It’s April 6th, 2015 and I have a blank sheet of paper staring back at me. Little watercolor paint blocks are neatly arranged in a ceramic holder. Brushes are resting on top of a tumbler filled to the brim with water. I haven’t been in this situation for a while. My mind is racing. What should I do? What colors do I use? What story do I want to tell? Start with home, I tell myself. I swipe a swirl of blue from one edge to another. The Thames. Yellow washes the paper, getting richer and darker near my neighborhood in East London. The radiant energy pulses from where I’m metaphorically sitting on the paper. A dot marks the spot, because why not? My first painting is complete.
One focus for myself this year is on creating. The majority of my work in 2014 was done sat in front of a computer and I was missing the tangibility of drawing, painting and building. This void needed to be filled in order to make me feel whole. When I read about #The100DayProject on The Great Discontent, it was the opportunity that I was desperate to find, to force me back into making.
Based on graphic designer Michael Beirut’s graduate graphic design course at Yale, the premise is to choose one action to perform every day for 100 days straight. Artist Elle Luna and The Great Discontent teamed up this year to reach a global audience. The rules are easy: take a picture of what you’re working on, upload it to Instagram and tag it with your own project hashtag and #The100DayProject. It’s not about perfection but rather production. I chose to do one painting or drawing each day. Other people are doing a dance move each day, knitting one section of a scarf, and writing haiku. The options are endless!
One hundred days in and I still have another 19 paintings to do. But I don’t care about being behind. This project is purely for myself. It’s given me a place to explore and create without any preconceived notions. I’ve painted favorite places that I’ve visited; the entire alphabet because I love hand drawing letters; portraits of people from around the world; and patterns inspired by African textiles. Tonight when the next canvas in staring back at me is when I will decide what’s next.
Over planning, over strategizing, and over calculating every move can be draining and prevent the unexpected. Carving out thirty minutes of painting into nearly every day over the past three months has reminded me to make space for chance happenings, wandering, and opening up for new possibilities. I thoroughly enjoy the work I do in social impact design and wouldn’t change it. But it can be heavy and serious and all-consuming. Dedicating time and energy towards personal, creative projects is needed to bring lightness and flexibility back into the work.
What new personal project or experience have you been working on recently? How do you incorporate personal or creative time into your day? I’d love to hear it!
Image sources: Katie Crepeau, Elle Luna