My Heroes: Danny Gregory



About two years ago I was leafing though Amazon (Can you do that, leaf though trying to find something that would encourage and reassure my desire to get back into drawing and art. I went though book after book, ordered some – most of which were quite good and inspiring – before I came across Danny Gregory’s Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are. I don’t know if I can say that I have ever read a book that changed me or my perspective, but Creative License certainly was a starting point for the change I’m going through right now. Danny’s style of drawing and writing spoke to me. I especially liked the fact that he accepted that it is hard to return to a practice you have previously judged to be a “not proper career”. His book solidified my determination to draw more and to be serious about it, to give it the time, effort and role I want art to have in my life. It’s been a slow process but I will get there.

I did not get myself a Moleskin – well I did, but I didn’t like the feel nor the colour of the paper. It took awhile to find that perfect, inspiring sketchbook, but eventually I did and I took up the habit to carry it in my bag. The first pages filled up very slowly but I did finish the book last autumn after almost two years. I have a new one now but I try not to put any pressure on filling it up though I definitely would like to draw daily. One day (not someday, mind you) I will.

I mostly draw when I’m away from home. I don’t know why, really. I have all these excuses at home, but while I’m on the road or in a museum they disappear. These I drew last August, the clouds on the train on my way to Helsinki and the two men playing Go in a beautiful, peaceful small park (much like a garden really) in southern Helsinki. I still had a cold and I was about to give a presentation in a conference in a few days, but the weather made me forget my tiredness. It had been raining for days but while traveling south the low-hanging rainclouds turned into magnificent cumuli and sunshine. Thanks to Danny I had the tools to capture them.

The End of the World – As We Know It 2.0

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Remember the sign in the sky I saw last month? Well tonight I spotted these two when I went out for our evening stroll with our dog. Again nicely cold outside, -18 degrees of Celsius (-0.4 F, 255.15 K), and diamond dust in the air. This time the circumstances were just right for proper light pillars.

Oh, wait.

There’s more on the north side of the house:


Maybe they’re not light pillars but lights of spaceships! Alien invasion! Occupation! See, there’s one more:


No more Star Trekkin’ for me tonight I think.

The Aesthetics of Necks

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I’m really bad at drawing people but that is just because I haven’t practiced enough. That’s because for a long time I didn’t find drawing people interesting but also because people are really hard to draw – or so it has always seemed to me. I mostly drew horses when I was a kid, then dragons and even old aeroplanes but interest in drawing people came much later. I find the faces particularly hard to figure out.

So it is a blessing that in scientific conferences, seminars and such there is seldom anything but the necks of the occupants in the rows before me to draw. No faces except for an odd partial profile. And they sit still most of the time (yes, some do snooze) but then suddenly they are taken over by a burst of fidgety energy and begin to fiddle with their noses, hair, pens, papers, laptops, calendars, even phones. Then it’s better just to give up and pick a new subject. But it usually has to be another person since apparently dullness is a mandatory requirement for conference rooms though sometimes a great view through a window saves the day.

These were done last August in a Aesthetics conference at the Aalto Univerity’s School of Art, Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland. The lady drawn in black on the left is Yuriko Saito, professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and the author of Everyday Aesthetics. I have had the privilege to get to know her though my Ph.D. studies in the research project Artification and It’s Impact on Art and she is has been such a great help to me. The lady drawn in blue had the most beautiful neck!

My Heroes: Geninne Zlatkis

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(c) Kaisa Mäki-Petäjä

I can’t remember where I first saw Gennine’s birds but they took my breath right away. I love the colours she uses, particularly the bright blues and especially the turquoise. I love the figure of her birds, the clarity of the form that balances the riot of colours giving her art room to breathe. I wish I could have that too. And surprise, surprise, I love her use of maps and old postcards. Her creativity is not limited to only drawings and paint. It spills over to hand carved rubber stamps, painted stones, fabrics (you really should take a look at her blog if you want to discover the full spectrum of her creativity). It’s always inspirational to go over her blogging history to see how her craft has evolved over time – it always makes me proud to see how someone grows into one’s true self.

What admire most in her art is her honesty in creating happy things. There certainly is a need for hard subjects in art but we still need beauty in our life. While there is much suffering and injustice in the world it doesn’t help in the long run if we focus solely on suffering and forget what beauty awaits us. Isn’t it precisely the beauty and mystery of the world that should motivate our cause, the fact that everyone should be able to experience it in happiness? Contemporary art world tends to regard art of the beautiful as something trivial, mundane, as of lower class or not even art proper simply because it is not cynical, disillusioned or disheartened even. Sometimes it feels like one should be sardonic to qualify as an artist. But I think art’s fundamental task is to move us, to show us things we might not otherwise notice and to show things in new light, from new perspectives. This does not exclude any subject matter but includes everything.

I am grateful to Gennine for sharing her life, craft and art with me, even if I’m only one of her followers online. It makes me happy to see how another amateur natural historian assembles her collection of natural wonders.

I made the bird cards in the photo for the Christmas 2011. I discovered the papers in the local paper crafts shop and bought them simply because they went so well together (except for the white which I found later on). I had no idea what to do with them. It was Gennine’s blog that inspired me. I searched for a picture of a blue jay and styled it into sections I could easily cut from the papers. I’ve been thinking about making a red cardinal and a raven but haven’t got around it yet. I do already have the papers for the raven so maybe some day soon.

P.s. Incidentally, the word amateur originates from Latin amator, ‘lover’ and amare, ‘to love’ so an amateur actually means the lover of the pursuit she engages in passionately. An amateur is not someone of lesser or poor skills, someone unprofessional, but someone with love for that pursuit.

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