How to shake things up.

We just got back to New York after a month in California. We went west because November had been so awful and cold in NY and we couldn’t bear the idea of an unbroken stretch of winter reaching long over the horizon. So we borrowed a friend’s house near the beach in Venice, then moved inland to a Spanish revival house (above) on a big piece of land in Echo Park.

It was admittedly quite a luxury to flee and cross the country but it wasn’t a vacation. JJ and I spent much of each day sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, working away at our laptops, while the rain beat against the windows and the wind howled through the palm trees. It’s great to have job you can do from anywhere on earth with access to wifi!

JJ at the kitchen table.

I got a lot of fresh perspective 3,000 miles from my desk in New York. I went back to life drawing, I rebooted this blog, and we have been doing important work that promises to springboard SketchBook Skool into the future — new ideas for kourses, new people to bring aboard, and new ways of working that will make my life so much easier, more productive and pleasant. It’s so nice to be working with my love again — she’s helping us transform our processes after leaving her job in Manhattan last year.

A change of location can be a life saver. Soon after I quit my career in advertising, JJ was offered a job in LA and asked me if I would go with her for a year. I was dug deep into the granite of this island, been here since I was 12, and the idea of moving across the country to a very different, car-dependent culture was daunting. I agreed though, because I knew I’d been living in a deep rut, one that would lure me back to the advertising world in months if I didn’t do something drastic. My dreams of writing, starting a business, teaching, working for myself, would all be drowned out by one more high-paying executive job on Madison Avenue. The radical dislocation of moving West would serve to keep me focussed on my new goals.

A year later, I’d gotten a lot done. I’d written Art Before Breakfast, done a lot of public speaking, enjoyed residencies in schools around the world, launched SBS with Koosje, and gotten a decent tan. When we bade farewell to LA and drove cross-country, I’d effectively severed my ties to my old ways and was repotted back into my old soil with new vigor and vim.

The Farm yard.

This second sabbatical in LA freshened up my perspective again. LA is much more of a creative industry town than New York, what with gaggles of actresses in every restaurant, teams of screenwriters in every coffeeshop, and new museums and galleries popping up all over downtown. And my son is there, the artist I have collaborated with longest. It was great to have his perspective and share his energy close up again.

Going to any new place make you rethink every part of your day. Staying in a new house, plugging your laptop into new outlets, and eating in new restaurants (I gained 7 lbs., alas). We even went to the premiere of a Phillip Glass symphony at the Disney Hall, something we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in NY.

We also spent time with old pals and new. Our friends in LA are pretty different from the New York ones. They invited us on morning hikes, taught us to play frisbee golf, invited us over for big dinner parties, and were generally a breath of fresh air. New Yorkers are much more intense and work focussed than people anywhere else and it’s nice for a change to talk about coyotes, camping and surfing instead of the L train, the Giants and Tr*mp Tower.

The Boathouse at Echo Park.

I was just reading a post called The Importance of Boring Routines to Enable Creativity which asserts that we should simplify as much of our life so we don’t get “decision fatigue”. We should eat the same things for each meal, and wear uniform clothing like schoolchildren and Steve Jobs, so we aren’t wasting time and brainpower with trivial decisions. It’s an extension of the whole Marie Kondo, Tidying Up craze, I guess.

I dunno. I think I need to have variety in my lives to feed my creativity. New problems, new stimuli spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Filling my wells and feeding my imaginations with fresh fodder is a crucial part of my jobs as a creator.

The Farm kitchen.

Now that I’m back in New York City, it looks different to me than it did a month ago. I compare my ‘hood with our street in Echo Park. I look at the people, the stores, the trees and the quality of the light anew for having been away from it.

When we were in LA, we decided we would try to preserve the spell of freshness once we came back East. We’d hang out with new people. We’d go to new restaurants. We’d take advantage of what New York has to offer and have new cultural experiences.

This plan is already taking effect. On Thursday we went to the Comedy Cellar to watch standup with some new pals. We just bought tickets for Gatz, the Elevator Repair Service’s word-for-wood reading and enactment of The Great Gatsby. It lasts ten hours and we’re going on Friday. On Saturday, I’m going to a portrait party with the NY chapter of the Urban Sketchers. As for the rest of the open time on my calendar, I will probably be spending it at Soul Cycle getting rid of these 7 lbs. That’s one change I can live without.

23 thoughts on “How to shake things up.”

  1. This is a great post! The same ole can become stale very soon. Speaking of the same ole, one thing you probably should not change are your editing skills. You might want to reread the post! There are a lot of mistakes that I rarely see you make.

