Thursday, December 29, 2016
Time for daily art thinking
Faithful readers know that I'm a huge believer in daily art -- or perhaps I should call it regular art, because some of my projects are weekly or monthly or otherwise time-denominated, but in any case it's a project where you commit to do something every so often. And then you do your best to actually follow through.
I've done daily art every year but one since the turn of the century. Six of those years were something of a performance art project: I mailed a postcard to my mother every day that I didn't see her in person. But since 2009 I've been more visually oriented, making or photographing something every day.
daily photo, 2010
Of course, once you've done it this long, the concept takes on a life of its own. Ask me why I do daily art, I'll tell you that I like the discipline and structure, that it makes me think about art every day, that the regular work improves my skill and focus, that the repetition allows me to explore ideas without the risk of a "real" work. But I also do daily art because I do daily art. It has become a part of my life and I would feel bereft, missing an essential part of me, without it.
daily hand-stitching, 2012
So here it is, the last week in December, and I'm still not clear about how I'm going to define my project for 2017. For months I thought I would simply continue my 2016 drawings, but inspiration has deserted me in the last month or so (maybe because my last sketchbook has brown paper?) and the thought of another year of it is depressing. Shall I return to collage? Or try to think of a fiber project? Don't know yet.
But I do know that I want to encourage others to try regular art. If you think a whole year is too long a commitment, try for a month, as I have persuaded my art book club to do in January. If you're in love at the end of the month, keep going. If not, at least you have a nice little body of work to be proud of.
monthly fabric collage, 2015
I've done similar limited-duration projects in the past by starting a 50-page sketchbook on some arbitrary date, and doing daily newspaper poems until the book was filled.
Or you might do what my art pal Debby has done. Constitutionally unable to do daily art, last year she bought a sketchbook and resolved to draw on both sides of every page before the end of the year. If she missed a day or a week she knew she'd still fulfill her resolution, even if that requires several drawings on New Year's Eve.
daily newspaper haiku, 2011 (I don't know why there was a Fourth of July story in the August 11 newspaper, but there was)
One year I resolved to do a bundle of something every week -- or more than one a week if the spirit moved me. Several weeks I did only one bundle; other times I made a bunch. Some years I've done weekly or monthly art.
The trick is in framing your commitment. Don't try to do too much, because you will be frustrated; don't set rules that may prove difficult (for instance, don't plan a sewing machine project if you're booked for two weeks in Europe). You may want to set a time limit -- 10 or 15 minutes max? But make yourself do something that you wouldn't do otherwise, perhaps something you've been wanting to try, or wanting to improve, so you can see progress and accomplishment as the year goes by. You might even choose to link daily art to unpleasant household chores, such as throwing something away every day (make yourself document it, to make the project feel less like work and more like art). And remember, you don't have to show this to anybody if you don't want to. It's a totally low-risk way to explore something you're not particularly good at (but you will get much better at it as the year goes by, I promise).
All of my daily art for the last five years is documented in my daily art blog, and occasionally discussed along the way in this blog. I hope that at least a few of you might get inspired to try regular art. January 1 is a good day to start, but maybe you'll choose your birthday, or Inauguration Day, or Martin Luther King's holiday, or some other time. Let me know how it works out!
And Happy New Year!