by Danny Gregory
A little more than two years after his wife was run over by a subway train and paralyzed, Gregory started to draw. One of the results is this book, subtitled “A New York Diary.”
So there are two things going on in this book: figuring out what to do when your life falls apart in an unexpected way, and figuring out how to give yourself permission to do something you want to do without worrying (too much) if it is something you can do.
Gregory’s drawings aren’t polished. They look like the things they are supposed to look like — the inside of a medicine cabinet, a building across the street, trees — but they aren’t too smooth. The lines are full of energy, sometimes making objects a bit jumpy looking. His drawings are often splashed with watercolor or marker. They look alive. His sketches don’t look sterile, stiff, or like they were drawn from photographs or even memory — they look like he was looking at what he was sketching while he was drawing.
Which is pretty much what they are. He’s not an art school grad. He’s got the energy of the self-taught, embarking on a scary but thrilling mission of “can I really do this?” They aren’t the kind of thing I am usually attracted too, but I like them. Princeton Architectural Press liked them well enough to publish Gregory’s book in a good-quality but not expensive hardcover edition.
The balance is a bit more than fifty-fifty sketch and text in the book. Gregory writes briefly about what happened to his wife, and how the consequences (his wife in a wheelchair) are something that happened/are happening to him too; about their boy Jack; about being uncomfortable drawing in public; about going on vacations again, and generally getting on with life in little steps.
I hate to use this word because it reminds me of those Chicken Soup for Fill-in-the-blank’s Soul books, but I am going to anyway: I found Gregory’s book inspirational. Not in that ‘I overcame impossible adversity with a smile and you can to’ smarmy kind of way, but in that ‘hey, I’m fairly normal and decided to do something different, something I thought maybe I couldn’t do, and it worked out okay, think about that’ kind of way.
I liked this book, but I find that for books with a strong visual element, either you like the art or you don’t, and if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter how much someone else raves about it. Gregory keeps a blog, also called Everyday Matters, and I recommend checking it out. After spending some time on his site, I decided to buy his book, and I’m glad I did.