.  It was invaluable and I want to thank you again for collaborating with me. 

Teachers rock.

21 thoughts on “Dutch doors”

  1. WOW!!! I got goosebumps reading this post. Congratulations on getting out there and sharing the joy (and reasoning) for drawing and journaling. I have PTSD… my husband passed away after a long hard battle against ALS… without writing, drawing, and journaling I would have gone INSANE!!! The process lets the demons out in a non violent way and calms the mind at the same time. Go forth Danny… and spread the joy!! I’ll be sending happy thoughts your way for continued success!!


  2. Wish our schools in my town would recognize the power of art and music. Two years ago the art teacher and music teacher (myself) we’re let go because they felt any of the elementary teachers could teach those subjects. Not so. The teachers say they have no idea what they are doing and the kids miss having actual enrichment teachers. Poor kids are really missing out.


  3. With art funding for public schools disappearing, you are a beacon. Perhaps you could develop a curriculum or workshop that could be integrated in schools. Having an outside “artist” come in to class is VERY powerful. I experienced that as a youngster and it made a big impact.


  4. Dear Danny,
    Thank you so much! After your presentation I bought a sketch book (my first ever) and a good black pen. I just made my first sketch in 20 years (or more). I will definitely use this in my foreign language classes for journal writing and the students will love it!


  5. Hi!! I am a high school art teacher in little Rhody…..I have read all of your books, every blog, and anything else I can find that has your name attached! You have inspired me to create an art journaling class here at my school. My students love you, and your story. Anyway, I wanted to mention that the National Art Education Association has a yearly conference of art teachers from all around the USA…..this year (2014) it is in San Diego….you should totally look into this venue for a speaking/presentation opportunities. It would be SOOOOO incredibly valuable to teachers who have perhaps let go of some of their own artwork to focus on their students. You can find info on the NAEA website. Best! Also, any chance you would consider a Twitter chat with my students? That would be so amazing!!!


  6. You are great !!!…as usual

    …reading your post…. I “imagine” a revolution you started against all the hand-held-devices (iPhones, iPods, blackberries etc…) existing and spreading more and more “aggressive” your “fight” …for a “pen-paper-pencil world” :0) The human salvation is in those basic tools …you got the point….I better stop here otherwise I’m running into megalomania :0)

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us !!!


  7. What an exciting and meaningful way to use your talents! I’m a therapist working with teens with cancer and chronic illness, but I’m not an “artist.” We use journals but I would love to explore methods (yours) to really inspire them to use their creativity.


  8. As a teacher I thank you.
    As a teacher I recognise another who rocks.
    As a classroom teacher art was part of every day.
    As a resource teacher now for students at risk (for any reason) I inject as much interest in art as humanly possible . . . you have kindred spirits!


  9. Brother Danny – I was so happy to read this post. I love this insight and I hope you soon burst through those new open doors in your gentle but powerful Danny way. You have changed many lives. Mine included. After meeting you and being inspired by your work, my career took a whole new direction. The more I draw, the closer I get to the meaning of my life. As you know I have been working for many years with terminally ill children and using drawing as a powerful tool to help them work through the trauma associated with their diagnosis which allows them to express themselves through art and stories. The results have been powerful and life changing for the children. (And obviously for me too.) I carried that over to working with kids in refugee camps and orphanages in the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and South Africa. It’s totally amazing how a pencil and a piece of paper can help people connect with their own souls and, in turn, see their struggles and healing in a new light. Let’s catch up soon. I’d love to chat to you more about this subject.


    1. Trevor, your work sounds inspiring. I’d like to know more about the techniques and guidance you use with the children to encourage them to express themselves.


  10. Very enjoyable post Danny – you and others here make me fell a bit humble today – my last 15 years have been far more selfish ones. New resolution to contribute more! 1800 people – well done.
    PS I like the movement in the bike tyres, I can feel the cobblestones!


  11. Danny, your trip sounds like it was wonderful, and so meaningful in teaching and speaking about the importance of the art. I am so glad i could help. Happy Thanksgiving!


  12. How wonderful!!! I cheer you on in this endeavor Danny! May you have many opportunities to share the wonders, benefits, and joy in drawing!


  13. Awesome awesome, Danny! I have been in your FB group, Everyday Matters, and have been reading your Creative Licence book – love your perspective, positive outlook, and enthusiasm! When I was teaching English in high school full time, I encouraged students to keep a writing notebook to record their experiences, via notes, doodles, and tidbits as a way to journal their daily lives and also as an effective coping strategy. I was introduced to Penny Kittle, a great advocate for making writing ‘flow’ from teens more easily than we would normally have students work. We would often springboard from this to more polished writing pieces, which was great.
    Now, teaching Art full time, I can use a similar approach of journaling via art. Having students being aware of oneself, recording moments, feelings, experiences visually…… is super. In this way, art becomes less intimidating and more reflective, fun, and personal.
    Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your journey with us! 🙂


  14. Wow. Love this post. I hope that it all comes together for you to educate all ages to draw again, become that kid that wasn’t thinking about past or future, but was only in the moment. Your posts resonate with me totally. Thanks!


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