An illustrated life by Danny Gregory – a book review

Early this summer I read through Danny Gregory’s latest book An Illustrated LifeDrawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers (2008). It’s a big book, a coffee table paperback with 270 pages to look through, though the paper is matte and not glossy as is usual with this type of book.

An illustrated life book cover

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh

All ye oldies have seen or know about this book already, but as I know many of you are new seekers of creative inspiration so I wanted to mention this book before I forget.

As it is a massive read I took it in in chunks. Inside this book you will find presentations of fifty different artists who keep a sketchbook in some form or other, all of them answering the same questions about their sketchbooks. What size, papers, pens and brands do they prefer? How long have they kept a journal and do they keep different ones for different projects? Is the first page more difficult, do they draw in public and what kind of things ends up inside the book?

New pens (Copyright Hanna Andersson)

If you know you love reading the answers to these types of questions you?ll adore this book for sure! Some said they only do precious drawings in watercolors in their books, others doodle with a bic pen, some artists mostly write/take notes and yet others mix it all together inside their blank books. The answers are varied and interesting, but after a few presentations I needed to close the book as it gets a bit tedious to read through similar answers again and again.

If you’re into drawing or just love to peek inside cool artist’s private world this is a must read. An illustrated life will absolutely give you the inspiration to start a private sketchbook of your own. There are so many approaches to keeping a sketchbook that one simple must become inspired. I know I did.
Doodles from class (Copyright Hanna Andersson)
Personally I love the mix of precious life-like drawings mixed with crazy doodles, journaling and ugly sketches for projects and ideas. I’m also always impressed by the humor and quirkiness in some illustrations and cartoons. Some sketches really do tell a lot about the owner and what?s inside their head. The comic strips are like little haikus, they make me happy as they often are documentations of real life but with a twist. There are no Art Journals like mine in there (mixed media and collage etc) you should be aware of that before you buy it, but I didn’t miss those either (there are so many other books about Art Journals already). Actually, this book reminds me of the great book 1000 Artist Journal Pages, but about sketching and with lots more to read.

I have really enjoyed Danny Gregory?s previous books but I don’t own any of them. I’ve been fortunate to borrow all of his books from smart friends. His first book was called (just as his blog) Everyday Matters and features drawings and writing about his own life, and how he came to start daily drawings.

My absolute favorite is still The Creative License with the subtitle Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly Are. In The Creative License Gregory shows you how to start seeing the world with new eyes and trusting your own drawing, even if you don’t think you can do it. Even I wanted to start drawing when I read that book, and I hadn’t been drawing much the past ten years.

The Creative License is one of those books you as a creative person need to read if you ask me. Add it to your inspiration library even if you don’t draw or sketch because it truly is inspiring all the way though and will change your way of seeing/thinking. An illustrated life one other hand is a book that will inspire you to draw more if you’ve already started, or maybe look closer at some new illustrators and artists. There are some very cool people in there!

What is your favorite book to get inspiration from outside your field of interest?

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16 Responses to An illustrated life by Danny Gregory – a book review

  1. Janice Mae says:

    I love this drawing too Hanna, it’s almost like Zentangle which I just recently got acquainted with at the Craft and Hobby show. I also read your earlier post about the zentangle and I cannot wait to try my hand at this fun way to draw. Thanks

  2. Janet says:

    Cute drawing! I have “The Creative License” but not “An Illustrated Life”….but it’s going on my “to buy” list right now.

    I find inspiration in all kinds of books. Quilt books are great for color inspiration and I love nature books for texture ideas.

  3. Elle says:

    I just read the Creative License last week! I agree that it’s an awesome, particularly challenging my thoughts of inadequacy and really helping me to become more observant about my surroundings and to record them :)

    I always find inspiration in Japanese magazines and craft books, and there’s this Japanese catalog that I always flip through to get my creative juices flowing. Other than these I look at nature guides and architecture books too :) .

  4. Fern says:

    I bought The Creative Licence and An Illustrated Life only a couple of weeks ago, and I love them both – 2 of the most creative & inspiring books I’ve ever bought!

  5. oh, you’re right – “The Creative License” really did change the way I look at things. it makes you SEE.
    another book which I think is a must would be Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. another eye-opener for me.

    and I love this quote by van Gogh.

  6. U2kitteh says:

    Thank you for reviewing these books! I’ve seen them on when looking for art journaling books, but I wasn’t sure if they would be what I would want. They sound very good as I do want to get to a point where I feel comfortable just drawing in my journal without collage. (It is strange because I used to love to draw all the time when I was little, but now I’m afraid?)

    I love your doodles! Your people characters are definitely evolving and you know always love the presence of a kitty (and the way you spell miau!) — A drawing with this much detail…so many little things to look at is something I aspire too. ;) It just LOOKS like fun to do!

  7. Milla says:

    The Creative License is ordered now, I can?t wait to have it! Thanks for the tip!

    So far Julia Cameron?s books have been those where I find a lot of inspiration to try new things. Also I find gardening books very inspiring, love the colours.

  8. Carina says:

    Va kul! jag har just tyssnat igenom alla hans poddar igen! De ?r s? himla inspirerande!

    Nina och jag pratar om att Crawla lite snart – ?r du m??

  9. Carina says:

    Va kul! jag har just tyssnat igenom alla hans poddar igen! De ?r s? himla inspirerande!

    Nina och jag pratar om att Crawla lite snart – ?r du m?? :)

  10. With so many fantastic reccomendations, i have to get them! (^_^) I’ve just made a journal, so these would be perfect inspiration!

    Thankyou! And thankyou too, for your comment on my blog :o)

  11. Julia says:

    Right after I’ve read your post I ordered the Creative Licence and An Illustrated Life!
    Thanks so much for sharing, I can’t wait to hold them in my hands ^^
    Cheers, Julia

  12. robin says:

    I am a newbie to the creative life and I found this very helpful-THANK YOU!

  13. Indeed, Danny Gregory’s books are very inspiring and gives this little push you need to get started. I especially loved the pep talks. Actually, I own two “The Creative License”, one for me, and the other one for friends i think should read it. For inspiration, i also like to flip through “street sketchbooks” by Tristan Manco, and I have a lot of art books, and i read your blog (you are inspiring too!),,, and sometimes Illustration Friday Blog.
    i liked The Illustrated life, and own it, but i never went through reading it all, it’s pretty but very big and long.

  14. Tehmeena says:

    Plz let me know how to get Danny Gregory’s books I live in Pakistan and no such books available can you guide me how can i get it?

  15. Tehmeena says:

    Thanks iHanna!

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