Lessons Learned: Project 365

Not long after ringing in the New Year, just past midnight, on what was January 1, 2014, I started a project with the following pencil sketch...

This project just popped into my head and I proposed to myself that I would create 365 visual projects for the year 2014. Ideally, a project would be completed every day. It didn't matter what medium or how good or bad the project turned out. The goal was just to do it.

Like Frederick Franck's 5th commandment, "You shall not draw with exhibitions in mind, nor to please any critic but yourself", each project had no audience in mind. Many projects were inspired from current events, news, articles, tweets, and things my friends said or did. Some were, shall I say, "uninspired", yet others were filled with passion and creativity.

"Can of Unknown" is some sort of mystery food from a video game that my friends play online.

There were days that I wanted to quit. Just like most human beings, I might feel overwhelmed, bored or tired. Some days I wondered what I was thinking on January 1st so early in the morning (affected by lack of sleep more than champagne). Then there were days where I was brimming with ideas and creativity, or inspiration inexplicably coursed through my veins. On those days, I might catch up on a week's worth of creative pieces or get ahead of the project entirely.

I'll admit, a few of the projects were design ideas or illustrations that my clients rejected. Being their creator, I had grown fond of them and thought they deserved a life elsewhere, so I went ahead and allowed them to develop. I often thought, if nothing else, it was good practice.


In the end, I have a project that no one really cares about, but me...a body of work... 365 images, designs, digital and ink illustrations, pencil drawings, and photographs. They are all mine and I made them. They prove to me that I can accomplish something, that I can stick with something (for better or worse) and in the process, learn from my mistakes, improve and learn. I have most certainly honed my skills in planning, design, composition, color, and execution. My knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have grown immensely. By posting many of these projects to social media, I've learned about who "likes" what and where. I've learned about hashtags and I've seen a keen interest in people wanting to get back to the basics (pencils, pens and paintbrushes, rather than pixels and vectors).

Would I recommend such a project? Most definitely! I believe in pushing yourself to see how far you can go. Just like when I'm out riding my bicycle and I hit 15 miles with 10 more left to get home. The thought occurs to me to quit, rest, hitch a ride, but I just can't. I just won't give up (even though, sometimes I probably should).

In the past 6 years I've ridden half of century (50 miles) twice. I've reached the point of exhaustion and feeling like I just couldn't keep going (particularly on the Hilly Hundred), but in the end, it's all worth the endurance (and the hot shower) for there is a certain joy that comes with knowing you can take something on and see it through.


…and the Ten Commandments of Frederick Franck

For a moment, let us forget everything we think we know about inspiration. It’s only an influence. It does not move you, it only stimulates you. You must choose wether or not to see it, or feel it. Most of all, you must choose wether or not you act upon it. Another thing is that… INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE. It really is.

On January 1, 2014, I took upon myself a project to create something every day and I, unimaginatively, named this project “365 Days of Creation”. I have no limit on what I can create, what style it’s in, what size it is, or in what medium (other than visual). The project is simply, to create and I do.

When I was very young, my mother had a book by an artist and author named Frederick Franck. The book was titled, “Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation”. In this book, Frank wrote “Ten Commandments” and the first one was, “You shall draw everything and every day”. This commandment itself is zenlike and has always intrigued me philosophically. Is it possible to draw EVERYTHING, EVERY DAY? What does he mean by “everything”? The possibility/impossibility of it sends me into contemplation and it certainly must be the subconscious inspiration for my project as a whole.

Today, as I write this, will be the 67th day of the year 2014 and my 67th project (which is yet to be determined). So far, I have found that on some days I will create more than one project and on others I will struggle to create one project that I consider decent. But, like Franck’s fourth commandment, “You shall not adore your good drawings and promptly forget your bad ones”, I promptly shrug and move on to the next one.

I’ve realised that this project is NOT about drawing pictures or creating anything in particular, but that it is about finding the inspiration to do so. It is fairly easy, as a graphic designer to know what your client wants or work with them to find the design that is right for them. It is another thing to draw from the void some sort of inspiration that pushes you to create.

First thoughts of an inspiration may be, “Is it worthy?” Should I validate this mere concept by materialising it, and giving it life? (I am not a parent, but I sometimes wonder if this is what goes through the minds of those who willingly reproduce.)

Franck’s seventh and eighth commandments are, “You shall consider the mouse you draw as more important than the contents of all the museums in the world, and…You shall love the ten thousand things with all your heart and a blade of grass as yourself”. Who am I to judge this thing I draw and sometimes this “thing” is completely imaginary and springs forth from only my mind. The artwork, itself, is often a message I wish to convey, such as…I WISH MORE WOMEN WERE INVOLVED IN SCIENCE…


Franck’s second commandment is, “You shall not wait for inspiration, for it comes not while you wait but while you work”, is difficult. I often need outside stimulous. Wether it is listening to my friends play a video game killing zombies and finding “cans of unknown” (which apparently can make you ill)…

or watching a PBS documentary on Zeppelins…


I am now excited at increasing my ability to find more inspiration in more places, within and without.

I can now create from my own thoughts and emotions as well as from external inspiration. I can create from negative ideas or positive ideas and I can turn them around.

For instance, I am a substitute teacher. It’s unpredictable, unstable and doesn’t put bread on my table, but I love it. There are students who make me laugh and one’s that make me cry. There are students who piss me off and others who make me joyous. I inspire them (because I often draw while they work) and they inspire me.

An example of turning a negative into a positive, is something I hear students say all of the time that annoys and disheartens me… “I hate reading”. I have thought over and over what I could draw that would make these kids more interested in reading. Coercive? Funny? Subversive? Inspirational? It’s hard to tell what motivates them, so I came up with the following drawings, all inspired by this simple statement about how they hate reading…


Now, I will tell you, that I don’t consider the “zombie bird” my finest work, but it was an idea, an inspiration that I made a reality and I learned several things from it, including: How to draw a zombie bird, how bad my hand drawn lettering can look, and that it’s nearly impossible to get kids to put the book,“To Kill A Mocking Bird”, and the zombie apocalypse TV show, “The Walking Dead”, together.

What I’ve discovered is that inspiration certainly does not come to those who wait, but to those who do, who seek, and those who allow themselves to be inspired as well as to inspire. Inspiration is now part of my every waking moment. It makes me hear and see things differently. It has made me realise that the world is speaking to me and that I must create, “not with (the thought of) exhibitions in mind”, (part of Franck’s Fifth Commandment), but because it is part of who I am.

Lastly, I learned that drawing is knowing. In this day and age of photography, internet and technology, many have strayed from more traditional forms of art. Drawing with a pencil, a pen or a marker, is much more intimate than creating an image in Illustrator will ever be. (Sorry, Adobe, but I still love you too!) Sculpting in clay, is also much more satisfying (and less frustrating) than making a 3D object in Blender, to me.

One day, while substituting for a science teacher, I found the remains of a starfish and thought I’d take a shot at drawing it. In my mind, I knew it would be difficult and that it probably would’t come out perfect, but I did it anyway.What I ended up creating was this…

…but what I learned was intimate and invaluable…the intricacies that make up a starfish. I drew every leg, bump and projectile and I became fascinated with the amazingness of what “starfish” actually IS. I thought about crocodiles and dinosaur horns and wondered if it had really been purple when it was alive or if someone had coloured it that way. The act of drawing it sparked my imagination and INSPIRED ME.

Inspiration leads to inspiration, so I urge you to go out and “draw everything” or simply create something every day.