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An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From The Private Sketchbooks Of Artists, Illustrators And Designers

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  15,342 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
Find Insight and Inspiration for Your Creative Life

An artist's journal is packed with sketches and captions; some rough, some polished. The margins sometimes spill over with hurriedly scrawled shopping lists and phone numbers. The cover may be travel-worn and the pages warped from watercolors. Open the book, and raw creativity seeps from each color and line. The intimacy a
Paperback, 266 pages
Published December 16th 2008 by HOW Books (first published December 8th 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 17, 2011 Splendy rated it liked it
If I were smart, I would start a business making spiral-bound sketchbooks with high-quality paper for artists. A frequent complaint among artists in this book is that it’s impossible to find really good, useful sketchbooks. Many make their own by selecting paper and having them custom bound. There’s goldmine here, but I’m just too lazy to dig it.

The sketchbooks in An Illustrated Life are gorgeous, inviting, varied and worthwhile. The interviews, however, are not entirely impressive. They definit
Jan 15, 2009 Bonny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-books
I wasn't going to buy or read this book. I thought that a compilation of several artist's work would be somewhat chaotic. I knew too, that not all the styles of journalling or sketching/drawing would appeal to me, and I thought there would be more of the unappealing genres that I could not justify getting the book. When favourable reviews started coming through from friends and artists on the internet I was impressed enough to want to look at the book and decide for myself. I had to wait until i ...more
Rachel Kopel
Feb 12, 2009 Rachel Kopel rated it it was ok
I am a great fan of Danny Gregory, but I was somewhat disappointed by this eagerly awaited book. While there are some really lovely examples, such as those of Jane LaFazio and Gay Kreger, and a few others, mostly women, I found that too many of the sketchbooks were simply ugly juvenile cartoons, mostly by men. I had the desire to use sticky notes and calculate how many were illustrations and how many these cartoons and how many by men and how many by women. And I decided I really didnt want to s ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Mel rated it liked it
It is always interesting to me to see how other artist's think and work and there is no better way to do that than to be allowed to peer into their sketch journals. This book is an invitation to do that. I just wish the artists that were chosen were a little more interesting. That being said, there are some real gems in here, like James Jean, Bryce Wymer and of course, Robert Crumb. I actually bought this and I almost wish I would have just gotten it from the library. It was definitely worth a p ...more
3.5 stars. Good look at the journals/sketchbooks of 50 different artistically minded people, including (in their own words) how long they've been keeping a journal, why they keep up the habit, and their preferred materials.
Mar 25, 2009 R.M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought An Illustrated Life initially thinking I was going to plow right through. To me, it's much better in small doses. With as many varying personalities, ideas and "art," it was a little daunting to continually read for longer than 15 minutes. The more I read at one sitting the more the people in the book would blend into one another. I guess I have a really short attention span. Either that, or can't handle the idea of being jolted from one artist to the next. Once I started to get into an ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
Dec 18, 2008 Sherry (sethurner) rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, nonfiction
I'm a big fan of Danny Gregory, a real cheerleader encouraging people to stop being so hard on themselves and get out there and sketch. His previous books, Creative License and Everyday Matters have inspired hundreds of folks. This book is different. It's a collection of sketchbooks from illustrators, everyone from R. Crumb to a French teacher in New Jersey. There is an interview and a selection of pages from that person's sketch books. It's a beautiful and inspiring collection. My only gripe is ...more
This book is very inspiring. It is true that it is not purely a Danny Gregory book, but as long as you don't go into the book thinking it is going to be purely Danny, it's a wonderful read. I loved having a book full of all these artists and pages of their sketchbooks. I also like that we get to read the artists' thoughts and ideas about their own art and sketchbooks.

