Danny Gregory Desk Watercolor Sketch

GUEST ARTIST: “How I Eased My Way Into Watercolors“ by Danny Gregory

I only started to draw and watercolor when I was in my late 30s. I’d never studied art, but I’d always loved it. I began because my life was abruptly changed one day when my wife had an accident and was left paralyzed in a wheelchair. Our lives changed very dramatically in an instant, and I began seeking an explanation from the universe as to why this had happened and a new perspective on life going forward.

One day, I had this urge to draw the contents of my medicine cabinet. It was the first proper drawing I’d done since high school. It brought me peace and perspective that just rocked my world.

Kitchen Watercolor Danny Gregory
From there on, I started carrying a sketchbook with me everywhere and using it as an illustrated journal just to document my life, to do drawings with a pen and a sketchbook. I’d record what I did, what I ate, where I went, meetings I attended, ideas I had, things in my house, and stuff around me in New York City.

Buildings Sketch
After a year or so of developing this habit, I introduced a couple of Tombow brush markers to add some tone. Eventually, my collection expanded until I was carrying around a giant Ziploc bag full of brush markers. Eventually, I decided I had to try watercolors.

But, like a lot of people, I was kind of terrified of watercolors. They seemed like an intimidating medium. But by playing around with them and looking at a couple of books, I started to gain more confidence. Watercolors can be easy to use, but they’re also pretty varied in the ways that you can use them. There are so many techniques to master and artists to learn from.

Flowers Watercolor painting by Danny Gregory

I like to combine drawings (with fineliners or dip pens and India ink) with watercolors (I like Winsor & Newton watercolors and brushes) and then a layer of colored pencil on top. It is a way of getting rich color into my sketchbook (I like Hahnemühle sketchbooks).

I love the portability of watercolors. I’ve even built tiny watercolor sets that I can carry in the pocket of my jeans, along with a pen, a water brush, and a small sketchbook about the size of my phone. It means I have a full art studio with me at all times.

Koi Pond Danny Gregory

After years of recording my life in a sketchbook, I started to teach others about this great art form. Then I started Sketchbook Skool, and we’ve taught 100,000 people to draw and paint and see like artists. My work at the Skool gives me access to so many great artists, and I get to learn from them directly. So I put together a wonderful class called Watercolor Rules and How to Break Them.

I asked Ian Sidaway, one of England’s greatest watercolor teachers, to teach us the basic principles. He’s a member of the Royal Watercolor Society and the author of many classic books on the medium. I asked Ian to explain the essential “rules” of watercoloring. Then I brought in three other artists to break all those rules and do some really expressive modern watercolors. Then Ian came back and broke all the “rules again himself. It was great fun to make this course and to learn from four amazing watercolorists.

I figured the course would be great for people who were just starting with watercolor and also for experienced artists looking for fresh directions. But frankly, I really made the course for me. Even though I had been watercoloring for years and had my work published in books and magazines, I realized that there was still so much to learn.

Dog Watercolor Painting by Danny Gregory

Watercolor is an endlessly fascinating medium. It’s so rich and expressive, and there’re so many fantastic artists who’ve taken it to so many interesting places.
I just love it.

Danny is a 2023 World Watercolor Month Artist Ambassador!

Danny Gregory
Sketchbook Skool Website
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8 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “How I Eased My Way Into Watercolors“ by Danny Gregory

  1. I love all those paintings. I haven’t done any watercolours since comprehensive school. I’m 47. I do have all the tools. But I am yet to dabble.

  2. I love Danny Gregory!! I began sketching with his books! I have his books in two languages! The books are like art themselves. He’s such a charismatic teacher, I love his stories, and explanations, and conversations!

  3. It’s is inspiring to see how you adapted when life suddenly changed, and not only found a way to enrichment but a way to bring that enrichment to others! That you for sharing your artistic journey with us.

  4. While I’m not familiar with you Danny or your work (until now!), your story, your emotions toward the medium are a very familiar refrain. What a raw story and lovely art technique you have. I find illustration to be quite freeing also, especially when using watercolor. Danny, your art history is a brave and colorful one, and I am the better for connecting with your Doodlewash story today. Happy journey!

    Fanna Turano

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