I recently wrote about how a 100-day project revived my creativity after years of not making art seriously. Not only was the project effective in helping me find my creative voice again, but it was actually much more useful than I anticipated, to the point that I felt “caught up” and ready to return to larger and more ambitious pieces after just 40 days of the project.
Although I decided to branch out into new projects before reaching the full 100 days, the value of committing myself to the undertaking in the first place was remarkable. Here are my thoughts and reflections on the process and why I believe embarking on this type of project can be worthwhile to anyone who feels “stuck” in their creative practice.
The Value of Routine
Throughout my life and my art career I’ve badly undervalued the importance of routine and schedule. I believe this is true for many artists, and there’s a perception that creators thrive best in spontaneous environments and strike when inspiration hits them.
Although that romantic ideal sounds great in theory, I think an examination of successful artists would reveal a very different creative process, one that is rooted in routine and schedule, just as it is with nearly all successful people.
For me, one of the most important aspects of the 100-day project was the routine. I committed myself to drawing every single day with no exceptions, and that greatly simplified my schedule and helped me establish the habit and mindset of being creative even when I didn’t feel like it.
For example, early on in the project I came down with the flu, and for two or three days I was in a considerable amount of pain. Yet I still sat at my drawing board and produced a finished drawing each of those days. To my surprise, the results turned out as well as on any other day. In fact, the one I created at the peak of my illness was actually more elaborate and detailed than the others from those early days, which effectively dispelled the myth in my mind that I was incapable of being creative when I didn’t feel well.
The routine I established in the early part of the project was great, though it was easy to take for granted. Once I shifted away from the daily drawings, I immediately fell into old habits of making art sporadically. The disparity between my ambition and routine before and after the daily drawings immediately proved to me the need for a rigid schedule. I now type out a schedule for myself with each hour accounted for during the week. If that sounds restrictive for a creative lifestyle, which it always did to me, I encourage you to keep an open mind about it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I am twice as productive in my art practice with a schedule than I am without it, and the 100-day project proved it to me.
Clarifying a Creative Vision
The schedule and routine of the project was invaluable, but perhaps the best part of the daily drawing undertaking was the effect it had on my creative vision and my understanding of the type of art I want to make moving forward. Considering how rusty I was going in and the fact I hadn’t been drawing regularly for over six years, I imagined it would take a lot of time to get back on my feet and find the art I want to make at this point in my life. Instead, the evolution of my drawings seemed to move in leaps and bounds as I processed new ideas and imagery each day.
As I mentioned in my last post, the real breakthrough happened on Everyday 025 – Witchhammer. Beginning with that drawing, I shifted away from a relatively cartoon-like style with fantasy tropes into darker, horror-themed imagery with stronger influences from metal and industrial music. As much of a turning point as that drawing was, the concept for what I was doing and the visual language I was using to convey that idea continued to develop rapidly in the days that followed. Five days after Witchhammer, I made a stronger push into surrealism on Everyday 030 – Witches.
As the imagery was developing each day, a fictional world began to take place in my mind, one in which humans’ relationship with machinery had torn apart the fabric of reality and all creatures were forced to live in a suspended state of surreality, their bodies fused inextricably with industrial machinery.
This world was a reflection of my personal interests and fears, amalgamated in my subconscious mind and released onto the page through my semi-automatic drawing process.
At this point, I was feeling fully warmed up creatively and excited about the new direction my art had taken. I was itching to return to a larger scale, and the daily drawing project that had been so crucial to reigniting my creativity very suddenly felt like an obstacle toward my goals moving forward. I began to feel like a long-distance runner taking short laps around the YMCA track each day. I needed to be able to stretch and expand, or else the smaller drawings I was doing would begin to lose their value and meaning.
To this point, I realize the desire to go the full 100 days was a bit shortsighted. It’s great to have ambitious goals, though I never really stopped to ask myself whether 100 days of repetition would continue to be meaningful to my art practice for its entirety. In hindsight, there’s no reason not to start with a 30 day project, or 50, and expand it if it continues to feel right. The next time I tackle one of these projects, I will likely set a shorter timeframe that I can build on if I choose to.
Once I had the freedom to expand the size and composition of my drawings, the next step was to create something as the banner image for this art blog as well as for my Facebook page. The image would be a representation of the new direction I’ve taken with my art and also be a chance to expand my current style into a larger format. That image turned out to be Reincarnation.
At 24 x 9.5 inches, Reincarnation is not a massive drawing, though it was an important step in expanding the scale on my current drawing style. As I look to move into an even larger piece, I’m simultaneously dusting off my painting skills and digging into ways to bring color to this vision of a cyborganic post-reality. Posts on this blog may be a little slow for a few more weeks as I continue to adjust, though I have some very exciting things to share moving forward.
My original artwork, as well as prints and merchandise, are available for purchase in my Big Cartel store.