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Musings on the 100 Day Project

Amy 100dayproject | Creative Journey | Daily Drawing ,
#the100dayproject for 2019 is facilitated by Lindsay Jean Thomson. The challenge starts April 2.

The #the100dayproject starts April 2, 2019. (That is the official hashtag. It’s confusing because there are many similar hashtags that will take you to different sites and groups and communities.) If you choose this challenge, then for 100 days, you work on some self-selected project. Whether it’s an iterative project where you create something new within your project’s scope or continue to work on a large project every day for 100 days is up to you. The theme is up to you. The medium is up to you. If you choose to create iteratively, with the goal of creating one new piece a day, you will end up with 100 pieces in the project. Many people choose to work on small things — things that can be grouped together along the way and at the end as a collection. Others take the challenge and work with a large project or goal in mind and use the 100 days to really deep dive into it.

At least that’s how I interpret the project (and the many examples I’ve looked at).

For some of us, #the100dayproject also overlaps with #oneweek100people and the Index-Card-a-Day (ICAD) challenge in June and July. If you plan to also do one or both of those, then you may be thinking about ways to combine the projects. Or, you may be keeping all of your upcoming projects in mind and trying to make sure whatever you choose for #the100dayproject is something that will still allow you time to fit in the other projects. (For 61 days, that might mean you will need to allow time for two completely different creative projects each day. Only you know if that is viable. But think it through carefully because when you start these long-term projects, you want to start with the conviction that you can successfully complete the challenge!)

What to do…

I have been thinking about this year’s challenge. I started it a bit haphazardly and last-minute in 2018, and I didn’t complete the challenge. I did go on to do ICAD, and I did draw every day last year, which was my overarching goal for the year. But just “drawing” wasn’t what I outlined for #the100dayproject. I am not sure that doing the project is right for me this year. But I am one that likes the scaffolding a project provides, and I enjoy the opportunity to make new creative connections at Instagram.

Yesterday, at the end of an overwhelming week, I really wanted to push all of the real-life things aside (work, college, money) and sit and chat with people about this creative challenge… about ideas for it… about ways it could and might work for each of us… about different ways to think about it. I posted in the CMP Group at Facebook, where I know a few people are doing or considering the challenge. Several people posted back about their thoughts. Meanwhile, I was writing up my own reply (as noted, I really wanted to chat). I posted my “here’s where I am at” reply, and it took more than a screen. Oops. Looking at the overwhelming wall of text I’d thrown up, I removed it and realized I should just put this information here on the blog instead.

When writing about #the100dayproject for the CMP group, I was trying to share the ideas I’m bouncing between and some of the thinking I am doing as I try and carve out what will really work for me. Your idea may be totally different. You may be planning to sew or embroider or knit or collage or paint. You may want to draw a cartoon each day or write a haiku or practice graffiti lettering. I have seen some amazing projects from years past in various mediums, and because I enjoy a wide range of creative pursuits, I always fantasize about making my 100 day project something totally different (like embroidery or sashiko or a repeat of a favorite fabric collage project). But, I know me. I think this project will work best for me if I do something within the field of drawing.

A week or so ago, I had an idea. I thought I knew the “framework” I would use to define my 100 day project. The idea was drawing based, but it is different than the daily drawing I currently do. It ties in with other types of drawing I do and want to do, and it would be good for me. But when I visualize my day-to-day project, it feels a bit flat. I can look ahead and know that even my existing support group at Instagram won’t necessarily know how to comment day-to-day. While that shouldn’t matter, community support does play a part. I already draw daily. I don’t “need” to do the 100 day project to make myself draw daily. But if I do this project and find myself with no support, it may be hard to continue. (I know from doing the portrait challenge this month that even when in a big and inspiring challenge, one in which you are confident about your work, you don’t always successfully make new connections and gain followers.)

Last year, I wanted to use #the100dayproject to really force me to work in a certain style that is important to me…. but sharing wasn’t easy. Almost immediately, the work, which was personal in nature to start, became too personal, too revealing. It was the project I needed and wanted to do. (It still is on some level.) But it was hard to sustain in public, and it is important to me to be doing creative work each day that I can share with some regularity (every other day or so, if not daily).

My idea this year isn’t all that different from last year. One iteration of my idea is much less involved. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more wary and uncertain I’ve become. I am not sure “that” is a body of work that will make sense for me. I might “want” that body of work, but I know it won’t have the same “look” as the work I do. And, I am not even convinced I have the stamina I need.

