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).

weekly bundle, 2011 (the label means bundle #1 in week 45)

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!


  1. Last year, after being inspired by a week at QSDS, my friend Karen and I resolved to make a square, in cloth or paper or drawn, every day. I made it through a couple of weeks. The problem was that I spent an hour or two each day picking out fabrics, cutting and sewing the block. Sometimes I made several blocks of the same design, and finally I was inspired to start a quilt, thus refocusing my energy and losing the daily art. I would love to give it another try. I've been playing around with contour drawing and I enjoy it. It's very quick and surely my skills of observation and execution would improve. It's also a good excuse to buy a sketchbook and use that set of expensive pencils my husband gave me last year. The problem is, when to do it? It has to be part of the daily routine or it just won't happen. I'll give it a try for the month of January and see what happens. Thanks for the nudge!

    1. I hear your concerns -- how about 10 minutes right after breakfast? Keep your sketchbook and pencils right there by your chair.

      Good luck!!! Let me know how it works out.

    2. I think my comment disappeared, so a second try. I love daily art projects and am trying to hone in on one for 2017. Thanks for the ideas. I am fascinated by your mention of your art book group. Would you talke about that more? How is it structured, what do you read, etc. Thanks and Happy New Year!

  2. Funny, I was at sixes and sevens about next year. I had found I was spending far too much of the little time/energy I have on it.
    But I have been sitting puzzling it out as I sort out some idea and goals for next year. And then it all rather fell together. So, I am looking forward to getting a start in a few days.

  3. I stitch a full moon once a month.
    I know it is not quite the same as daily art.
    It began when I was wondering how many full moons do I have left to see in my lifetime? when I realized it is less than I have seen so far I decided I wanted to remember them some how so why not in stitch.
    I find myself thinking about it as the time approaches and I use scraps from what ever I am working on at the time, or scraps from others projects.
    I usually try to represent the view or weather conditions and stitch it on the full moon night.
    I don't take long and I find I enjoy the short challenge. At the moment it is in a scroll format. some months it is a challenge to find it in the sewing mess!
    I stitch small using different techniques.
    I add the date embroidered in roman numerals on the moon surface, why, I guess I see it as a code for some future textile sleuth.
    The recent super moon was fun to depict.
    I love the moon.
    Cheers Jan

  4. Very inspiring. Not sure I can do a daily one, but a weekly one would be doable.