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Danny Gregory is the author of Everyday Matters.

TMN: Can you give our readers a quick summary of what inspired you to create this book? It says on the back of the book, ‘Two years before I started drawing, my wife was run over by a subway train and nearly killed. Well, this book is about how art and New York City saved my life.’ Did it start out, in your mind, as a book or collection, or was it just about the process of drawing at first?

DG: I kind of fell into drawing and it took me a couple of years to really understand what I was doing and why the whole thing had become so compulsively necessary for me. I was lugging around pocketloads of pens and paints and drawing stuff several times a day, all ostensibly just for me, recording all these mundane things about my life, squirreled away in handmade books. After a while I saw that my life was opening up and I was becoming braver and more aware, because of the drawings. It felt like something worth sharing. The journals I’d made were obviously pretty linear, just a daily record, so I rearranged them to create an arc and wove a message throughout. People like to read other people’s diaries and my story has a certain morbid charm so I figured that these things might lure people in. Once they were reading the book, I could share the value of drawing as a meditation practice. That’s really the point of the book. I think anyone can do drawings at least as good as mine. A ‘good’ drawing is a just an indication that the draw-er was very present and engaged and really saw what he was drawing. Art, talent, etc. have nothing much to do with it. Just make sure you have the right pen.

TMN: Your drawing shows a strong connection to one of our favorite draw-ers, Dan Price, and then he shows up in your book! I’ll assume the two of you know each other…

DG: Dan is one of my best friends. We have done loads of drawing trips in Death Valley, Chicago, Oregon, and New York. We are always sharing our journals and our influences and he has taught me a huge amount, not just about drawing but about simplicity, nature, and karma. Our lives couldn’t be more different: I live in a Village apartment, he lives in a hole in a river bank—but like Rat and Mole, we are kindred spirits.

TMN: New York City is constantly changing—as an artist, where do you see it first? What do you pick up on as someone who draws streetscapes? What are some of your favorite NYC features to draw?

DG: I don’t really consider myself an artist but I do love to draw New York. Sometimes I set out with something in mind—I did a series of drawings of crime scenes, for instance—but mainly, I just sit on the sidewalk when the feeling grabs me and draw what’s across the street. The more intricate the better, so I tend to love 19th-century architecture the most. I could be pretty happy just recording the cast iron in SoHo. Or trees in Washington Square. The things I draw tend to lodge deep in my brain. I’ll walk along and suddenly notice a cornice or a window and remember when I drew it four years ago, what the weather was like, what had been on mind at the time. The moment in which I was drawing feels so much more palpable and alive than things that happened last week.

TMN: Any strange stories of people coming up to you while you’re drawing in public?

DG: At first, I hated being watched. I felt very self-conscious and my concentration was always broken. But then I found that sharing my drawing deepened the experience. I met farmers in Wales, ministers on church steps, homeless guys who’d pull out their own drawings. They share the quiet moment with me and it is always makes me feel more connected.

TMN: Other artists with takes on New York that you admire?

DG: I love lots of people who draw New York and other big cities, like Ronald Searle, Art Speigelman, Ben Katchor, Edward Hopper, R.Crumb, David Gentleman, Chris Ware, and Paul Cadmus, among others.
 

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin