The 100 Day Project

Illustrations Journey

Yesterday I finished up The 100 Day Project and thought it would be cool to trace back my steps and find key learnings and patterns that surfaced throughout the process. I initially thought that constant practice would be the most enriching result but the accountability factor and getting inspired by the energy of the community is what surprised me the most. I generally struggle with remaining involved with social media but feeling accountable for posting and seeing others following suit is what really made my process transformative.

I stumbled upon the “100 Day Project” a few weeks before it was starting and found the timing for this edition to be exactly what I needed. I read about it, listened to the podcasts and started thinking about what my project would be about. That was one of the hardest things to do because you really want to set the right tone. You don’t want to make it too narrow or too broad, you want to keep it open enough for it to be cohesive and ideas to flow easily. I considered that I’d only have about twenty minutes a day to really devote to this task—and I also tried to keep in mind that I had a cross-country move coming up smack in the middle of the challenge. 

I had started out with the idea of doing “100 Faces of Macondo”. Given that One Hundred Years of Solitude is a super long book with hundreds of characters that felt close to home. It seemed like a great idea to try to put a face to them day by day. So my first drawing was originally intended to be Úrsula Iguarán. I quickly realized that it would be a daunting task and I’d rather spend time drawing a bit more freely and not obsessing over giving these characters the detailing they deserved. I simplified it to: 100 Days of Line Portraits.
I’m a Graphic Designer by trade but didn’t really go to traditional fine arts school. I mostly doodle and learned how to use Adobe tools to my advantage but have always craved learning more about the illustrative side of things. I’d been taking Figure Drawing classes sporadically for the past few years and thought the mix of the two would be a cool start. I knew I wouldn’t have models to work with every day so I found inspiration on a selection of diverse images that I randomly found online. 

The first few line portraits were very simple and graphic without much line weight variation or particular detailing. I quickly started to feel the need for color and evolution of the basic structures, getting to the point of simplifying it to features. By the start of the second week I was adding color backgrounds and color blocking certain accent shapes. After the first fifteen (or so) days of this I started to feel the need to add more hand-drawn elements and happened to find inspiration in one of my figure drawing classes. I also played around with the idea of making scenes that could be seen continuously by swiping to the sides with the supplemental images feature on Instagram. I had a lot of fun with that and resurfaced it a few times throughout the project—especially when I’d miss a day or two and would catch up doing a triptych “swippeable” drawing. I also continued doing the color blocking and removing as many lines as possible while still getting the gist of the expressions. The first month went by pretty smoothly and I’d say it was the one where I saw the most progress. In the future I might be more prone to tackling 36 day projects.
After the first 30 days I started to sense the weight of daily life interruptions. I had to travel to Miami for a wedding and those four family packed days were not optimal creative conditions. On the plane ride back to New York I tried to catch up by doing a very odd conceptual piece that might be swimmers—or a sunset. I felt a little bit lost for ideas and had also been curious about photo interventions with very graphic elements. I dabbled with that for a few days but figured it wasn’t really a sustainable technique that I was deeply enjoying. So I went back to the hand-drawn graphics with color blocks. I changed the line weights a little bit even though I mostly gravitate towards keeping weights and using other elements for accent, like color. I particularly enjoyed the few pieces that were related to sailing, fishing and the ocean. During that time I also tried to apply the same style that I’d been developing for some illustrations at work. 

A week before my cross-country move a friend asked me to draw a portrait of her dog as a part of the challenge. I figured I hadn’t tried animal portraits, and I do love dogs, so I gave that a try. It might have been the stress of the move, the business of packing or how hard it is to draw dog hair but I didn’t enjoy it at all. So by day fifty I was pretty unmotivated because I hadn’t seen progress in a while, I didn’t like my last few dog portraits and decided to abandon the project while taking a few weeks off to drive from New York to Los Angeles.
Between packing, driving and settling into a new routine, I ended up not drawing or posting anything for almost a month! That’s when accountability simply becomes a guilt-trip and the project can feel a bit more like a mandatory task than an exciting creative output. I wasn’t feeling like drawing on the computer anymore so I downloaded an app called SketchBook. I took my phone near a lake and what came out was mostly a bunch of abstract and very straight lined doodles of my road-trip. I decided to still use them for the project because they were the line portraits of my trip regardless of the lack of cohesion with the previous months of work. I was very happy with the odd results of this sequence but was again left a bit restless on what to do next. I let it simmer and tried not to give myself a hard time. I was already caught up with day 80, which was a ton!
The last sequence of “Tiny Twenty” came about a month later when I heard that there was going to be a 100 Day Project Meetup in Los Angeles. I used it as the last bit of fuel I needed to finish up and have a complete series for show and tell. I only had about ten days, so I finally did some hand sketching. I grabbed one large sheet of paper and drew tiny squares of 1x1 in. each. I then started to doodle very rough and organic little people. I scanned and digitized the faces so they’d somewhat match the other vector pieces I’d been drawing so far. I was really happy with how these last twenty little pieces look like when displayed together as a set. It was also awesome to share the experience with some great folks out here in California last night. I was super happy to finish and am now obsessively thinking of what to create next.

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