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!


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Amanda Heyn

Amanda Heyn is AOEU’s Director of K–12 PD & Media and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She enjoys creating relevant and engaging professional development just for art teachers.

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