I am not a painter, I am in service to beauty. I am not a writer, I am in service to translating experience. I am not in the business of selling products, I am in service to those who are reminded of something important in themselves when they are near an object that I made in solitude, and so want it in their space.
I am in service to those I love and who love me. To the world and to my life.
It would be an disservice to those things to wait until I am inspired to care for them. There is a notion of showing up, inspired or not.
When approaching a blank page, take yourself out of the spotlight and off the stage and put the focus onto that which you’re serving. If you’ve felt it would serve your overall happiness to create, then you are in service to your happiness. It removes the pressure to perform and puts in its rightful place the practice of tender, curious dedication.
This is the importance of doing something—anything—every day for a significant amount of time at least once in your life, if not regularly. The amount of time which might be called significant depends on the chosen activity as well as your own precident: if you haven't painted in 20 years, painting a little bit every day for two weeks is significant. If you've gone fly fishing a couple times a month for a year, then going every day for thirty days will transform you. If you are beginning running to take your health and vitality back after a long stint in the grips of sedentariness (often a symptom of busyness), it would be physically unwise to run every day for more than a few days before resting. But those few days are significant.
A painting a day for a year
In 2014 I did a painting or drawing every single day for the entire year. It is of course to me appalling and shocking, and perhaps to others confusing and [hopefully] inspiring, to go back and look at my first month, or even couple of months. I had no voice because I wasn't listening. I had no continuity because I wasn't really looking. Art is not just listening but hearing, not just looking but seeing. But first you have to learn to listen and to look.
It took unwavering committment in the face of some pretty harrowing obstacles. That happened to be the year that I left a very long term relationship and threw myself into a complete emotional, spiritual, mental, financial, material, and creative crisis. I worked 60 hour weeks for the last five months of that year to pull myself out of it, a precedent which has been hard to break ever since. I moved twice, started 3 jobs and quit two. Was getting client work that was a little over my head. And I still made a drawing every. single. day. Days when I couldn't get myself out of bed. Days when I had to pee and brush my teeth at the same time and run from the front door to the car door because I was too busy to do otherwise. Days when I had to have every meal made for the week by Sunday night because otherwise I wouldn't eat. Days on end when I was completely and utterly disconnected from myself let alone anything bigger.
The experience undoubtedly leap-frogged me over what would've probably been a few continued years of (in my eyes) almost unbearable mediocrity and feelings of incapability that I'm not totally positive I would have persevered through. I learned a lot about showing up, making work, allowing there to be days where you hate everything you attempt but finishing anyway, exploring a subject like a song, each day the rhythm.
I would never do it again. But you should totally do it.
Inktober: 31 drawings in 31 days
After almost two years of a break from any kind of committment, I tried and failed at #inktober (a popular project started by Jake Parker) for a little pick-me-up of prolifery a couple years in a row. Finally last year I made it through.
The drawings began awkwardly and I couldn't find a visual rhythm. I was taking the "ink" part literally and so was working in black and white. Unable to rely on my usual tricks of ethereal fades and color to tell a story, I felt like I had one hand tied behind my back.
Now, I think it was the most artistically important work I've ever made. I ended up making a zine (well, actually a pair of two zines) from it, which sold out and gave me more creative satisfaction than any other project to date.
I'm doing it again this year and am considering doing a yearly zine based on Inktober. I'm currently 3 days behind. That's ok. I'm going to have 31 drawings by the end of the 31 days and to me, this time around, that's what's most important. That's the deal, you get to make the rules, loopholes, and leeways—just don't let them negate ultimately doing the work.
Starting in January, I'm going to paint a background for the minor arcana of my tarot cards every day until all 56 are completed to jumpstart me on finishing that project by the end of the year. Depending on how I’m feeling and how my life is going, I may roll that into a 100-days project, which I’ve never done specifically.
I'd love to hear about experiences you've had with doing a-thing-a-day (even if it's not visual art.) Feel free to email me or DM me on Instagram.