I like to flip through this book and read in small sections. I did read the whole thing though, but in small segments so I could
Nov 02, 2009 M rated it it was ok
I wonderful little book about the sketchbooks of artists and writers many of us love. It's fatal flaw however is the lack of humility it gives the subject matter as the author treats each subject as if they sketchbooks are sacred texts. The reality that most won't admit is that these works were created to show people, and those that weren't won't be seen. Artists are fickle and vain and very strategic in the way they let people view their work especially their notebooks. Where this book succeeds ...more
Dec 28, 2011 kimberly rated it really liked it
Not a book to pick up and read, but more for perusing, to read an interview at a time. A good source of inspiration, especially for those who like to peek into the more secret lives of artists.

A bit of a downer in a sense that almost all of these sketchbooks are amazing on their own - seems that many artists suffer from a perfectionist predilection for making everything look good all the time. It was refreshing to see the few sketchbooks that were kind of crappy (LIKE MINE).
Redshirt Knitting
Mar 28, 2011 Redshirt Knitting rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If you like looking through other artists' sketchbooks, then this is the book for you. 266 pages, 50 artists, sketches and text - wonderful!

I'm actually still working my way through it, because I can only pore over two or three artists at a time before I have to set the book down and think over it for a while.
Michelle Young
Dec 09, 2009 Michelle Young rated it really liked it
I love seeing people's illustrated journals! My favorites are the ink sketches of cityscapes with splashes of watercolor. Also the ones that look like they're from children's picture books. Wish I could draw like that...
May 18, 2008 Kay marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction, art
I've been listening to Danny's podcast, in which he interviews different artists featured in this book. It's got me very excited for the book's publication.
Apr 15, 2011 Enid rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
A great collection of pages from artiists' sketchbooks. it was interesting to not only see some pages but to read about how and where they use their sketchbook. very nice!
Luis Molina
Nov 27, 2012 Luis Molina rated it did not like it
This book is not good really boring for me
Mari Naydenova
May 16, 2017 Mari Naydenova rated it it was amazing
Я в буквальном смысле только что закончила знакомство с замечательной книгой Дэнни Грегори. Именно знакомство, ведь это целый сборник историй и скетчбуков, не похожих один на другой.
Мне будет трудно представить любую другую книгу, которая была бы столь вдохновляющей и мотивирующей на свершения и эксперименты.
Спасибо Дэнни Грегори за возможность узнать истории талантливых людей!
Mar 13, 2017 Lois rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-photography
Great in small doses. Inspiring to see what artists are doing. I think I need to look at more books from Danny Gregory.
Angie P
Fantastic! A great mix of urban sketching, comics, nature, people, and doodles. It has something for everyone. Each artist tells their background or art training, what sketchbook and watercolor and pens they prefer; and tell how and when they started sketching. Of course, they talk about their sketches and inspiration and why the sketch the way they do. Some even add pictures of their sketchbook covers and their work space. It's a great read and a great reference and inspirational book! Enjoy!!
Mar 01, 2009 JayeL rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
Danny Gregory has been recommended to me many times, especially by Amy of the Creative Mom podcast, a very creative and high quality podcast. I bought the book she uses as her bible (it sounds like), The Creative License after I had reserved An Illustrated Life at the library. Of course I received them all the same week. I think that this book will be similar to the one I loved by the Jennifer New, Drawing From Life: The Journal as Art, but I will let you know after I have given it a thorough go ...more
Mar 10, 2009 Parka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-books
An Illustrated Life
(More pictures at

When I was searching for information about the book, I found a lot of positive reviews. And I really mean A LOT. It's one thing that a book is well liked. It's another when it's so well liked people are actually talking about it.

An Illustrated Life is a compilation of sketchbook pages from 50 illustrators all over the world. Each journal is packed with sketches, captions and a narrative as the artist talks about his sketchbook. At 266 pages, some of the scans ar
Mar 05, 2016 Canesgalactica rated it really liked it
I'm not entirely sure why so many reviewers got in a tizzy over the artists/designers discussing what materials/books they used. The reason so many people use Moleskine books is because for the most part, they are what artists in the field use due to durability and paper quality. The same can be said for the pens/inks. No one artist is saying "you have to use these" in order to sketch or draw in a book, just that that is what they use because it feels comfortable and durable to them.

