Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory

I found a quote on my Good Earth tea tag:  “Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”  It didn’t say exactly how.  Nevertheless, I pasted it on the front page of my latest journal. 
My journal is my constant companion and often it props me up when I’m sagging with fatigue.  Little quotes like that keep me going.  Since I sometimes write and draw in my journal at coffee shops or in the park, I often get comments from people who pass by.  They often say some variation of I wish I had time and the talent to draw. 
I try to tell them you don’t have to have talent (I don’t), but you need to make time.  Everyone claims to be busy, and I don’t doubt that.  I’ve been recommending Danny Gregory’s book Everyday Matters since it was published in 2003, because it’s a compelling illustrated memoir, and it’s also a story about how to make time for art in your life.  How to create yourself by observing the world around you, drawing what you see, and writing about it. 
Now I have another Danny Gregory book to recommend:  Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are (Chronicle Books, 2015).
He says:  “Art will make your life richer and more fun and better, and cooler, and less stressed…Art stops time.  When you draw or paint what’s around you, you see it for what it is. Instead of living in a virtual world, as we do most of the time these days, you will be present in the real one.  Instead of focusing on all the things whirring in your head, you will be able to stop, clear your mind, take a deep breath, and just be.  You don’t need a mantra or guru.  Or an app.  Just a pen.”

I’ve always kept a journal, but not every day and often I got rid of my journals.  When I started purposefully doodling, adding a visual element to my journals, it made me treasure my journals more.  It also took away the fear of despoiling a beautiful blank book.  Once I started drawing, doing some calligraphy and colorful front pages in the journal, I wanted to work in it, and I wanted to go back and see what I’d drawn and written.  It’s not great work, but it’s mine.  A celebration of the ups and downs of my life.  It helped me through the years when I had a mystery neurological disorder – drawing pictures of the spine, drawing a network of nerves in a simple gingerbread type figure, doing self portraits – it took the sting out of life.  It made me appreciate the details. It made me grateful for what is around me.
Art Before Breakfast is a playful and accessible book.  It stops time – and it makes you aware of all the time you do have.  We make time for all sorts of things in life.  If we elevate our own creative needs to the level of say, washing the dishes, then we create the time we need.  Keeping a little book to draw and write in close by makes it easy to take the few minutes you need to create and center yourself.
If you think you’re too busy to make art, then by all means, make art.

First, redefine what you think of as art.  It’s within you, truly.

This is not a typical book that emphasizes a certain technique or mastery, it’s a book that gives you permission to ignore all rules and just play:

Don’t let your brain stop you from drawing.

As for making time, develop an art addiction and take art breaks just like smokers make time for smoke breaks (and if you smoke, take your journal with you

When you were a child, you drew with abandon.  Find a kid to teach you abandon again.  Tell your story in your own unique and beautiful way
If you’re afraid to draw a picture, practice calligraphy and writing in cursive.  Develop your own font.
Gregory has written and edited several books to encourage the artist in us all.  In the book An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, How Books, 2008, he says, “Illustrated journaling has transformed my life and given me the clearest form of identity I’ve ever had.”
Can an art journal really do that?  Everyday Matters was a memoir that told how it happened.  In that book, he encourages illustrated journaling but also tells the story of how he came to accept his life after his beloved wife became paraplegic  after a subway accident.  The story unfolds in the drawings and his writings.  
In it, he explains there is ALWAYS something to draw
Years later, his illustrated journals kept him afloat while grieving for the loss of his wife in the stunning and profound A Kiss Before You Go, which I reviewed here and I encourage you to read.  It helped me understand more about grief and how to honor it. 
If you haven’t started drawing or keeping a journal, I urge you to read Art Before Breakfast.  It’s an invitation to make your world more vivid, playful and beautiful.  The instructions will lead you to judge yourself less harshly and celebrate your unique style and story. 
I’m much more likely to draw the empty plate after I’ve eaten
Writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau said, “After the writer’s death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.”  There are so many of my ancestors I would have loved to get a letter from.  Don’t let your life slip by, or wind up being a pristine blank book.  Encourage yourself and start to draw.  Create yourself.  Let Art Before Breakfast nourish the urge to leave your mark in the world, if not for your heirs, then for yourself.  It’s a gift you can give yourself that will reveal the treasure all around you.
You can find out more about Danny Gregory at  He’s got lots of encouraging articles and has a presence on both Facebook and Twitter.  Get to know his work, then get drawing.  
Thanks for visiting my blog.  If you’d like, leave a comment.

I’m linking this post to Paint Party Friday.  Click the link and find a whole list of artist who are living creatively and have made art a part of their lives.  

12 thoughts on “Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory

  1. Lovely post, Joy. Art before breakfast is a wonderful way to be sure to fit it in when the days fill in like sand. I usually use my before breakfast time for morning pages – but maybe those need to include a little sketch or two. I love Danny G. and how every single thing is game to be drawn. Thanks for an inspiring post today, and thanks for coming by my blog – Marji

  2. Thank you for your visit Joy. I love Danny Gregory. His drawings but more than that his posts, jokes and so on. When people ask me how i am doing i am not saying “busy” anymore. Busy is my normal and i am learning the hard way to carve out time for art. It has kept me sane and happy all those years.And i know it will get me through 🙂

  3. I laugh as on the weekends I am in my craft room until lunch, busy painting and creating. The book sounds humorous and a great read. Thank you so much for sharing it. Great painting on the theme.

  4. First of all thank you for visiting my blog. This book you have reviewed here sound very fascinating. I've been dreaming sometime to create a book like that about creativity. It's very unfortunate how modern society easily pushes down artistic abilities within people and it can take time one to find “artist confidence”. I just recently read biography of one of my favorite Finnish illustrators/children authors Mauri Kunnas. When he was a young man instead of looking summer jobs he spent his time by drawing. He was absolutely shore that someday he is going to make it and he did. That is inspirational <3

  5. Thanks for the info on the book, Joy. I enjoyed your post this week. As for art before breakfast, literally I could never do that unless that means the time in the middle of the night when I wake up and can't get back to sleep so I do art. I have to have my oatmeal and yogurt first thing in the morning.

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