How to Make Art No Matter How Busy You Are

As art teachers, we extoll the virtues of making art to anyone that will listen. We bemoan our minutes getting cut and fight hard to keep what we have left. We encourage our students to pack their schedules with art classes and work in their sketchbooks at home. But are we practicing what we’re preaching?

Here at AOE, we’ve talked a few times about the importance of making art. Cassidy implored you to start an art teacher sketchbook swap. Ian challenged you to set an art date with yourself. If you subscribe to our newsletter, Jessica told you how to make time for the things that are most important to you.

However, how many times do you make your own art each week? I’m betting it’s less than you’d like.

That’s why I’m so excited to share the wisdom found in Danny Gregory’s new book, Art Before Breakfast.

Besides being a celebrated author, Danny is an artist, creative director, blogger, teacher, and speaker. So…he’s pretty busy. And guess what? He still makes time to make art every single day. Today he’s sharing some of his secrets with us.
Art Before Breakfast
Danny’s philosophy is that waiting for a large chunk of time to make art is a recipe for disaster. It just won’t happen. So, what does he recommend?

Here are three ways to fit more art into your life.


1. Make Art In Small Bites

According to Danny, one of the biggest excuses people give for not taking the time to make art is, “I have no time.” Guess what? Danny Gregory is one busy guy and he has a whole cupboard full of sketchbooks. Instead of sitting down for 30 or 60 minutes to make art, Danny makes small sketches throughout the day.

I loved when Danny told me, “Don’t think of art making as a chore, but as a way of recording your life. That gives it purpose and value. Tell your story so all that busyness adds up to something worthwhile.” Danny’s sketchbooks are his most valued possessions and a great source for inspiration. He’s is sure you can give up a few Facebook or reality tv minutes each day to gain some drawing time. I believe him.

2. Draw What You Eat

draw what you eat
Ok, maybe Facebook is just too important to you. Maybe you HAVE to know what happens on the season finale of your favorite show. Fine. There’s another simple solution: just draw what you eat. That’s right, before you dig into your daily meals, take 3-5 minutes to sketch what’s sitting before you. The title of the book is derived from this idea, and there are lots of engaging exercises that take just minutes to complete.

Take the Top 10 List, for example. In this exercise, Danny asks you to divide your page into a bunch of boxes and think of a subject that’s meaningful to you. Then, either from observation or imagination, he asks you to draw ten things you like in that topic. Food is an easy place to start.

Here’s an example I did in about 6 minutes. (Ok, Ok, I did twelve things, because apparently, desserts are very important to me.)

3. Draw with Your Friends

When I read about the Sketchcrawl activity in Art Before Breakfast, I literally gasped out loud. It was genius! The idea is this: gather up a bunch of friends with sketchbooks and head out into the world. Settle down at the same place and draw from observation. Then, get up, move locations, and repeat. End at a bar or cafe and share what you saw. I mean, if the idea of a  Sketchcrawl doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will.

So, get going!

As Danny works with both kids and adults, I asked him about the difference. He told me, “Adults and tweens are full of fear and self-doubt and much of my work with them involves breaking down barriers and trying to reawaken the freedom that kids have naturally.” While that’s kind of dismal, as art teachers, we know it’s true.

Kids can go from freely exploring to the dreaded “erasing over and over stage” pretty quickly. In fact, Danny experienced this firsthand as a middle schooler when he took a project in his own direction and received a failing grade as a result. If you teach secondary students, Art Before Breakfast has some inspiring activities in it to help students with similar art room baggage loosen back up.

So, what are you waiting for? If you have even 3 extra minutes a day, you have time to make art!

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out Danny’s other books as well as his online Sketchbook Skool. There, you’ll be able to learn from and be inspired by a variety of creative professionals as you engage with other class participants and re-discover why making art is so important.

Thanks so much, Danny for sharing your wisdom with us!

Have you been making art lately?

We’d love to see what you’re up to in the comments section!


Amanda Heyn

Learning Team

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


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  • Renata

    hi & Thanks Amanda for this interview!
    Danny is as usually, very inspiring!
    bye bye I have to go, I’m in a harry
    because I have to draw!!!



    • Your comment made me smile, Renata! Go make art! :)

  • Mr. Post

    I make art with the kiddos in my classes. I just pull up a stool and sit at a table with the kids I am teaching and make ink drawings while they work on their art. They are curious about how i draw/illustrate with a brush – I tell them that it is the grown up version of a sharpie because you can vary the line quality.

    For me to really get into the flow state when making my art I have to be away from everyone else for an extended period of time.

    If people really wanted to have more time for art, they would shut off their phones.

    I think of phones as interrupters. When you have one, you are opening yourself up to countless interruptions on a daily basis. I am dumbfounded at how attached people are to them. I teach in a school all day with access to the internet and a phone on my desk. At home I have a land line and a wireless router for internet.

    Why would someone spend an average of $1200 a year to be interrupted in their car or art studio?

    The teachers I work with cannot even eat lunch in the staff lounge without checking their phones constantly.

    For me $1200 is two plane tickets to someplace beautiful with my wife. I can choose to be interrupted and distracted all day or I can spend the $1200 and get away from all of the busy-ness of being a teacher.

    I have made some wonderful friends all across the United States because of the internet, but turning off the flow of it is just as important to me as plugging into it.

    • This is so true, John. I have such a love/hate relationship with my phone. Thanks for the comment!

  • Elizabeth Titus

    Amanda- thank you so much for this great article. I discovered Danny Gregory in 2007 and was inspired to keep an art journal. I have been making it a daily practice since 2010 and post my work online. As a busy art teacher- sometimes I have just a few minutes- but the creative drawing work keeps me thinking and helps me as a teacher and as an artist. I had the fortune of meeting Danny Gregory a year ago at a sketchcrawl in New York. His work has inspired so many. I started a club at my school where students work in a sketchbook and just keep drawing. I also share my sketches sometimes with my students. Even if you think you don’t have time- those few minutes you play with a drawing have huge benefits.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! Your students sound like a lucky bunch :).

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