I will say t
Kevin de Ataíde
Jan 04, 2013 Kevin de Ataíde rated it liked it
Shelves: art
A decent coffee-table sized book with drawing inspiration for sketchbook journalism, which I consider to be a good way of developing skills in draghtsmanship, while building a very personal and even light-hearted approach to life in general. Most of the drawings on display here look terrible by my own standards of realism), but then most of these sketchbooks are private and not finished works of art. And that's the whole point of the exercise, as the various artists agree. There are some excelle ...more
liberal sprinkles
What a fantastic gallery this book is. It displays lots of sketches from 50 illustrators, designers and artists and an introduction (sometimes over a few pages) to each of them, their work, why and how they sketch and titbits like which pens they use. What I especially like is that so many different artistic styles are represented: drawings, paintings, illustrations, doodles, comics and mixed-media art journal pages. The subjects include everything from landscapes and scenes to lists and records ...more
Dec 23, 2016 Ruth rated it really liked it
How fascinating to glance inside the pages of artists' sketchbooks (or visual journals) and read their thoughts on why/how they use these books. Universally, both the professional and avocational artists profiled here feel compelled to draw regularly in their sketchbooks, mostly to note passing impressions, explore new creative ideas, and to find a space in which they can be completely non-judgmental about their own work. Some keep multiple books (some for only doodling, some for watercolor, etc ...more
Sep 12, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing
This is my favourite book this year so far. It's filled with pages from the sketchbooks of a variety of artists and illustrators accompanied by a short explanation of how they and why and with what they fill their sketchbooks.

What I liked:

I loved the sheer quantity of artists covered in this book. I loved the photographed pages from the sketchbooks and spent more time studying those than the actual words. I liked that this book was printed landscape as it lends itself to close scrutiny of all
I spotted this on the reserve room shelves and had to OhioLINK it for myself. I'm keeping it on the to-read list in the (somewhat futile) hope that I'll come back for it and read it more closely. Sketchbooks are always inspiring, and these are some great ones. The only name I recognize is James Jean (of Fables covers fame).

I can always use the reminder that a sketchbook is a place of no rules. "The pages of this book are filled with doorways to private worlds, drawn and written to record impres
Jwls Mac Ray
Mar 09, 2014 Jwls Mac Ray rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
I enjoyed reading about the various artists and how they kept their sketchbooks, journals, travel logs, etc. over the years. I had diaries growing up but never thought about adding sketches to it. I wish I had now. Granted my drawings would have been mostly landscapes because I am not that good at drawing people. Like the artists said, the journals are for learning and remembering. It doesn't matter if they are excellent, only matters that you enjoy drawing them. There are many times I am watchi ...more
Lisa M.
Apr 28, 2017 Lisa M. rated it it was amazing
This is the book I give as a gift, because it contains a stunning variety of art. I love reading the backgrounds of the artists who've created such diverse forms of expression. It's vibrant and inspiring.
Aug 03, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
I kept this one by the bedside and from time to time I would browse an artist or two before turning out the light. I found it pleasantly relaxing to unwind to small works of art from so many different and varied artists with so many different styles.

As inspirational as the book is, and as much as it makes me want to do the same—I do carry around a moleskine for sketching—I find that I rarely actually accomplish any sketches. Which is too bad, I think.

But the book is great and makes very enjoyabl
Zelly B.
May 29, 2010 Zelly B. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: artists, illustrators, art-enthusiasts
Shelves: art-books
An excellent book, full of inspiring commentary and of course: images. I found it particularly inspiring to see how so many artists could have such diverse ways of keeping sketchbooks, from the book they choose (I've noted a lot of Moleskine popularity here), the materials they used, the times they chose to sketch, and the subjects they chose to draw.

This book is really great to show that anyone can sketch - from the professionals with backgrounds in art and illustration, to those who are more s
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An Illustrated Life 3 26 Jul 14, 2015 07:13PM  
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