The power of a glass of tea.

This is a photo of a life-changing moment. I took it on November 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM. I had posted on FaceBook that I was going to be speaking at a conference in Amsterdam and Koosje Koene invited me to tea when I was in town. We’d never met in person, only online and we were both a little nervous at meeting a total stranger.

I’m glad we did.  Well, that’s an incredible understatement.  That glass of tea led to lots of emails to a business idea to our first kourse  …. to over five years of SketchBook Skool.

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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.

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How to dabble.

I’ve had a bunch of ideas and projects simmering on the stovetop of my mind and, because most or all of them may never get out of the kitchen, I thought I’d serve them up here and see what you think.

Mike Lowery just sent me a little book he made and had printed (How to Keep a Travel Sketchbook ). I loved the book but was also curious about how he’d had it made which turned out to be a company called Scout https://scoutbooks.com/ that makes little books of a certain size and length, and the cuteness of these little books, essentially pocket-sized pamphlets with kraftboard covers, reminded me of the books I used to love to make as a kid and I badly wanted to make one again. A similar impulse happened when I came across the Newspaper Club, a company that prints small-run newspapers, and I was obsessed with the idea of making an issue or two, but which, like my fantasies of letterpressing and screenprinting, died under a bleak vision of exhausted cardboard boxfuls of unwanted printed matter stacked to the ceiling of Jack’s former bedroom, sort of like the warehouse scene at the end of Citizen Kane but more ramshackle and sad. Anyway, the idea of making my own little books has haunted me since I was six and the fact that you can make them more easily and more professionally than ever keeps that flame alive.

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How to get great.

You’ve probably heard of “The 10,000 hour rule”. Malcolm Gladwell popularized it in Outliers —  in which he posits that it takes that long to become expert at any skill. Gladwell’s distillation of the science behind “rule” has been debunked since then. Not surprising, our own experience confirms that there’s more to the story.

Think about driving. You’ve probably been doing it for decades. If you commute for an hour, you’ll drive 10,000 hours in twenty years. So are you an expert driver? Really? Could you win a NASCAR race? Do stunts in an action movie?

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How I found my tribe.

We just launched a new social network just for SketchBook Skool called the SkoolYard. Among many other things, it’s another place for me to hold forth and write long pieces —like this essay to welcome new members. You may not be in the community yet but some of my thoughts may still resonate with you.


When I was little, we moved an awful lot. We lived in London, Pakistan, Pittsburgh, Australia, Israel, and Brooklyn — all before I finished seventh grade. I lived in different neighborhoods, spoke different languages, and had to learn about new cultures, new sports, new foods every year. I guess this diverse upbringing had its upsides but the hardest part was always being the new kid. And always feeling like an outsider.

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How to buy art supplies.

It’s tempting to think that if we want to make art, we should, of course, begin by shopping. Full of zest, vim and vigor, we resolve to really get in the creative mode and, tail wagging, we prance off to the art supply store.

We browse through walls of pens, shelves of sketchbooks, and bins of brushes. We consider locked racks of spray paint, spools of armature wire, lino knives and airbrush frisket. We stare blankly at tubes of yellow watercolor that arbitrarily cost a buck or a Benjamin. And finally we stagger home, our credit cards limp with exhaustion, clutching bags of random gear, unsure of what to do with most of it.

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