Once I realized I wasn’t sure about my project, I started re-thinking. Here are some of the things I realized:

  1. I don’t necessarily see #the100project as “instead of” my daily drawing. So I want to make sure it is something “extra” that I can fit in but that will still feel meaningful. If it is big enough (time intensive enough) that it will be “instead of” my daily drawing, then it does need to involve portraits (because I don’t want to go 100 days without drawing portraits). And, if that is the case, then it should not be medium-specific, because I also do ICAD and need the flexibility of my daily drawing also being done on index card during that challenge.
  2. I want to do x of something…. that might be viewed together but doesn’t mean just doing something for x days…. so not, for example, working in “x” journal for 100 days. I want 100 individual things either on a theme or using a certain construct/medium.
  3. I think it is absolutely important that whatever you choose you are proud to claim as your project in public. (You have to be excited and confident about the idea to put it out there 100 times.)
  4. I’ve toyed with something small in terms of the format itself that would provide the project outline — individual squares or gridded pages on which I complete a box a day, a target size for a square fabric collage each day, a size for a piece of embroidery each day, etc. (I suggested paint squares or even envelope backs in the CMP group. A sticky note series would also be a great way to give yourself a repeatable constraint that immediately unifies the project. Sticky notes…. I do like that idea a lot…. a whole lot. Yellow ones. Classic.)
  5. I’ve considered somehow working in color…. (which would help others relate to what I do but somehow has the least connection with any of the ideas in my head). I’ve thought about ways to cycle through colors of ink (different colored ink drawings for 100 days) or ways to draw on top of painted swatches. I’ve thought about (and discarded) ideas about using markers, which I have. I’ve thought about just doing paint swatches each day. That would be easy … but ultimately, it doesn’t have the resonance and texture I need to make the project personally meaningful.
  6. I’ve considered contours drawings, especially of people (from magazines or books or digital sources). This would fit in with some of what I continue to want in terms of branching out with portrait drawing. But I fear this isn’t meaty enough. I also have concerns about sharing what will look like over-simplified work.
  7. In theory, I will already be doing portraits as my daily drawing on most days…. but I don’t really want to simply peg #the100dayproject as 100 portraits…. unless I shake things up with different constraints. I could do them smaller. I could box them on a page. I could (as noted above) do contours and focus on simplification. I could do only famous people or only TV characters.
  8. I’ve considered a project that re-uses my existing drawings. As of today, this idea is one I’m still considering. It would concretely contribute to some of the goals I have, would force me to explore some things that remain goals of mine, would be freeform and, at the same time, would be a stretch. It would be easy to fit into my day and would let me play with portraits but also get new life out of older ones. This line of thought currently gets a gold star in my head, a turned down corner, a piece of string in the page so that I come back to it again and again as I weigh the possibilities. Is it meaty enough? It is, really, a version of what I was initially planning but one that builds realistic portraits into the mix….. yes.
  9. Worth repeating (for myself and as a reminder to you about you and your own projects)…. I have to pick something that will work on index cards, too, or else make sure I can manage both projects during June and July.
  10. I considered drawing 100 chairs. (True.) (You could consider drawing 100 book spines or book covers, a la Bibliophile (tune in to Episode 348 for more inspiration.)
  11. I’ve definitely considered 100 small portraits (small is not my thing) from a yearbook. (This goes back to the discussion above of small format. Working from a yearbook is definitely something I want to do. If I don’t do it with #the100dayproject, I may end up doing it for this year’s 100 people in a week project. (Another sticky note mental bookmark. I think this is my plan for that challenge. I’d like to take the yearbook and sit at the library and coffee shop and draw…. but be drawing from the yearbook — not from life. Okay, writing it down here…. I know that THIS is my plan for that week! Making sure my 100 day project will also allow me room to do the intensive one-week challenge is also important. 
  12. I considered a sketchnote a day, which fits in with other goals, but I know I couldn’t keep up with it. That kind of project isn’t one I can do sitting and watching TV at night (which is a pretty important part of what I choose), so it would have to be fit in differently. (Icon practice, on the other hand, would tie in but isn’t meaty enough.)

I think I am getting closer to making a decision. One thing I know is that for me, there’s a line between too complex and too easy. If I do this 100 thing…. I want it to have some form of personal meaning/interest factor. I could just paint a square in watercolor or gouache  every day and easily do 100. It would fulfill the challenge, but it wouldn’t have meaning for me. I wouldn’t grow in the process. For me, I want something that will give me room to grow but will also “be me.

On the FAQ for #the100dayproject, they suggest: “Make sure you can do it in 5-10 minutes a day.”

That surprised me to see! Maybe I am going about this all wrong!

I’ll keep thinking. Writing things out has already helped me see a bit more clearly what ideas do and don’t spark interest for me. 

It may seem funny to give it so much thought to this. I draw every day. Every day. My daily drawing habit and routine is a simple enough year goal – and anything goes. A contour counts. A portrait counts. A sketchnote can count. A cartoon panel can count. But somehow for the 100 day project, I want to have some cohesive thread that is more tightly held together than “just” a drawing a day.

I’m not really overthinking it. I just have to either find a project that feels right…. or not do it and just continue with my regular daily drawing (which makes me happy).

I hope that you, too, give it some thought. The #the100dayproject isn’t one everyone does or will find a good fit for myriad reasons. But if you are going to do it, it’s worth thinking through the what and the why.

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