Working it.

IMG_1113Sorry if I seem to have vanished.  I am hard at work on my next book, art Before Breakfast, which I have to turn in to my publisher all too soon.

I love working on this book and it has taken a back seat for far too long. It’s funny how one can love doing something and somehow forget how much, especially when it’s your own project and nobody else is prodding you back to work.

In the old days, when my creative work was being done for large corporations, there were always herds of people in suits thundering in and out of my office, making sure I was being productive.

But now, as I sit in my studio with my hounds and pre-war Swedish jazz on the radio, I’m the only one to remind myself of why I’m here. The most insistent voices are the dinging of incoming emails, the buzzing of text messages, and the growling of my stomach. Like some great Pavlovian dog, my instinct is to respond to them first, dutifully answering emails, updating my calendar, and debating whether I have to go to the gym before or after lunch.

Being an artist or an author or a blogger or an Olympic biathlete requires tenacity and discipline. Creative habits are all too easy to break, especially if there are louder voices in the room to lead you astray. That goes for me in the studio all day but probably for you too, struggling to fit in the time to draw in your journal between chores and obligations and paid work.

What I discovered years ago —but all too often forgot under the pressures of life — is that making art is not a guilty pleasure. It’s as essential to living properly as flossing and getting aerobic. Without it, life is shorter and duller, and the world lacks meaning and beauty. Not to mention it’s fun.

However, no one will tell you to make time for art. No one will find the time on your calendar to draw your lunch. No one will make watercoloring your bagel a priority for you. You must do it — and do it you must.

Speaking of which, I have to get back to work. Scratch that, I want to get back to making stuff. I hope you’ll find the opportunity to do the same.

21 thoughts on “Working it.”

  1. Roughin’ it at the Arizona Biltmore…good looking’ breakfast. Love your pen, do you mind sharing the make, etc.?


    1. I love the Biltmore’s buffet because it has so many things to draw (!) I’m using one of the Kuretake Fudegokochi brush pens I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s not water proof and have now replaced it with a whole bunch of different Japanese brush pens that don’t smear or run when I watercolor over them and are just a joy to draw with. Check out and try some out.


  2. Love the name of your new book. I’m in my studio every day (even on weekends) at 4am. I love mornings. I did a calligraphy piece years ago of my quote, “Art before breakfast is better after coffee but essential before waking.” Yes, art is a priority for me and it’s amazing what you can get done in little chunks, even at 4am 🙂


  3. Thanks Danny for being such an inspiration! I’m teaching a 6-week Urban Sketching workshop and for our last class we will be doing exactly that–sketching our breakfast at a local diner! I’m going to be encouraging my class to follow your blog and to keep sketching. 🙂
    Brenda Murray


  4. Sounds like a great book Danny. I’m sure I’ll find a space for it on my shelf next to your other books I own. Better yet, it might become a fixture on the kitchen table, where it belongs.


  5. You’ve basically just described my life now! I’m slowly getting back to journaling after a six-month dry spell. And I’ve missed it. I look forward to your new book. How exciting!


  6. Wow everything u said is very true Danny and I have to admire ur dedication and tenacity to your work. Ive been going that way of late and it has been an exciting journey. I would like to share more with you a bit later on. The chores thing I get tired of but I have been lucky of late with a beautiful special person who has just come in to my life who has been helping and been a support n she encourages me to get on with my work in the art studio


  7. I always intend to draw the veg I bring back from my local co-op harvest share especially as it hasn’t been topped and tailed as they do in the supermarkets (the more expensive the supermarket the more scrubbed and ‘tidied’ the veg will be). However every week to celebrate its freshness the veg is immediately consumed and before I know it my still life has disappeared again …. I have no idea how you can concentrate on anything with a full breakfast sitting in front of you growing cold! Its impressive.


  8. Finding more time for art is a thing I am constant striving for… finding time for the gym is quite another… It takes time away from my art and unlike art, it doesn’t feature in my list of passions. Would rather for a walk but the gym is a necessary evil when it just doesn’t stop raining (UK).. so, ahem.. thanks for the reminder!!

    Exciting news about your new book… Now can I ask one of those questions that one wants to know but is afraid to ask? Doesn’t your food go cold whilst you are drawing it? I hope your book is going to give step by step instructions of how to eat ones food hot AND draw it 🙂


  9. After reading your blog, watching your videos and especially watching your art, I think I realized what was missing in my life for a long time. Too long. Anyway, for some time now I’ve been carryin a sketchbook and fighting against all odds in order to have time for drawing. Suprisingly I’m pretty successful with that (at least with quantity – quality is still under development :). Before work I try to draw something while in a coffee shop, on a bus/subway on my way back home, at home, after my 3-year boy old finally falls asleep… 🙂
    Thanks a lot for showing me that and keep up the good work. Love your work, and although it’s impossible to get your books directly in Poland, I hope Amazon will not let me down, as I have a number of your books and other art books (urban sketching, watercolouring etc.) on the way.
    Good luck with the new book and with internal motivation to do it


  10. Hi Danny I am a personal trainer’ so I know how important it is to get your workout in for the day. But I love doing my cartooning. Now if I can figure a way to do them both ay the same time. Two essentials, physical activity and creating. Can’t get better than that.


  11. Reblogged this on A Twirly Life and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more. And now I have to look up “pre-war Swedish jazz.” He says, “What I discovered years ago —but all too often forgot under the pressures of life — is that making art is not a guilty pleasure. It’s as essential to living properly as flossing and getting aerobic. Without it, life is shorter and duller, and the world lacks meaning and beauty. Not to mention it’s fun.”


  12. A few comments here reference the importance of both physical and creative exercise, and I know Danny has blogged about this in recent months. Danny, I have followed you for nearly 10 years now, and I’m thankful for your sometimes blunt insights about exercising the creative spirit. I’m sure you’ve had times of much frustration, yet you seem to hold it together quite well.

    I am in the process of mastering the physical aspect (which I feel like art, can never truly be mastered, only developed). I’m extremely comfortable pushing my body to new limits, fine-tuning my nutrition to achieve the physical changes I desire month-to-month, and helping others fine-tune their fitness goals. I’m blessed with the ability to go beyond my physical comfort zone and enjoy every minute of it, but not focused enough to find quiet time to develop my creativity. But alas, I follow this blog, your books, EDM, your material reviews, and I dabble now and then, hoping to make a painting better than the Winslow Homer watercolor I copied as a focused and exuberant kid.

    Life happens? Nah, I can’t say those things.


  13. Who took the photo of you sketching that fabulous feast? That’s something I’ve not thought of before…have someone take my pic while I draw. That way down the road I can have proof that I was once disciplined. Thanks for the heads-up on! I’ll check it out now.


  14. Danny I want to thank you with all my heart for your books, your encouraging words,and your generous spirit….you have a friend in Canada….my life is changed because of you.


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