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    1. Your comment prompted me to reread the post and I found just one typo to correct. Please do let me know what other blunders I may have overlooked. I strive for perfection in all things, as you know. — DOG

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  2. Love this post DG! The winter in NYC and in N. E. is long and cold and getting out of Dodge can definitely be a creativity boost! Glad it worked for you!

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  3. One of my ‘thoughts’ going forward with the New Year is to actually comment on blogs i so enjoy instead of just thinking about it…so here goes. I do so enjoy your weekly posts, filled with humour and insights, usually hitting just the right spot. I am about to finish up at a job of 20 years and plan to start each day afresh rather than relying on old routines. I shall take your advise to heart.

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  4. I am sitting here, nodding in agreement. Just got back from only 10 days in Florida, hanging out with my daughter’s family – and that little respite has charged me up to re enter this NY winter with energy for whatever it is bringing. Ordinarily, I love winter as a time to do creative work, but this year, even though the holidays were not demanding, I just couldn’t get motivated. Now, I’m doing something creative every day, looking at my house and studio to see what supports that, what doesn’t, spending a little time taking care of letting go of what I don’t need, etc. So glad you had your month to get those juices going again!

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  5. Apropos of Leslie Rego’s comment – “I think I need to have variety in my lives” – hahaha – unless you mean you have more than one?
    I always enjoy your blog posts – and your podcasts, too!

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  6. I am happy to see that you are still posting. Mistakes? Whaat? Of course there is a different sound, slightly different yet still it is you. It is very you to re-read your post because someone noticed mistakes. Let go of that. I wanted to post that JJ’s interview of Twingley is worth keeping and re-reading, please thank her for me. I hope that the digital art is yours, no reason to think it is not; though it has a freshness to it. A SBS klass on the Ipad and Procreate would be an awesome addition to SBS. A SBS an SBS sounds better who cares as long as its SBS. We must be close to Valentine’s cause it sounds like you’re in love. Thank you Danny.

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    1. I pledged to post twice a week and so far so good. I’m glad you liked JJ’s chat with JT. They are both fascinating minds. The art is all me-made, made in LA. And the iPad kourse is on the middle burner. Should have it done by this fall. Stay tuned!

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  7. As always, I appreciate your insight, DG. I left a corporate job in the last while in order to focus on creative work, but I feel the pull to return to the corporate world (and start making money again) almost every day. It has something to do with a peculiar mindset around being “productive”. So I am inspired to hear how much a change in environment can help us focus on what we’re really about. And I am also stoked – STOKED – to hear an iPad kourse is coming.

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  8. Sitting here in the DEEP FREEZE of the Polar Vortex hitting the Madison Wisconsin area… A month in LA sounds wonderful! Recently I moved my base of operations from a darker family room to the living room…not as far as LA, but it has put me in front of a big bay window and the light streaming in reflected off the snow and the beauty of winter gave me a bit of a kick in the butt and the shake up I needed! Oh, but LA, palm trees…….Thanks for the great blog post, Danny!

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  9. I’ve spent most of the last two years getting out of the house less as my husband’s knees got worse. He had surgery and mobility is better, but I got into a rut, creative and otherwise. My infusion will have to be local for a while—thanks for the reminder that southern CA has a lot of possibilities. A day at the beach with my sketchbook sounds perfect!

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  10. Loved the article and your sketches do look fresh. I will take your thoughts and sketchbook with me to the Caribbean next month although I am not escaping the blistering winter of NY – lucky enough to,live in sunny FL. Sounds like you have an amazing spouse and son to accompany you on your artist journey.

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  11. I am so happy that you have been posting again. Happy enough to badger WP into letting me post comments, finally. I usually write comments, argue with WP, give up. Thanks for another great post!

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  12. Boy! NOTHING gets MY creative juices flowing like a healthy dose of “constructive criticism”. I had to get that out first. When I read your blog posts, I hear your voice, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. You are talking among friends. Don’t lose that. The minute our car passes the state line, I feel my body relax and my mind wander. I can step out of my life and look at it from the outside. My missteps aren’t so embarrassing, and my problems shrink back down to normal size. Everyone needs to get away, and sometimes the only way to see yourself clearly is in the sunlight of a new land. Take care, Danny.

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  13. As usual, enjoyed you’re post evenif I can’t bare all the grammaticallly errors, hypos, and generally pour use of wordage. Keep ‘em comin’!!!

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  14. I do so love your posts! I have found that the cycle of getting out of town and returning home again keeps my creativity sparking. The change of scenery and perspective shake up my brain and light up new corridors of ideas. I find the subject of East and West coast cultural differences endlessly fascinating too.

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  15. I don’t thrive on simple routines which is probably why I love retirement, hated the full-time corporate grind, and now enjoy spending all my time exploring art-making. The one person I know who craves a simple routine life is on the autism spectrum.

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