History of My Every Day Project and The 100 Day Project for 2016 Starts Next Week... Want to Join In?

I have developed a process of making art on a regular basis which I call the Every Day Project. In January 2015, I challenged myself to come up with 14 days of designs. In a way, I wanted to prove to myself that I had many creative ideas and wouldn't hit the wall of creator’s block. I knew that designing my projects is my favorite part of the process so I decided to do more of it every day. I started a notebook in Evernote and added an entry each day. At first, I started out with sketches of completed projects with actual measurements of each design element and decisions on which fabric I would use. This quickly became such a burden that I did not want to do it every day and Resistance (See last week's article about Steven Pressfield's book War of Art) reared its ugly head.  So I improvised and decided I really like the design part and could commit to at least coming up with a design idea and document it each day. I completed my 14 day challenge, but by the end of the 14 days, I ended up just adding photos of design inspirations for my daily entries. This was enough. I really did not want to come up with an entire project idea every day. It would create a mental backlog of projects I could never complete. I really just was training myself to look for inspiration around me. I was hooked on doing something every day. But I had no idea where to start.

In April 2015, I found out about a program called Creative Mornings.  There are chapters in cities around the world where they hold breakfast morning meetings every month with great speakers. I followed a link from their website to a list of newsletters that they really liked.  I stumbled upon the 100 Day Project for 2015 being sponsored by Elle Luna and The Great Discontent magazine. But the start date was April 6 and it was just a few days away. 

I was quite nervous to delve into the 100 Day Project, but I knew that feeling was a sign to pursue this and just do it. In hindsight, this project changed the way I work and make art.

I needed a small size project I could make and post a photo of every day. I decided on a 6 inch square and an improv sewing process. I picked a variety of colors to use and stayed with them. I needed something to tie all the pieces together. I knew the designs would purposely by varied, every day. So colors needed to be the connecting link. I sew 25 days together in consecutive order into a larger square. The process is a traditional quilting style of piecing a quilt top but the subject matter is decidedly modern with an abstract art emphasis seeing each 6 inch square as a piece of abstract art all in itself. 

The 6 inch square became such a habit in 100 days that I decided to continue. I went 250 days of creating every day in 2015. I only took a two week break over the Winter Holidays (And I missed it). I was more productive than ever by just making one 6 inch square a day. I have contemplated this phenomenon for a long time because it is so counterintuitive. 

The 100 Day Project in 2015 was a challenge for me artistically. As I mentioned, I had color themes of bright bold colors balancing hot and cold with neutrals. However I had no design restrictions.

The freedom was intoxicating at times, but a huge burden other times. When the sky is the limit, it is often hard to get started.  

So I knew the next series would have to have some design guidelines if I was going to keep going. Going forward, I decided to pick a theme for the 25 day pieces. I preselect the fabric and decide on general design guidelines for a sort of structure and then ask what if I do this…and I push the limits of that design. I play with the possible variations and allow myself to break some rules if need be. This must have kicked the Resistance to the curb because I am still making art every day.

Screenshot of Elle Luna's Instagram post about the 100 Day Project for 2016.

Screenshot of Elle Luna's Instagram post about the 100 Day Project for 2016.

Now the 100 Day Project is running again from April 19 to July 27 in 2016. I am going to do it again, or rather just continue to do it. This year I am designing the next 100 days to be a coordinated theme. I have chosen to use the 4 Elements: Fire, Earth, Sky and Water. I have been sketching ideas searching for the balance of constraints and freedom. I need the design and color guidelines to be easily accessible with enough freedom to play around and make each day interesting and new.

Interested in joining me? Here is a link to Elle Luna's Instagram page.

Debating what would be a good project to do? What have you always wanted to try?  Watercolors? Try a 5 inch square a day. Like listening to new music? Make a new playlist on Spotify every day and post them. Play the piano? Learn a few measures of a song out of a new music book each day. Like your phone camera? Take a photo each day and explore new photography apps and filters. Like smoothies? 100 days of smoothies. New to knitting? Knit for 30 minutes a day on a project. You get the idea.

After 100 days of doing any creative activity, you will learn what you like to do and what you do not like to do. It will change you, I guarantee. You will be learning how to use your creative voice. You can decide to share what you make or not. Post on any social media platform you like. If that is not your cup of tea, document in a journal or photo album. The community on Instagram for the 100 days project is so supportive.  They become your accountability partners and I still follow several of the people from the 100 Day Project last year.

Take the leap and join in. 

