How to handle perspective.

I was working at my desk when the news flashed on the screen. Notre Dame was burning. The videos and pictures were heart-stopping and across the world we were joined by a sense of helplessness as a thousand years of history and culture exploded in flames. I had visions of a charred wreck left to hulk on the Seine, a post-modern monument to human fragility surrounded by rioting yellow vests. The toppling spire sparked a deep sense of dread in me, that our civilization itself was toppling, that our history was being erased, that humanity was all too vulnerable, that I too would soon be forgotten dust.

Twenty-four hours later, the fire was out, the damage assessed. It was extensive but appears confined to the roof. I read with relief that the cathedral had been heavily damaged and rebuilt several other times in its long history, and by day’s end almost a billion dollars had been raised to start the restoration. Within a day, we had gone from annihilation to resiliency to the Mueller report. Next.

Earlier this week, I got the results from my most recent post surgical checkup. It’s been less than five months since we drove up Fifth Avenue at dawn and I looked out the window of the cab, convinced I was seeing New York for the last time. A large part of me was sure I would die on the operating table and never see the Empire State Building or the Plaza or Central Park or Uniqlo ever again. Now Spring in here and so are my latest blood test results. My PSA levels are undetectable. I am cancer-free. My surgeon reminds me that we must delay the celebrations until the 10th anniversary but I can’t help feeling relieved and, for the moment, safe.

Last month, we released a new SketchBook Skool kourse and, as happens every time, I worry that no one will sign up. A fair number of people always do on Day One, but the next day fewer do and I start to wonder if we have finally reached the point where people have ceased to be interested and that I will have to start making other plans with my life. Over the two or three weeks before the kourse begins, we see fluctuating waves of customers until, eventually, enough people have signed up that we can breathe a sigh of relief and start working on the next kourse. This time was the same as all the dozens of times before, but I have little doubt that in a few months, I will board the same jarring roller coaster of self-doubt again.

I told you recently that I was concerned about my publisher declaring bankruptcy. I went from thunder-struck to pissed off to worried to beating myself up for not being able to get a better company to work with. I’d put so much into my new book and I hated the idea that I’d never get a chance to put it in your hands. But earlier this week, I got the final set of digital proofs and the catalog is already being printed. Despite my darkest 3 a.m. fears, it looks like How To Draw Without Talent will indeed be shipping as planned in October. (I really love this book and I hope you do too. You can see a sneak preview of the entire book above.)

One of the by-products of my drawing practice is that I am much more able to live in the present, in reality, in the moment, rather than in the dark labyrinth of my mind. Looking intently at an object and translating it into lines and curves on the page forces my mind to clear and focus. But I wonder if that grounding in the Now also makes me a little myopic. I am a student of history but yet I often seem to be looking at life through the small, hazed window of a grounded airplane, a small slice of reality hemmed in and blocked by obstacles. I am belted in, locked and upright, the door closed, the PA above my head crackling in foreign languages, and, like Major Tom, there is nothing I can do.

I yearn for clarity and truth. I want to always be able to take off and see from 50,000 feet, the world spread out before me, the past, the present and the future clear and unobscured by clouds, beautiful, awesome, stretching to the horizon and beyond.

29 thoughts on “How to handle perspective.”

  1. So glad you are cancer free and your book is being published. I am sure it is a roller coaster ride before each new course starts. Plus starting a new platform. People are not easy. They don’t like change. It scares us! Plus it gets harder to learn new technology as we mature. Kudos to you for waking us up and pushing us out of our comfort zone!.

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  2. Sorry about your worries with your courses, I really wanted to sign up but I can’t really afford to. I need to replace my water tank with my tax refund. Also congrats on for cancer free visit!

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  3. The Now is an awesome place to be. Congrats for the book, new course and being cancer free! Thanks for continuing to inspire me with your work.

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  4. Your boldly worded eloquence shines through so, in your writing, Danny. I know that we are all relieved that the disease is gone and that you will be here for a long, long time. Happy Spring!

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  5. I encourage you to celebrate your health at every opportunity you get – we all need more celebrations (and less time spent worrying, particularly over things we cannot control). I am looking forward to your new book and the new 2019 SKS classes. Best wishes for a happy, healthy future.

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  6. I had my checkup after breast cancer treatment yesterday (still cancer free after a year) and I can totally relate. I am a wreck the days before. Glad to read that you are cancer free too!
    The book looks great. Probably even better as part of my library!
    I haven’t signed up to the new course. Would love to, but cancer has eaten away a lot of money. Maybe I should apply for a skolarship?!

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  7. I love how you share your anxieties with us. I’m so glad you are cancer free. Your work and words inspire me and make me feel connected to an artist’s world. You are so direct and honest. I will buy the book for sure!

