Top 16 moments of 2014

DOG in Sedonna, AZ

This has been a wild and unpredictable year that has taken me around the world and home again.   I sat down this morning with my calendar and recalled the best moments.

  1. Jan 4, Manhattan.  I screened footage I’d shot with my old pal, Tommy Kane. The week before, I’d slogged over to Tommy’s house in Brooklyn to shoot his klass videos for Sketchbook Skool.  It was a long and wonderful day, marred only by the rain hammering on the windows.  Filming this klass was the culmination of the years of videos I’d made with Tommy and Jack.  And the idea that I was working on this huge new project with old friends like Tom, Roz and Prashant, made me really happy, working with family on something I really loved.
  2. Jan 10, Downtown LA. In a moment of wonderful recklessness, I signed up for Clown School and spent several days with a group of complete strangers, revealing myself to them and to me.  It was an intense and transformative experience, breaking down my barriers and showing me I was capable of surprising things.
  3. Jan 15, San Francisco. I hopped on a plane north for the day to see David Hockney’s A Bigger Exhibition. Room after room of huge works by the master, colors, and risk taking that left me humbled.  I never tire of Hockney and he teaches me so much each time. I hope I am a quarter as creative and energetic at 80.
  4. Jan 19, Scottsdale. Jenny and I drove down to stay at the Arizona Biltmore to visit her family and give a talk at a conference.  That night we sat by a fire pit, sipped a beer, and watched the skies and I thought — how lucky I am. Being in this warm and wonderful place with my girl, getting new  people excited about drawing, this is what I want to be doing with my days.
  5. March 5, Los Angeles. I unfolded the boxes we had uses to ship our stuff from New York, set up a chair on the sidewalk, and drew the street I now live, whipping a big black Sharpie across the giant, battered sheets of cardboard.  Then I went back to my garage/studio and started an eleven-foot painting of my neighborhood, the first piece I’d ever done outside of my sketchbook since I’d started drawing again, many years ago.  I felt a new freedom and energy, using bright colors, big shapes, moving my brush with my whole painting.  Later that painting would decorate the walls of Jenny’s Venice office, and for the first time I felt like an artist,  expressing how I felt about my life for the world to see.
  6. April 4, the World. The first klass of Sketchbook Skool opened to maximum capacity. Two thousand students from around the world watched our first videos and started to upload their drawings. This was it!
  7. April 5, New York City. I taught a drawing workshop at the Open Center. It was sold out and many of the attendees had also just started at Sketchbook Skool the day before.  I hadn’t led the sort of workshop since the summer before in Rowe, Massachusetts, and it was so nice to be with people who wanted to learn, to create together, and to show them what I had learned. The cumulative affect of all these folks starting at SBS plus these great students here in person in the classroom was almost disorientingly wonderful.
  8. May 8, Fullerton, CA.  Tommy Kane was staying with us in LA and joined me for trip down to a college near San Diego. The school had a surprisingly great illustration program and loads of enthusiastic students and they asked me to come down and talk about my work. In the audience I also discovered a bunch of my other friends, Jane LaFazio and Brenda Swenson and many students from SBS.  Once again, I had this great cocktail of friends all together, real and virtual, old and new, all celebrating drawing together.
  9. May 12, Boston. Despite feeling like a fraud and an imposter, I gave two back-to-back presentations to thousands of people at the HOW Design conference about my ideas about the Inner critic. Amazingly, Shut Your Monkey was a hit and, immediately after, my editor came up to tell me we just have to turn the Monkey into book. I had a great time at the conference once the ordeal of the presentation was over, hanging with Stefan Sagmeister, and meeting Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. The monkey’s fond of name dropping.
  10. Aug 4, Marfa, TX. Jenny and I realized a long-held dream, driving cross-country from LA to NYC. We stopped midway in this little farm town, which Donald Judd has turned into an art mecca. Sipping long-neck beers, watching the mysterious lights of Marfa, meeting new friends and listening to the train’s whistle, we made memories of a place I’d never known existed two days and at thousand miles before.
  11. Aug 24, NYC.  To celebrate the end of the official three-day Jenny’s Birthday weekend, Jack and I took her on a sunset cruise down the East River on a floating restaurant called the Water Table. As we ate lobster and watch the sunset over Manhattan, I felt a great wave of relief. Despite the wonderful adventures we’d had on the West Coast, it was so calming to be home again with my favorite girl and my tall boy floating past the greatest city of earth,
  12. Sep 21, Bejing.  There were so many wonderful and memorable days during my weeks in China, amazing meals, incredible art, and wild adventures.  I’ll pick one: drawing with a roomful of 8th graders, many mawkish and giggling, sweeping me back to my own days in junior high school when I started to lose my love of art-making for the first time,  as I  began to submerge under the pressure of adolescence. To revive the fun of drawing in these Chinese kids made me feel like my life had a real purpose and I felt incredibly fulfilled, so far from home.
  13. Oct 25, NYC. My partner Koosje and our dean of students, Morgan, came to stay with us in NY to talk about all things SBS.  We ended the visit with a massive drawing meet-up with students followed by a fakulty dinner at our house.  Once again I was struck by all we have done this year, the changes we’ve made to our lives, and the power of art to make us wiser and happier. It might have been the free-flowing bottles of of wine but I welled up at with awe and love for this community and my enormous good fortune at being a party of it.
  14. October 29, NYC. The first advance copies of my new book, Art Before Breakfast, arrives in the mail.  It looks amazing and more than I’d hoped.  It’s filled with art I’ve made over the past year in LA so for me it will always be a powerful memento of a wonderful time of change in my life.
  15. Nov 24, NYC. We asked the students of SBS to make videos describing their experience at the Skool.  I sat down to edit them together and was just so excited by what they’d made and said.That people would take the time and express such honest enthusiasm is more than I’d dreamt would happen when Koosje and I first talked about the Skool a year ago.  There have been ups and downs and loads of work and sacrifice  in this process but seeing these videos brought home to me why leaving my last job to focus on drawing and talking about art was probably not such a bad idea.
  16. Dec 4, Kutztown PA.  I have given lot of presentations about my work over the years but this time was really special.  We’d been invited by our old friend Ann who teaches at Kutztown and it was a crisp autumn day in a lovely town. Ann had put us up in a cozy B&B  and, after the long drive and lulled by the roaring fire place in our bedroom Jenny and I napped for an hour.  Then we popped up, headed to the campus, gave the talk to an enthusiastic room full of folks and went out to dinner. I felt loose, personable, myself — everything flowed. Maybe it was the lingering effects of clown school, or the kid energy in Beijing, or the expanding impact of the Grand Canyon or a sense of well-being that came from having a new book out and another on the way, or maybe it was being in a big room with friends and the girl I love, but it all came together and as I stoodd by the podium, I felt free and strong and right. And a strange feeling I realized was happiness.