Design Choices and Bringing It All Together

Last week, I wrote about Color Choices and Context. The next step in the creative process for me is choosing a design and bringing it all together. Actually the process is not very linear at all. Sometimes color choices come first. Sometimes design choices come first. Sometimes the idea arrives with both color and design choices fully formed at the same time.

10 Blues Series, 2015.  Day 253, Stained Glass. 10 inches by 10 inches. Cotton fabric wrapped around stretched canvas.

Some of my favorite designs start with an inkling and some daydreaming. When I approach the studio, I have a hazy vision of what I want to do. For example, the piece Stained Glass from the 10 Blues series was an idea that I had been kicking around for a while with bright colors in a free-form chaotic pattern in a narrow band across a solid square of charcoal grey. The design was foremost in my mind. I kept that idea light in my thinking and felt free to experiment in the studio. It was fun to make and I thought of stained glass windows with the strong contrast between the bright colorful light and a dark interior.

I liked this design so much I modified it for my first 25 day series of 2016, Bits and Pieces of 2015. The design for that series was simple. Use fabric scraps from all of last year's pieces for the Every Day Project and sew them within a square of charcoal grey fabric. No other rules. I loved the freedom and the series has loads of variety from square to square.

Sometimes the color ideas come first as in the Sun Corn series. Once I had the colors in mind, I remembered the traditional quilt design of a square inside a square. I was bringing it all together, the color and design choice. I decided the large squares could be all different yellows and the inside squares could be purples, oranges or grey blues like heirloom corn kernel colors. However,  I never want to limit myself too much but just the right amount to give some structure. Perhaps I may want to choose a rectangle inside the square or add more colors. I need to have this freedom of choice to make it more interesting in the studio every day. See my daily squares in this series in my Daily Instagram Photos gallery.

I have trained myself to make decisions quickly. Decisions is my word of the year. I think this is one of the most important things the Every Day Project has taught me.

Nine squares in the  Bits and Pieces of 2015 series, 2016.  6 inches square each. Cotton fabric.

Make a decision. Pick the colors, the design and move on. Trust your instincts.  Get creating. Spend some time planning but it is more important to just start.

You never know where an idea will come from. One of my dear friends from high school suggested a design idea last week. Take an iconic painting, like a Matisse or Monet, break down the artwork into abstract squares for the series and then reassemble them.  Of course, I would not do it in any way anyone would probably recognize them as the original. But it gives me a thread of an idea. She also gave me another source for color inspiration, the commercial seed catalog from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Flowers, fruits and vegetables are a never-ending source of both color and design ideas. I am grateful for her suggestion. 

Thank you to the commenters on the blog for offering other sources for color inspiration like the book Interaction of Color by Josef Albers and ColourLovers.com site. 

Looking for inspiration and sharing that inspiration with others is a great way to get out of your head and discover new ways of approaching your creative outlet be it scrap booking, photography, collage, interior design, zentangling, or watercolors, etc.

You need to tend the garden of inspiration to keep ideas growing.

Keep the ideas coming! 

What I heard at my Artist's Reception

My intention for the Artist’s Reception last Friday for my The Every Day Project Exhibit was to have good conversations about art and creativity. Happily, this happened during the whole reception and it was really FUN. I listened carefully to what people were saying for two main reasons. I want to know how my art resonates with the viewer. Sometimes your art is so close, it is difficult to see the "forest for the trees.” In addition and most importantly, I am always looking for article topics that you readers might find interesting. This is what I heard...

I gathered a gold mine of ideas but the most consistent conversation was how The Every Day Project inspired people to look differently at creativity, to either create more often or to figure out what to create that has meaning for them.  
People were attracted to the idea of the Every Day Project and having a routine of a regular creative habit. I think the desire to create is universal and that is why people are so attracted to this idea. It makes the process do-able. Once we figure out what interests us, we have an open door to a secret garden of our own making, a gift to ourselves to step out of time even for a short period of time. It may sound hokey, but it is true. 

Many people at the Reception have been reading my articles for the past year but several were new to my art. I was particularly interested in what resonated from my past writings and what actions people took because of what they read.

One person started using a goal setting app on her phone to help her commit to creating for 15 minutes a day. I love that she put no pressure on herself for what she is supposed to be doing for the 15 minutes. She could just think about creating and she could do whatever she wants in that 15 minutes. The freedom she has set up for herself will make her want to do this habit every day. This 15 minutes a day could be great goal for people who aren't quite sure what to do creatively or those stuck with a creative block.

Take 15 minutes to think about what you might like to do. These whispers and nudges come to us when we are quiet. 