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  8. So grateful for your books, your honest, thoughtful & eloquent blog and SBS. Thank you, Danny. Although self-doubt seems part of the human experience, please don’t doubt yourself to the point of ceasing to share your creative journey with us. Your honesty and encouragement has helped me to take the risk to learn to draw after decades of believing I couldn’t.

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  9. FWIW, as a longtime follower, SketchbookSkool Student and fellow human, I agree with the comment above…Celebrate Now! In this moment you are whole and complete and well and that is not only worthy of celebration, but also (imho) the way to stay well. Thanks for continuing to inspire us all in so many ways Danny.

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  10. Hi Danny,been travelling with you for a long time now, enjoy it always. I am 12 years out after the terrifying sounding radical prostatectomy. Sounds like that is what you chose too. Glad I went with that. PSA negligible ever since. Cancer free, so are you, enjoy every day!

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  11. I didn’t know you were dealing with cancer. I am happy you are now cancer-free. My cousin is dealing with cancer right now too. She is a fighter, and I know she will make it. Your new book looks awesome. I wish my sister’s publishing company produced art books. They do only mysteries right now; not a huge money maker. They are expanding their vision now that they were bought out by Source Books. Maybe one day they will do art books from their site.

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  12. Thrilled beyond words at your new Dx! Relieved with you and JJ.

    Bravo on the new book News too! Again, Relief!

    Even the fire, as awful as that was, isn’t the end of Notre Dame!

    The world continues to spin and I’m holding out for democracy winning out, children being reunited with parents, and all bad guys going to jail.

    Let’s DRAW!!!

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  13. Celebrate now …. you know how we’re told that if the watercolor looks good when you paint it , but as it dries it’s not as vivid or as nice .
    Well I’m happy it looked good for only a while before fading .
    I get a thrill out of seeing it look nice , because maybe it will stay that way … who knows?
    Stranger things then that happened
    Passover’s coming up right ?
    Be well and a be gazunt 😎
    Eddie in San Diego

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  14. Dear Danny, I hear every worry loud and clear, you are not alone in that group.
    What ever happens, you should be proud of how many people’s lives you have helped, me being one of them. Sketchbook skool has been a life changer 💖💕💓🙂

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  15. Glad to hear the cancer report! Fantastic! Well, I am one of the ones signed on to the new Klass! Oh, the day we sat helpless watching videos of Notre Dame, so sad to watch and then the reports next day of the limited damage, and now the coming together for restoration, I will never forget! WooooHooo about the new book’s publishing update! Let us know when we can preorder1

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  16. Woohoo! I got a little misty when you said your numbers were so good. It’s definitely a lesson we learned, don’t wait until the tenth anniversary to celebrate. Grab life right now and run with it. So, I’m having a chocolate bunny today. Wanna join me in an ear, Danny? :o)
    I’ll be picking up your new book when it comes out. Congratulations Danny!

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  17. I just pre ordered your book😍! The good news is you are cancer free. We are all mortal, but in the meantime, you touch many lives in such a positive way. So many thanks!

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  18. So happy to read your good news Danny! I have to admit I betraied SBS for the first time on the people drawing people course I would have loved to take but I am trying to make time to go out and sketch as much as I can and avoid sitting at home in front of the pc … but who knows I might have a chance to work it after one day or another. Looking forward for your new book 🙂

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  19. oh my…we are all breathing better today for your good news.
    I am a breast cancer survivor…I do relate. It’s been 24 years since my diagnosis, surgery, treatment.
    And the unexpected “gift” of learning about mortality, is as you mention, a chance to see the world anew with a fresh perspective. This is a kind of “me too” movement and so is drawing and sketching in a way. I spend time converting my art friends to this amazing way of seeing life in the present…much due to you and your wonderful books. Carry on!

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  20. a lot of great insights and great news too in this post. I love your honesty and vulnerability. I am so glad you can declare yourself a winner over cancer and that I will soon enough have a new book of yours in my hands. Yes , we don’t have the perspective of eternity. Maybe it is for the best!

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  21. “One of the by-products of my drawing practice is that I am much more able to live in the present, in reality, in the moment, rather than in the dark labyrinth of my mind. Looking intently at an object and translating it into lines and curves on the page forces my mind to clear and focus.”

    I love the way you’ve worded this, perfectly sums up the struggle I think a lot of us have as humans with busy lives, problems and pressures; the inability to escape our own minds and truly be in a moment.

    Your honesty is inspiring!

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  22. It’s so good to hear you are cancer-free. I love your sketchbook skool course very much. It made me drawing again and get creative every day. Thank you so much for inspiration. Now it’s time to celebrate. I don’t think you should delay the celebration until 10th anniversary. Why not celebrate 10 times until then? Wish you all the best.

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