Third-person version of my story:
Danny Gregory has written nearly a dozen internationally best-selling books on art and creativity. He is the co-founder of Sketchbook Skool with tens of thousands of students worldwide. He lives in New York City.
Danny spent three decades as one of New York’s leading advertising creative directors and has created award-winning, global campaigns for clients like Chase, JPMorgan, American Express, IBM, Burger King, Ford, Chevron and many others.
Through his books (Shut Your Monkey, Art Before Breakfast, Everyday Matters, An Illustrated Life, An Illustrated Journey, A Kiss Before You Go, The Creative License, etc) and in the several large online communities he oversees, Danny has shown thousands of people how to ignite their inner artists, embrace their creativity and tell the stories of their lives. From Boston to Beijing, people who haven’t drawn since grade school have picked up the creative habit and have gone on to publish books of their own and show and sell their artwork.
Danny is a co-founder of Sketchbook Skool, a video-based art school designed to inspire creative storytelling through illustrated journaling. Taught by the world’s best illustrators, artists and educators, Sketchbook Skool encourages its global community of over 15,000 students to draw and keep a sketchbook regardless of skill level.
Danny was born in London, grew up in Pakistan, Australia, and Israel, and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University.
For more, visit his site, dannygregory.com
More in-depth and personal version:
I spent most of my life not believing I had the right to consider myself an artist in any way. But then I started drawing about fifteen years ago and it changed my life. It led me to travel, to meet people, to get books published, but most of all it transformed the way I see the world around me and how I experience every day.
I believe that everyone has the same opportunity. Not to become a Professional Artist but to make art into a regular part of your everyday life. It doesn’t matter what your elementary school art teacher said, or your parents, or your boss. You have it in you to draw, to play an instrument, to write poetry, whatever you choose. You can and should express your self. Regardless of what you fear anyone else may thinks of the results, you can become a creative person and achieve a new view of the life you lead.
I often wonder what the world would be like if every adult was as creative and free as we all were as kids. I think it would be calmer, lovelier, more peaceful place. And I’d like to do something about it.
Several years ago, I started writing about my experience of creativity and sharing it on my website, dannygregory.com. Within a few months, the Everyday Matters group was formed and now thousands of people get together regularly to encourage each other in drawing and painting and making beautiful things. They chat on Yahoo! and Facebook and they get together in cities and towns around the world to collaborate and share.
I wrote my books to help the sorts of people I met. Some are students, some were artists and designers. But most were just people like me who had suddenly decided, when they were well into adulthood, that they wanted to return to making creativity a regular part of their lives. Most of them don’t want to make a living painting or have their drawings hung in galleries and museums. They just want to have the pleasure and satisfaction of creating things.
More chronological sort of version of my life story for those who like their bios linear:
From foetus to freshman: I was born in London, which we left when I was three or four. We moved briefly to Pittsburgh, Pa. then to Canberra, Australia. When I was nine, I went to live with my grandparents in Lahore, Pakistan. Next we went to a kibbutz in Israel then moved to a small town called Kfar Saba.
As the Yom Kippur War broke out, we relocated to Brooklyn where I went to a Quaker high school. I was editor of the school paper and organized a Marxist study circle. I graduated from Princeton University, summa cum laude, with a degree in Politics. It was my 21st school.
When I was eleven, I began my first job – assisting the vet at the local slaughterhouse. I’ve worked in a record store, in one of New York’s finest restaurants, and my congressman’s office. I was a White House intern (Jimmy Carter lusted for me only in his heart) and a McDonalds’ fry cook.
Ad man: I have worked in a half dozen advertising agencies. I have been a Senior Partner of Ogilvy & Mather, Chief Creative Officer of Doremus and Managing Partner, Executive Creative Director of McGarryBowen. I live in New York with my wife J.J. and our miniature long-haired dachshunds, Joe and Tim.
Art man: I started drawing in earnest when I was in my mid thirties and, once I got the nerve up, hit the streets of my hometown, New York City, and started to draw buildings and people and animals and hot dog stands. I always work in a bound book, always in ink (dip pen), often in watercolor, occasionally in marker or pencil.
My son— now 20 and a painting major at RISD— loves to draw too, and we go out on sketchcrawls with old pals like Tommy Kane. We travel to different neighborhoods and perch on our foldings stools and record the City. Over the past decade, I have filled a hundred or so books with drawings and little written captions and anecdotes and the practice has transformed my life.
I have travelled the world, met lots of other people who either draw or would like to, and had adventures galore — all thanks to drawing what I encounter in a little book.
Author: I have published a handful of books, several about drawing and creativity. One, “Everyday Matters” was a memoir of how I learned to draw after my wife had a serious accident (she was run over by the #1 subway train which broke her back). The book seems to have caught on with a lot of people and I have been asked to write a number of others about illustrated journaling: "Art Before Breakfast," “The Creative License“, “An Illustrated Life,” “An Illustrated Journey.” After my first wife Patti died, I wrote a memoir of the year that followed. It’s called “A Kiss Before You Go: an Illustrated Memoir of Love and Loss.”
In 2013, I left my job in advertising to focus more on my art. I am now working more or less full-time on several new books, an online art skool, giving speeches and workshops on drawing and creativity, and every other day or so, I pop out an essay for my blog.