One person talked to me a few days before the reception about setting up a regular creative habit for her art, maybe an Every Other Day Project. How often you create is less important than committing to a regular frequency. We discussed how to set up the project for success with many of the decisions about color palette and size decided at the beginning of the project making the daily creative process even easier.
Someone else discussed how she is inspired to think of ideas of how to bring a creative habit into her art routine to prepare for an upcoming art show. 
Another person is thinking about adding a daily habit of drawing to get back into the habit of creating when she graduates from college.
A fellow math and science person (like myself) who texted me before the Reception said she is opening her thought to what she might want to pursue creatively.
One person spent time looking very closely at the 4 pieces hung on the brick wall. He was very interested in the idea of a visual diary as I sew each day in consecutive order without rearranging the designs. 
Others were interested in the idea of a set time to create each day. I used to make my daily square in the morning at 9 AM but now I use my mornings for writing. I've moved my studio time to 1 PM. If I cannot make it at 1 PM, I make sure to set a timer on my phone for the revised time to make sure I get it done

One thing I learned over the years is you never know who will really connect with your art. Make no assumptions. As I talked to people, I realize my art resonates with people through both the color and design.  I find that so interesting because those are my two pillars for each piece I make. I decide on my inspiration and then ask two questions...what color and what design.  People are attracted to color. It makes non-object art accessible. The movement within the design is visually interesting and that is what this is all about. 

This show and my art are not about ego, my ego or your ego. This is about creating what lights you up and what brings you joy. Some critics in the art world could be howling about this democratic notion of the arts. But I don't care. I have seen people benefitted so much (me included) by changing their view of themselves to "I am creative." Talking to people at the reception about art and creativity encourages me to keep writing and talking about these ideas that I hope make a difference in people's lives.  

So create more and enjoy the ride.

Join the conversation. Sharing our stories does truly help and inspire others. Add your comments on my blog from my website. Share what you have been thinking about or creating. 

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What is your Artist Story?

Stories are important. It's how we as humans communicate with each other. We tell our stories of where we come from, what we do and why. Everyone has a story. We can learn about ourselves from other people's stories. I am sharing the story about how I started seeing myself as an artist to encourage you to think about your unique form of creativity and how you see yourself.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an artist as "a person who is very good at something.” When I see people cook wonderful dinners out of the ingredients they happen to find in the refrigerator or dedicated journal writers fill up notebook after notebook, I see them all as artists. Being an artist is as simple as expressing yourself in a way that has meaning to you. This isn't about having your art hung in museums or being famous, this is about valuing your creative expression because it brings joy and balance to our lives.

What is so important about claiming yourself as an artist? Seeing yourself as an artist helps you value your form of self-expression and nurture it so it will grow.

The story of how I became an artist is a simple one, but maybe an unexpected one. I was good at math and science as a child and studied geology in college. I did not consider myself artistic in any sense of the word since I could not draw. In hindsight, I realize this was ridiculous. My favorite part of geology was the bright colorful minerals and the patterns in the rocks I was studying. In my 30's, I knew I needed an activity that challenged me intellectually while I was at home with my young children. I was drawn to the idea of quilting and learned the craft through online tutorials and library books. Quilting combines both my love of color and math. But I soon realized it was more than just a hobby as I found myself daydreaming about fabric art designs on a daily basis.

Woven Kimono,  2010.

For several years, I made fabric art on a project-to-project basis, as gifts or to fill a space on the wall.  I started to see myself as an artist when a friend saw my piece Woven Kimonos on the wall in my house and declared, "You are an artist."  I slowly started seeing myself as an artist even more through teaching creativity classes about fabric art and spending more time in the studio sewing my ideas into fabric art.

Four pieces from The 100 Day Project.  Days 1-25.  Days 26-50.  Days 51-75.  Days 76-100, 2015.

In April 2015, I started the Hundred Day Project on Instagram sponsored by a Elle Luna and the Great Discontent magazine. This project caused a seismic shift in how I saw my art and myself.  I challenged myself to make art on a daily basis and it became more fun and playful, more complex and yet more simple at the same time. I found a process that works for me making a daily six-inch fabric art square and then sewing 25 daily squares together. I continued making art daily after the 100 days and call it The Every Day Project. I created 10 large 30" square pieces in 2015. By spending about an hour in the studio every day, I have created more fabric art in 2015 than I have any other year in the past 16 years. My work has become more bold and abstract as I challenge myself to work in a series and develop themes. This has led to my first solo art exhibit The Every Day Project currently showing 6 large pieces and 10 smaller daily squares throughout January and February, 2016.

Let’s invest in ourselves to get very good at something that we enjoy doing.  

Words have power. Our stories have power. Saying "I am an artist" has power. Everyone has their own Artist Story. Claim yours.