Last week, the artistic community of UNIS got the unique chance of meeting Danny Gregory, a New York-based artist, best-selling author, sketchbook keeper, and a man with profuse talents! Mr. Gregory makes art books that aim to encourage everyone to take creative risks and pleasures in life through the sharing of his philosophical values and enthusiastic views on being creative. His passion for art has led him through life in the most promising and unexpected ways, and has allowed him to do what he loves and believes in, allowing him to travel, to write, to teach, and to be an inspiration to many others – especially aspiring artists who want to draw but are struggling to find the time or inspiration for it.
Gregory strives to make art to teach others to look at things in a new lens by drawing real life things but in a unique perspective – by inspecting life’s little details. His artistic intention is to remind us of the perfect imperfections in life and teach us to cherish every moment of it.
However, his short visit to UNIS did not allow us to get to know him as well as we wished, and there are still an endless amount of things that we could learn from him. Therefore, I treated myself the joy of getting to know Danny and to share my learning through this article so that we can all have a fuller portrait of the artist who was on campus.
On Friday the 4th of March, I sat down with Danny Gregory and we talked about the cooler things in life.
Let’s start with the basics: why do you draw?
Why do I draw? Ok, I find that when I draw something, it helps me to see it more clearly, it helps me to really understand the world around me as it is. I like to document my life experiences, and I find that drawing and writing, together, help me to, really to understand the world better. I also find that it is calming and meditative. It’s also a way for me to share my experiences with other people. So, it has lots of different purposes, but in benefit is, it makes me calm.
So it’s like a way of living, would you say that?
Yeah. It’s like a way of living; it’s a part of my everyday experiences, a way of appreciating what I’m going through, a way of seeing the beauty in everyday things. And also, of creating a journal or a record of my life so that I can look back on; it’s like a journal as much as it is art.
And when you publish your books, is there a reason for it, specifically? To teach others this philosophy as well?
I’ve published about a dozen books, because I feel like a lot of people misunderstand the benefits of art. People think that art is something just for professional artists, and I believe that art is something that we all make when we were little and we are all still capable of making, and everyone can together share this experience. To me, writing books is a way of sharing my philosophy and that learning so that hopefully other people can get the same pleasure out of it as I do. It’s also a way of telling stories, but ultimately it is a way to inspire other people with my stories as well.
Has your work changed over time? Do you think that you are still developing your work or are you practising the one technique/method that you find works for you the most?
I’m always exploring and I’m always experimenting. I’m always being influenced by different artists. You know, I try different materials, I have different subjects, I work in different ways. So I think that my art has changed over the course of the years that I’ve been doing this. And in some ways, I don’t consider that it has necessarily gotten better, but I consider that it is easier for me to communicate the things that I want to communicate, because my skills have developed and I’ve had more experience, so I can draw more accurately. Yeah, practice makes you better at it.
You said you are always being influenced. Who would you say influences your artworks the most?
I would say, several people have influenced me quite a lot, but I would say the one artist who’s influenced me more than everyone else is Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent Van Gogh is a person who trained himself to be an artist, and who made art for his own purposes, instead of just doing it to sell. So for me, the way that he taught himself and the purposes behind what he did, and the fact the he celebrated ordinary, everyday things was very special to me. And also he was a troubled person, he had difficulties in his life, and art helped him through a lot of them, the way that art had helped me as well. I think if I could single out one artist that meant the most to me, it would be Vincent Van Gogh.
Do you have a specific subject that you like to draw?
No, not really. I draw everything, from dogs, to breakfast, to trees. But I would say that the thing I like to draw the most are complicated things. For me, drawing a bagel, a bike, a garbage truck, or a face can be complicated. The more there is to look at, the more interesting it is to draw.
And is it the challenge and the process that you like?
Not really, I would say the meditative qualities. The more time you spend on it, the deeper you get into it. You know, it’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle, or a crossword puzzle, where the more time you spend, the more and more clues you get. And to me that’s the interesting part.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given, about art, or life, or …?
I would say that mistakes are lessons, that you shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes, you should welcome them, because they teach you new things, and they help you go further. And I think being a perfectionist is so much of a danger. I see that in young people a lot, people who are so worried about being perfect that they can’t be great. That’s something that you have to get past and just learn that it’s okay to screw up; that’s what life is.
I remember you saying that in your presentation, the reason that you draw with a pen, is because you don’t want to be able to erase the mistakes. And I think that’s a really cool method to train yourself to be less worried about things.
Yeah, that’s the way life is. Life, you know, you can’t “command Z” and delete, but that’s okay, because the things that did not turn out the way you expected may lead you to something much more interesting. If you think you know what’s going to happen, it’s like a spoiler, you know. And I like being surprised, so sometimes you have to force yourself to take risks.
And about the subject of art, what do you dislike about the art world? Like the criticism, the different points of view …
I think what I don’t like the most about the art world is that it can be a world that’s very critical and excludes a lot of people. I think that art can be a world that seems to be for rich people, those who have the money to buy art. And I think that art can be very intellectual and can therefore feel to the average person that it’s not for them. Which is a shame, because art has something to give to everybody. But there is a business of art, a business that limits its availability, that makes it limited supply in order to make it a business. If we believed that we are all artists, then it will be harder to charge millions of dollars for canvases, it will be much harder to charge high prices to go to museums. And in the end, I think that it’s important for us all to see art, for us to feel that we can understand it, and it’s most important for us to know that we can all make it. I think that’s the one issue I have with the art world, is this feeling that it’s exclusive. It’s not the case for all industries, but it’s true for the art world.
Wow, I never thought of it that way… OK, last question: if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Are you kidding, I have many superpowers … I don’t know, I’m perfectly happy the way I am, I’m not interested in superpowers. But superheroes never seem that happy anyway, they always seem tortured in a way or another…
Especially like Deadpool, or Batman.
Yeah, and what’s that movie with Will Smith who was this superhero who had all these superpowers but he refused to help people, because he was like ‘why should I, just because I can fly and I’m super strong, why does that make me I obliged to humanity?’, what was that movie? It’s really dark — Oh yeah, Hancock, he was always drunk and really hated being obliged…
(laughs) Well, thank you for your time. Sorry if that was longer than expected! But thank you again for the insights!
No problem. Thank you, too, those are some really good questions.
Get to know Danny Gregory better at: http://dannygregorysblog.com/