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

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.

Book cover of the awesome book An illustrated Life drawing inspiration from the private sketchbooks of artists, illustrators and designers by Danny Gregory

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 so 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.

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.

Doodles from class 2006 by Hanna Andersson, all rights reserved
My doodles from school 2006, using a Pigma Micron pen ,05.

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 on the 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?