Gallery

Excerpts from an illustrated memoir of love and mourning after an artist loses his wife to a tragic accident.

Danny Gregory has been a longtime contributor to The Morning News. Back in 2003, we excerpted pages from his book Everyday Matters—a touching, charming collection of drawings that depicted Danny, his wife Patti, and their son Jack learning to cope after Patti was nearly killed by a New York City subway train. Then in 2010, it was with shock and very deep sadness that we heard that Patti had died in another horrible accident.

Danny’s new book, A Kiss Before You Go, is an incredible testament to Patti, their relationship, the grieving process, and the joy of life. It also happens to be a standout example of art journaling, full of meditations that masterfully combine paint and text. (Even Oprah agrees with us on all that.)

We talk briefly below about Danny’s favorite pens, how to edit a drawn memoir, and what makes sweater vests so deplorable.

All images used with permission, copyright © the author.

The Morning News:

When during the day are you at your best?

Danny Gregory:

Between 7:30 and 9 a.m. I walk my dogs, make some coffee, sit at my desk, and get a huge-ish amount done.

TMN:

When was the first time you drew Patti?

DG:

It was one of the first drawings I was pleased with, probably in 1997 or so. It was early evening, she had hopped out of her wheelchair and was sitting on the couch, and I drew her in a sketchbook filled with oaktag. I managed to get in a very Zen meditative state and slowed my chattering monkey brain way down. I drew her in pencil, something I soon stopped doing.

TMN:

What are you least aware of when you’re drawing?

DG:

The passage of time. And the fullness of my bladder.

TMN:

Do you and Jack draw together?

DG:

Sure. It’s a major son/dad bonding activity as he’s still too young still to take to bars. Unfortunately, he’s much better at drawing than I am now, thanks to my lavish tuition payments to the Rhode Island School of Design.

TMN:

How did you choose what not to include in the book?

DG:

Early on, my editor and I had agreed that the book would be short so the printing quality could be as good as possible, and the price could be affordable. End result was 128 pages — which meant I had to cut more than 50 pages from my journals. It wasn’t easy (which is why I have been reproducing most of the rejected pages on my blog). I had two criteria for pruning: drawing quality and universality. If the story or idea was sort of complex or obscure or short-lived, I dumped it. Ultimately I wanted everything in the book to look as good as I could make it and to be something most people could relate to.

TMN:

What is your favorite pen currently?

DG:

I use two Lamy Safari fountain pens, one broad and one fine. And I use a dip pen with assorted steel nibs.

TMN:

What is your favorite household appliance?

DG:

That’s easy—my Bissell SpotBot. It makes living with two dachshunds bearable. Plus it’s straight out of the Jetsons.

TMN:

If you didn’t have to work for a living, would you still make art?

DG:

Huh!? Of course. Making a living is the primary thing that gets in the way of my making art.

TMN:

Jack London supposedly said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” Agree?

DG:

No, I eschew violence and prefer relentless nagging. Do enough work and eventually the muse gives in.

TMN:

Finally, what is it about the sweater vest that’s so pathetic?

DG:

Hey, I’ve been a proud vestman since back in the day, but, sadly, RIck Santorum has ruined this electrifying fashion statement for all of us. I am now getting heavily into dickies.

biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of 2017). His articles and essays appear in a variety of magazines, including GQ, Travel + Leisure and The Paris Review, and he’s written opinion pieces for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin