Sometimes, all we need to wake us up from our numbness is a tiny push. For me, this push came 24 weeks ago in the form of an article that appeared on the amazing “The Great Discontent”, presenting and inviting all to participate in the “100-day Project”.
The idea really tickled me. This kind of “commitment” was new to me and it somehow took away a vowel hiding a need that I didn't realized I had: the need to create freely, and with my own hands again. Better, I was “engaged” to create freely, everyday. What could be more attractive than that?
To participate in the 100-day project was a transparent contract I was making with myself to “oblige” me to draw and create freely again. And I did. And it was a blast.
It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.”
Setting the stage
I knew I was going to draw again; that's all I had in mind. But three days before the due date – April 6th – I didn't know what I was going to draw every day. No, not a free draw, giving free ways to my feelings, but something more challenging that could make the process itself more interesting.
The idea of illustrating songs came exactly from this need of challenge: I would have a starting point and the precise goal of translating in paper the main messages, feelings and environments of songs.
My start was no more than clumsy. I was feeling as happy as a child with a new toy when I bought my sketch book, while completely ignoring the fact that I didn't have proper color pencils, water colors or pens. I had to start then with what remained from my pre-computer era, and it wasn't much. Worst, I've found out that my sketch book paper hadn't been the ideal choice.
So, in the beginning of the project I didn't have good tools to polish my illustrations as I wanted to, but that didn't disturb the process which, I soon learned, was indeed the most interesting aspect of the project, and that curiously formalized by itself.
Every day I'd wake up thinking about the possible songs I would illustrate in the evening. The whole day I'd practice a delicious mental exercise of remembering lyrics, chasing old songs in my memory, longing for that moment in the evening when I would finally be able to sit alone in my living room, in the little drawing corner I'd improvised for the project.
Each song carries its own environment and style. A song is not just a vector of messages or stories; it has also the power to send you to another place and another time, and if you listen attentively enough, it can have colors and textures too.
My goal was to get all the information I could capture in a song, and translate it into an image. First I would study the lyrics – even for the songs I already knew –, and then I'd listen to the song once, twice, three times, catching ideas, colors and textures.
When we close our eyes and listen to a song, we can “visualize” the song. A whole ambiance is created in our minds, suggestions of places and time, feelings that emerge, almost unconsciously. All I had to do was to bring all this free imagination forward and materialize it in a illustration.
I'd sketch with pencil the ideas that would come to my mind, writing down the colors and styles I believed would be appropriate, until the actual “object” of my illustration would appear.
Choosing songs I already knew was easier because, most of the time, the lyrics were already in my mind, but I had fun trying the process with new songs that weren't somehow polluted with personal experiences and memories, because some songs brought views that were seen only by me, and they would hardly match a proper translation.
Occasionally, the idea for the illustration would come by itself, unexpectedly. Those are the illustrations that I prefer, because their “translation” was made subconsciously, imposing me an image that would resume the song perfectly.
As The Great Discontent states, the project is not about “fetishizing finished products”, and for me it couldn't be different, for I used to dedicate less than an hour a day for the actual creation of my illustrations; at times, I had to come up with something five minutes before going to sleep, only to honor my engagement. But as the days went by, I got increasingly concerned about the final result. I believe I became more demanding with the final outcome, and even more frustrated with failures; that's when my work started to suffer.
By midway of the project I realized that my illustrations were suffering from my fear of failure. I became so picky with my final work that my illustrations turned out shy and clumsy; worst, I was losing the pleasure of doing it.
Fortunately, realizing that the result was taking over the process – and that my pleasure of creating was disappearing – was enough to shake me and put me on the right track again, forcing myself to concentrate more on the process and less on the final results.
I know that sometimes the result was less than satisfying, that sometimes a good idea was poorly laid out, and even that sometimes I was absolutely proud of what I'd done. But what really results from all this experience is 100 days of invaluable pleasure, and a kind of unavoidable inner pride that I wouldn't change for nothing.
After those 100 days of creating, I just couldn't stop. I've been having too much fun and, even if I slowed down the pace of one illustration a day, I've decided I'll go on until I come up with an idea for a new project. In the meantime, I'm also reviewing and redoing some illustrations that I believe can be improved, eventually in digital form.
I have no idea what I'll do with it all. Some illustrations will be framed, some will become t-shirts, others will just remain a small part of something really big for me.
From the list hereafter, I've took away five illustrations of the original project that were undone or too poor.
The original project can be seen at my instagram account.