Meet me in Virginia

I will be leading a workshop at the amazing Workhouse Arts Center in Lufton, VA this weekend.

I’ll also be giving a talk that’s open to the public on Saturday night, April 8 (Patti’s birthday!) at 6 PM. I’ll be showing hundreds of drawings, sharing stories, and signing books — and I’d love to see you there.

Here are the details about the event.  It’s in Building W-16, 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA 22079

Beyond excited

I am thrilled to be traveling to Berlin to deliver a keynote talk at the amazing design and technology conference, Beyond Tellerand. I am also excited to attend the conference which is full of amazing speakers, designers, technologists and human beings of all stripes.

I’ll be speaking next Tuesday but, alas, the conference has been sold out for a while.  But there is a waiting list….

Back to 7th grade

Last week, I did an artist-in-residency at the United Nations International School here in New York.  I haven’t spent time in a school since my trip to Vietnam last spring and it was nice to hang out with young creative minds again.

I talked with a few groups of high school students, kids who were serious about art and preparing their portfolios for college.  I told them about Jack’s experience at RISD and let them page through a big pile of my sketchbooks. But most of the time I worked with 6th-8th graders — doing fun drawing exercises, talking to them about the purpose of art in their lives, showing them how to make comics out of their everyday lives, explaining how they could use journals to explore the world.

This age is a crossroad for creativity as tweens (ages 10-12) change so quickly from children into teenagers. In 6th grade, they are still interested in drawing and imagining and reading comics, still unselfconscious enough to plunge into any new activity with enthusiasm. A few months later, as puberty begins to roil their brains, they are focussed instead on how others see them, entwined in group dynamics, masking a loss of confidence with cynicism. It’s harder to get through to kids at this age, to get them to sink into the pleasure of drawing without constantly kibitzing with their friends, to listen to directions and suggestions, to avoid self-flagellation and choruses of “I’m no good at drawing.”  When the dust of preadolescence clears, former crayon artists will have divided into those who will continue to paint and draw and those who will never try it again.

I try to step into that fray to show that drawing can still be fun, still matter, still have a degree of cool and that  it’s not just for a select few who think they have talent. I ask the kids who say they can’t draw if they do draw. How often do they draw outside of art class? I ask them if they can remember drawing with crayons every day when they were 4 or 6. I tell them drawing is like learning to play a video game or shoot a basket, that failing is part of how you learn your way. I show them my own failures, how I improved, and all that drawing has brought to my life.

It’s an interesting challenge and increases my respect for middle-school teachers all the more.

Oddly, this was the first time I had ever worked with kids in New York, but many shared my perspective as a “third culture kid” who had grown up in lots of different countries. I explained that living on four continents and going to a dozen and a half schools before I was thirteen had shaped me into the person I am and had forged my perspective as a writer and an artist, my interest in investigating the things most people take for granted. Growing up as an outsider is the best perspective for an artist to have. New York is a city of outsiders, the perfect place for an internationalist to put down roots.

I have visited a dozen schools in the past year or two. I always come home exhausted and a lot smarter.

The last breakfast and the rocking classroom

I just wanted to remind you that the sale on my book, Art Before Breakfast, is about to come to an end. It’s available at most online books stores including AmazonOn February 1st, the price returns to normal. Meanwhile, here’s what you’ll get for less than the price of short latte.

winter16badge-300Also, I am excited to be joining Faith Ringgold (!) and a bunch of other creative superstars talking at the AOE’s Winter Conference. It’s an amazing opportunity for art teachers to hear some fresh, innovative perspectives that will rock your classroom.

I’ll be speaking at 11 am CST on January 30th. Hope to see you there!

Caps off!

Last week I really had to project my voice. I was invited to speak to a sprawling group of several hundred creative people in nine locations in California, Texas, Virginia, Washington and New York — all at the same time!

cap-oneThrough the miracle of videoconferencing, I was able to talk to all of these designers at Capital One bank at the same time, while they were able to comment live on what I was saying and even share the drawings they were making while I spoke.  It was a wonderful experience for me and here’s what they had to say about it:

“Today was totally great. Your work, sense of humor and overall energy was really loved by Capital One’s Digital Design Team. They are usually a TOUGH crowd!
“Danny’s such a great speaker. He is dropping some deep knowledge! Drawing as a metaphor for life!
“I’ve never been a draw-er, but he’s making me want to hit the art store on my way home.
“I love how observant and thoughtful he is!
“Mind blown!
“This is so inspirational.
“This is fantastic!
“Thank you so so much for bringing him here…”

Can we adopt this guy as our Godfather?


If you want me to speak to your company, group or school, personally or virtually — get in touch and let’s see if we can work it out.

Corrupting the youth of Switzerland.

I’ve just completed the first leg of my European crusade: a week in Switzerland. Basel is a lovely medieval city along the Rhine right on the edge of Germany and France. It’s home to loads of banks and pharmaceutical corporations and two dozen museums — some with extremely contemporary contemporary art, one which is the size of a doorway.

I’ll tell you more about my visit to the city in another post. Today I’ll just try to summarize why I was there.

Important skills: focus and self-starting.

Last winter, I was invited to be an artist-in-residency at the International School of Basel this September. Perhaps you remember that a year ago, I was in residency at another ISB (the International School of Beijing) and had a lovely and illuminating time, so this invitation was very welcome. I was pumped to spend more time with kids, making art, and wallowing in their creative energy. Additional pluses: I’ve never been to Switzerland and, of course, Basel is a mecca for art.

