We all drew pictures as children, but as we grew older, we saw that we either did or did not have real talent. Those of us who were not skilled gave it up and went on to do other things. Our guest says that we shouldn’t have dropped the pencil or paintbrush, and he’ll tell us how we can all benefit from drawing on a daily basis – both in developing skill in art, and creativity and confidence in other parts of our lives.
- Danny Gregory, artist, teacher, founder of the Sketchbook Skool, and author of Art Before Breakfast: A zillion ways to be more creative no matter how busy you are
15-08 Art and Enrichment
Marty Peterson: When you tour an art museum, or even when you watch a portrait artist on the street, you can’t help but marvel at their talent in depicting what they see. Most of us would never be able to paint or draw with the facility that they do…or could we? Danny Gregory thinks that we all have the ability to make art and that we should try to develop it every day. That’s what his book, “Art Before Breakfast: A zillion ways to be more creative no matter how busy you are” is about. He says that we all have that creative spirit in us, whether we recognize it or not.
Danny Gregory: We make decisions about connections between different things. We invent new things all the time. So these could be little basic things like how you decide to get dressed in the morning, what your outfit is. It could be what you decide to make for dinner that’s a creative act on a small level. But also creativity is about creating new things, that’s what the word means. And one of it is about forming connections between disparate things. Looking at different stimuli, different inspiration and making connections to create a new thing. And it’s a really important aspect of our lives, particularly in the world that we live in now. The people who are alive now are the people who their ancestors survived through history by creating new solutions to problems that cropped up, being able to look at things differently, being able to see a new way.
Peterson: Gregory says that those ancestors as far back as the cavemen learned to express themselves through art and music and dance. We all did that as children too…
Gregory: When we were little we were all creative, alright? Everybody who was once 3 or 4 or 5 years old drew with crayons, made up songs, danced, you know, put on little plays, invented characters, dressed up, all the things that we now associate with kind of professional artists as adults are things we all did as kids. But at some point we stopped doing that, and we weren’t necessarily even encouraged to do it. But I believe that that spark is still inside of us, that we still have that ability to make stuff without feeling like it has to be our job, it can be just part of our lives.
Peterson: So how do you start making art? We’re all busy these days, but Gregory says that if you just set aside a little time, say at breakfast, you are well on your way to becoming more artistic and creative…
Gregory: Getting up early in the morning and staring your day creatively is healthy also. That’s the task I set for myself a few years ago. I said, you know, I’m so busy. You know I have a career, I have a family, I’ve got a million things to do. When am I going to actually integrate this stuff into my life? So what I did was I just set the alarm 20 minutes, half an hour early and I got up and that was my time. In fact I wrote a little book about it called “Me Time,” which is all about the fact that you could take that half an hour every day and you won’t miss it but you can dedicate it to yourself and you can use that time to do something creative: you could write a poem, you could do a drawing of your breakfast, you could whistle a tune whatever it is, just do that little time that’s focused on yourself. It’s a great way to start your day, it’s a great way to develop a creative habit, and just give yourself sort of that meditative time as well, time for you, time to kind of consider your day.
Peterson: He says that you only need a couple of tools…a sketchbook that’s easy to carry around with you, and a pen. A pen, not a pencil? What if you make a mistake drawing your bowl of cereal or that blueberry smoothie?
Gregory: You think when first start drawing well I’ll draw with a pencil because I can immediately erase my mistakes. What happens when you draw with a pen is you force yourself to commit right away, and your lines tend to be more definite. Because what I want you to do is I want you to slow down a bit. You know I’m asking you to draw for just 5 or 10 minutes but let’s make those minutes rich. Don’t feel like you have to necessarily even finish a drawing. Let’s just concentrate on making that line feel like you really mean it. And if you know that you can back up and erase it and you can start again, start again, start again, it erodes your confidence. So I’m kind of pushing you out there into the deep end. I’m saying look, pick up a pen, do a drawing and you know what? If it’s terrible you don’t have to erase it, just turn the page. And then in a week, in a month in a year you might look back on that drawing and go, “You know it wasn’t actually that bad.”
