Advice from Danny Gregory: 8 Ways to Live an Illustrated Life

I got to meet with one of my art and life heroes, Danny Gregory, to interview him about how to write an illustrated memoir. I'll be showing that video here next week.

When we turned the camera off and I showed Danny my journal, I said I wanted someone to point the way for me for my art. Danny said one word, a word that gave me almost more to think about than everything he said afterward.

"Really?" he said when I asked for advice. As if he knows creative people well: we say we want to be told what to do, but then we rebel.

I'm still thinking about what kind of help I want with my art. Meanwhile, here's the spread I made based on his feedback to me.

Cynthia Morris illustrates journal advice Danny Gregory

Cynthia Morris illustrates journal advice Danny Gregory


Which one of these pieces of advice most resonates with you?

Read more on illustrated journals

Authors Danny mentioned to me:

Frederick Franck - an old favorite of mine, the person I credit with getting me to start drawing as a way of meditating

Maira Kalman - a new favorite and someone I emulate.

Dan Price - his Moonlight Chronicles are a great example of an illustrated life. Danny generously gave me a few of his copies!

Hannah Hinchman - I got Life in Hand after Danny mentioned her. I've seen her name around and am glad to read what she has to offer.

Capture your wow

Capture the wow Cynthia Morris illustrated journalIt was fun to receive this advice. Capturing it in my journal gives me ways to keep it present and work on the things Danny suggested.

This spread also celebrates a highlight of my life - getting to speak in person with someone whose work has greatly influenced me.

If I didn't have an illustrated journal practice, this kind of wow could easily evaporate. But because I've captured it, I have it forever in brilliant color.

If this kind of thing appeals to you, I invite you to play with me this summer. I've designed the Capture the Wow Summer Scavenger Hunt that will help you have your best summer ever - lead every step of the way by your own inner artist.

Join the Scavenger Hunt now to Capture the Wow.


  1. says

    Hi Cynthia!
    I have such an appreciation for all of these steps …and your illustrations are always such a treat!

    I’m hooked on visual journals…I have 147 volumes (mostly hardcover 14×17″sketchbooks filled since 1968…I’ve given many a workshop in women’s shelters sharing techniques for expressing what’s in that needs to get out…nothing like having a consistent practice.

    The recommended books are excellent and I’d also include Barbara Bash and her four seasons of illustrated retreat.

    • says


      147!!! That’s a ton. What an archive of your life.

      I’d love to see them. Maybe you’ll show us a few pages someday?

      Thanks for the Barbara Bash recommendation. I love the idea of an illustrated retreat!

      So glad to hear you’re an avid visual journal keeper too! :)

  2. says

    I thought about your ‘8 ways’ and it’s the due date I need to work on. I need to ship. It’s a combo of boredom, fear, perfectionism that stops me.

    I get new ideas, I add them to my To Do List, I start them, I get new ideas. And I’ve always been a sprinter, not a marathoner, which is why I did well in entertainment and PR. No time to get bored. I loves me some adrenaline.

    Even with my home admin stuff, I throw myself at it and then it’s the little unfinished bits. And I’m the one people go to because I know how to follow-up and get things done. No really.

    So for June I’m going to work on that. Get to publish, hit click and move on. Any ideas how to make that a habit???

    • says


      Do I have any ideas on how to finish projects?! Of course I do; this is my job. I love seeing people have the satisfaction of completing things that are important to them – whether it’s a body of art or a home de-cluttering.

      For you, I’d make a list of the top pressing projects right now. No more than 6 or so.

      Then, prioritize them. How important is each project right now.

      Consider a period of time, say, summer. Ask yourself: this summer, which of these projects takes priority?

      Then choose as many as you can manage in a summer (subtract a few for your misplaced optimism), and then begin paddling toward the finish line. Stroke after stroke, day after day, you will get closer until they’re all done.

      Rinse and repeat with all your other great ideas. You’ll learn a lot about what works for you.


      When I began paying attention to my artist and taking time for art, I drew up a list of things she wanted to do. About a month into working on various art projects, I realized I would need to apply a bit more influence on myself and the process in order to finish things. I knew that finishing was important to feeling good about my art efforts.

      So I drove several projects to completion. I saw the difficult last steps. I also saw that’s where much of the satisfaction lies – at the finish line.

      Keep me posted on how it goes to become the ‘finisher’ I know you are.

  3. says

    Thank you!! Yes, it’s about prioritizing. And it feels icky to have a stack of unfinished projects hanging around. I’m also working on not making everything ‘perfect’. I don’t have to Photoshop, crop and polish every photo I put in a sideshow until it’s exquisite when it’s simply for practice.

    Will keep you posted for sure.

  4. Emie says

    I listened to your interview on Danny’s blog and it was fabulous. He is also one of my “art and life heroes”… inspiring in so many ways. I’m so glad to find your blog… I’ll be following from now on. Thanks!!!!

  5. says

    Hi Cynthia – I’m catching up on some of your wonderful posts – and wanted to chime in on your interview with Danny Gregory (one of my personal heroes!) I’ll be sure to find and view your video chat with him soon.

    The one thing that pops out the most for me in your richly illustrated spread of advice is “Slow Down” – but then I’d need to quickly add a second part to that: “be clear in what you see and how you record things”

    Slowing down to notice what I’m actually sketching and how things relate and fit together is the kicker: often I’ll look at something and make assumptions rather than really taking in what I’m actually seeing.

    Plus just slowing down to soak in the details and attempt to record them in my journal puts me in a calm(er) meditative space – a very good thing indeed!

    Most of the time I don’t have a leisurely chunk of time to draw, so I’ll sketch something quickly to capture its essence – and then go back later to fill in some details by memory. It’s a different mode for me than Slow Down and See, but just as rewarding.

    Thanks also for an inspired reading list – new authors for me to check out!

    Wow from Yes and Yay HQ!

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