My week began with a school assembly. Six hundred children under the age of 11 sat on the ground while I introduced myself and talked about all we would do in the week ahead.

The future.

Then each morning at 8:15,  I’d let a couple hundred kids and their teachers into my gigantic office/studio/lecture hall and showed them films and gave them creative assignments. We drew breakfast and lunch and shoes and upside-down bicycles and portraits and more. We made enormous murals that covered all the halls and stair wells. We ended the week with a sprawling field trip to the natural history museum to draw dinosaurs and endangered animals and then drew the cathedral and the twisting medieval streets.

It didn’t stop in my classroom. The kids went home at night mad for drawing. Each morning, moms and dads came into the school with stories of  kids transformed. They filled up sketchbooks at home, drew with their parents and teachers, insisted that nobody eat their dinners until they had been drawn.

Important skill: observation

After school on Tuesday, I met with all the teachers and showed them how art had opened my eyes. I told them that art is not just for art class — it’s for learning about the world and can be applied to any discipline, from literature to social studies to science to music to gym. I pulled out examples of my travel journals, of my investigations into homelessness, fishing in Manhattan, and dogs in coats. I showed them my maps and Koosje’s recipes and the SBS students’ instruction manuals.

Important skill: problem solving

The next day, an inspired math teacher asked her 4th graders to make drawings that explain the concept of ’rounding up’ numbers. She showed me dozens of stories and watercolors the kids made in response to her assignment. They were all different, all clear, all beautiful. She was able to see how well they understood the concept and they could use their pieces to teach the 3rd graders this concept.

On Thursday evening, I met with the parents and told them why I had come to Basel and why I thought it mattered that their kids had started keeping illustrated journals.

Important skills: collaboration and communication

It was to prepare them for the future — not a future as professional artists necessarily, but as successful people in an ever-changing world. The days of being able to assume that a well-educated person could finish school, get a corporate job, and rise up the ladder till retirement, are over. Instead, kids need to be prepared for the unforeseeable. Technology is upending every industry, traditional jobs are withering while new opportunities are springing up in surprising places. Change is the constant. Kids need to learn to swim in it.

Important skill: Innovation and problem solving

Parents can no longer assume that a traditional education in math, science, literature, language and history will be enough prepare a child for the future. A crucial new skill will be the ability to think creatively. That doesn’t mean dabbling in fingerpaints, but knowing how to spark innovations, to develop ideas, to present them clearly and persuasively, to find resources and collaborators to bring them to fruition, to build networks, to be entrepreneurial. I told them that’s why I supported my own son’s plan to go to art school, so he could learn skills I think will be essential to his future. If he had majored in English or pre-med, I wouldn’t have the same sense of confidence that I had given him the necessary tools.

I told them that they should look at art not just as a sign of being cultured, a middle-class luxury, but as a key component of their children’s total education. I suggested they insist the school’s administration support and look for ways to incorporate art and creativity into all aspects of the curriculum.

Important skill: optimism

If a student is encouraged to look everywhere for inspiration, to combine ideas into new ones, to replace competition with collaboration, to accept mistakes and ambiguity and learn from them, to have faith in the creative process, to know how to overcome its pitfalls, only then will he or she be prepared for a world full of self-driving cars, delivery drones, mobile apps, and Donald Trump.

Knowledge alone is no longer power — it’s something that pops up in your browser. Knowing how to use that knowledge to create new ideas and solve new problems, that will be the source of true power, a power that will serve all mankind.

Hungry Tim and other news

I know I promised to eschew advertising on my blog but, come on, people, it’s in my blood! I can’t help it. So here’re a few announcements, updates and, yes, ads about things I’m doing that you might like. to know about.

• First, a mini film about an innovation at Sketchbook Skool.

The gist: Sketchbook Skool kourses are now available on-demand rather than by semester. Sign up and plunge in any day of the year. We’re like Orange is the New Black — but with a full palette of colors.

Coming in late fall.

• Next, an exciting announcement: we have just completed the final nips and tucks to the design of Shut Your Monkey: How to control your inner critic and get more done and it heads to the printer next Tuesday! You can preorder your copy today, however.


Coming next year!

My other new book, the Art Before Breakfast Workbook has just come back from my editor and I am ready to continue work on the design phase of the book. It looks quite gorgeous already, I must say.

• On Saturday night, I will strap myself into a Lufthansa flight to Switzerland to  work with the students, teachers and parents of the International School of Basel. I have been working on lots of little films and projects to inspire them and can’t wait to see the art we make together during my artist-in-residency.

TobleroneI am also excited to see Basel which I hear is brimming with dozens of amazing museums. I also plan to eat chocolate. I’ll post news of my trip here, maybe even before I get back.

Jack draws in rome
A younger, beardless Jack Tea draws the Colliseum.

• Next, I will RyanAir to Rome to spend a few days with Jack who has just begun his semester abroad (he’s in Abruzzo today). He has promised he will take me to his favorite places to draw. We also plan to eat pasta.



A lovely evening

Last night I had the honor of talking to a couple of hundred artists at the Art Unravelled conference in Phoenix, AZ.  It was a great evening and a chance to meet lots of wonderful creative people.

I hope you had a chance to be there!

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(Thanks to Jane LaFazio for the pictures).