Peterson: You can start by just drawing the outline of your bowl, or glass or plate with a bagel on it. Gregory says that after you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to more detailed drawings, looking closely at the texture of what’s in front of you…
Gregory: If I said to you draw a bagel, you might draw something that looked like an “O” with a big “O” around it. If you sit down and really look at a bagel, you’ll discover that it’s like a landscape, a lunar landscape, with little fissures, and rocks, and bumps, and mountains and weird jagged edges. There’s a thousand things in there that you didn’t notice. So if you focus on those things and say, “I’m just going to draw those things, I’m really, really going to focus on them. I’m going to look, I’m going to observe, I’m going to acknowledge that I don’t know. And then I’m going to record that with my drawing,” suddenly you’d make a drawing that’s completely different than anything you’d imagined. You may not even know that it is a bagel. But it’s an incredible experience that you’re having. And the more you have these experiences, the more confident you get. And as you get more confident, you become less obsessive about perfection. I find that the more that I draw, the looser I get.
Peterson: In addition to writing his book, Gregory taught more than eight thousand people to draw at his online Sketchbook Skool. Artists also learn to hone their skills, tell stories with their drawings and to display them online for other students and faculty to see. It certainly helps people to explore their inner artist, but Gregory says it does so much more for other parts of their lives…
Gregory: We hear from people over and over again, as they say, “You’ve changed my life because you’ve changed the way that I see things. I now see things as they are, rather than just seeing things as I conceive of them.” And that just doesn’t apply literally to doing a drawing, but it can apply to all kinds of situations. It can apply to your relationships. It can force you to slow down and really listen. It just is a general approach to life that’s different, that can kind of start here, start small, start by doing a drawing and ultimately transform who you are. People say that artists are dreamers, that artists aren’t connected to reality. But what I find is that artists are actually much more connected to reality than those who don’t draw, because they have to look at something, they have to see it. They have to see it as it is in order to depict it.
Peterson: Gregory says that learning to draw doesn’t even have to be the main reason for reading the book or taking a course…
Gregory: If you can set those kinds of things as your goal…in other words if you can say to yourself, “I want to learn to draw because I want to learn to see, I want to learn to understand myself better, I want to learn to take risks, I want to learn to explore,” rather than “I want to do a perfect drawing. I want to hang something on a wall, I want to give a present to my cousin.” So it’s all about this exploration, this processes of discovery. That’s what’s really the core of art making is about. And certainly what “Art Before Breakfast” is about.
Peterson: Sometimes, when you take up a new activity there will be those in your family or circle of friends who are hypercritical of your work – the “naysayers.” Gregory says that you should keep your drawings away from those kinds of people and find support from those who are encouraging…
Gregory: One of the things that I encourage people to do is to draw in a sketchbook. And one of the reasons for that is a sketchbook is a thing that you can close the covers of and put it away. You’re not necessarily doing this for public display. And the second thing is, you show it to people who get it. So you may live in a town where nobody else draws. You may live in a family where nobody else draws. Don’t show it to them. Don’t start there. Start by getting support from people. And fortunately online there’s a lot of opportunities for community, for people who can say, “I understand what you’re doing. I see what you’ve accomplished. I love your spirit, and keep going, I want to see what you’re going to do next.” So you can find those supportive people. And I think it’s really important to protect yourself, to protect what you’re doing from those kind of comments that could derail you from the get-go.
Peterson: Gregory says that even if you don’t think you can draw now, you should try it and see how you do over a few months. He says that after you’ve done it for a while, your might be surprised at how good you actually are…
Gregory: Certainly, like any physical activity, it takes time and practice to get better at it. I mean, drawing is about eye-hand coordination. It’s about learning to use your eyes differently, learning to use your brain differently, and that takes time, and you will continue to grow physically. But I think the most important thing a creative habit gives you is a transformation or a development in your confidence. I think it’s the ability to feel good about what you’re doing. To feel like you can do a drawing with confidence. And that’s the thing you have to do time and again. And you have to put yourself into situations that expand you, and stretch you and challenge you so you get better at it.
Peterson: You can find out how to start on your journey of creativity through drawing in Danny Gregory’s book, “Art Before Breakfast,” available in stores and online. He also invites listeners to visit his websites at DannyGregory.com, and Sketchbook Skool – with a “k”—dot-com. For more information about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpoints online.net. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron, Reed Pence and Nick Hofstra. I’m Marty Peterson.
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