The 100 Day Project, Part 2
Yesterday was DAY 100!!! of the 100 Day Project, and I am so proud to say I managed to pull this crazy thing off and not miss a day. You should be worried about someone who admits openly to being that obsessive. I myself am too busy trying to focus on all the good things I learned and accomplished, instead of allowing myself to be bogged down by everything that still frustrates me about both my work itself and my work as it’s presented online.
But we’ll get to that.
First, the good! The very good. My number one goal for this project in the first place was achieved: I’m back in love with color! Sometimes that looks like simply embracing my desire to USE ALL THE COLORS. I have to admit, June being Pride Month was an extra fun time to be thinking in rainbows. But I also realized that what materials I start with make a tremendous difference as well. In this last leg of the project I started making these cut up lattice collages like I used to do in school, where I start with solid fields of color and focus on dividing and reassembling, creating the composition structurally. In my mind they’re almost 2D sculptures or paper-as-fabric… works that exist on the threshold of dimension. Starting with color is a great way to end up with color.
The other tremendous victory was proving to myself that I have time to make something every day if I make time. I am a natural cheerleader and can easily get wrapped up in building, protecting, and championing others’ work. A lot of people around me are doing a lot of really great things! But this was a good excuse to prioritize and champion my own work. I have great ideas, too, and people might help champion me if only I took my own work as seriously as I take everyone else’s! I am humbled to say that people around me are already doing that. I am amazed at people’s generosity and positive feedback.
Now for my frustrations (little purple devil emoji here).
Every day being a new day has a double-edged quality to it; starting fresh can be a blessing and a curse. The traditional solution for this for artists is working in series: you make something similar over and over again, getting better and generating multiples which can be shown together for dramatic effect, and sold separately to multiple people. Working in series allows you to build a body of cohesive work over time, but not get bogged down creating one un-sell-ably precious masterwork.
Instagram naturally rewards artists who work in series: similar works in an unbroken grid, posted individually and frequently, is quite striking. If I were to do this project again, I think I’d get a bunch of uniform squares to use as a base and accentuate the multiplicity of the project. Imagine how striking those works would be in a gallery setting as well!
There is joy, however, in treating each day as an experiment, and I opted for joy. It’s not a bad choice. But it didn’t make the most of the medium that is Instagram, and I didn’t really think about how this Instagram-based project’s true, ultimate medium would be photography. The works in most cases existed to be photographed; only a handful were homed and will be displayed as physical, stand alone works.
The other uncomfortable truth about art on Instagram is learning to live with the inconsistencies of online feedback. Sharing an experiment every day can feel pretty vulnerable, and it’s hard not to take fewer likes as some sort of indictment, much less more likes as some kind of mandate.
Metrics aren’t a great way to get true feedback. Talking to people in person is better. And I can’t overstate how encouraging the direct message and in person feedback I got was throughout this project. When someone seeks you out to say “I love this!,” unsolicited, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s why I create: I’m trying to multiply the wonder I see in the world.
Finally, there is an Ira Glass quote I came across on a few Instagram accounts of others engaged in their own 100 Days project that encouraged me and I think will help set the tone for me going forward, about the frustration of your work not quite matching your vision. Ira argues that that “gap” for young makers is because they have killer taste.
For me, the last decade was often about turning the volume down on my inner critic enough to allow myself to just make. You can’t get better any other way. But going forward, I need to start letting myself get pickier by degrees. The wild experiments are great to refresh and recharge my creative muscles, but they are not the main event. At heart, I’m not a sprinter. I’m a marathoner. And I need to let myself build up some endurance, even if that means sacrificing speed. I’ve proven to myself that I can meet the goals I set, and so it’s time to start setting some loftier goals.