A year ago, I decided, on a whim, that I would draw every day and share my art online. Though I’d already been drawing on a daily basis for several months, I figured that a formal project would help keep me accountable to my work. And thus, Doodle-a-Day 2013 was born.
As longtime followers and supporters of my art career will know, I’ve been focusing my creative efforts for years on improving my art and realizing my potential as a Professional Artist™. Doodle-a-Day’s precursor came in the form of Thing-a-Week 2011 — a less demanding and more open-ended creative exercise to see whether I could commit to a full year of productive artistic accountability. Thing-a-Week served as a catalyst to a much more focused and driven pursuit of artistic expertise. Prior to that, art had always been something of a hobby, the sort of thing that would be nice to turn into something more, but without giving it much serious thought. After dedicating a full year of creative energy to the project, I not only realized that I could make art full-time, but that I wanted to. I took bit of a break from “projects” in 2012, but by 2013, I wanted something that would push me to create something every day, rather than every week.
Of course, over the course of the year, the focus and the structure of Doodle-a-Day has morphed beyond its original concept. Contrary to the project’s title, I haven’t necessarily created 365 separate doodles, one each day. There have been days where I’ve been true to the name and created one doodle — a quick, informal piece of art — in one day. There have been days where I’ve drawn multiple doodles. There have been days where I’ve waited until the last minute and sort of phoned it in. There have been days where I’ve focused on a single, more formal piece of art, creating it over the course of multiple days. In fact, in total, over the course of the year, I’ve created closer to 425 different doodles, drawings, paintings, and other pieces of art. Through all these days, I’ve developed a better sense of my own work flow, realizing my strengths, and my limits.
Doodle-a-Day has taught me that there’s value in dedicating oneself to a long-term task. Committing to a project for a year when there’s no one to hold you accountable but yourself, you develop a sense of personal responsibility, and through that, a stronger sense of pride in your work. I’m at a point right now where I’m trying to dedicate as much of my time as possible to creating art, but with a full-time job and grown-up responsibilities, it’s more difficult to do that on some days than on others, so having something to keep me on task has done wonders for my work ethic. But that comes with its own challenges. I developed a sense of guilt the first time I didn’t complete a “finished” doodle in a single day, choosing instead to take a few days to create a bigger piece. As my skills have improved over the year, I’ve become harder on myself — the sort of rough sketch or study that I’d considered a Daily Doodle in the spring became the sort of thing I felt wasn’t good enough to post in the fall. (Heck, I hated the logo I created for Doodle-a-Day within weeks of creating it.) At its most difficult, I’d sometimes lose sight of the project’s goal, worrying more about just having something complete to show for the day — which sometimes led me to be more cautious, out of fear of “ruining” a piece and not having the energy to start over that same day. But as a result, I’ve also learned that the true value in a project like this is less about the novelty of creating a finished doodle every day, and more about simply drawing every day. Momentum is a hell of a motivator.
So where will I go from here? Like at the end of 2011, I feel it’s time to once again switch gears. Needless to say, a year of constant doodling, pressuring myself to create something every day that I feel is good enough to share with an audience, has left me a little drained. Doodle-a-Day has helped me to find my strengths, to try new styles and techniques, and to better realize the type of art I like to do, but it’s also forced me to focus on ensuring I could share something every day, rather than drawing and experimenting simply for the sake of improving. I’m always going to doodle — every day if I can manage it — but for now, I want to focus more on improving my skills, rather than building a collection of finished pieces. In a recent conversation with a friend and fellow artist, we discussed the merits of creative hibernation — taking a break to recharge, avoiding burnout and saving creative energy for when it’s needed the most. So the year ahead won’t come with another “project”, in that I won’t be posting my work on a daily basis under a catchy title. Instead, I’m planning to focus on larger projects by setting a number of personal goals for myself. I’ll still share my art, doodles and finished pieces alike, but I expect it to follow a less structured regimen, allowing me to adjust my pace as life’s demands dictate. Rather than this resulting in a “lazier” work schedule, I’m hoping that it allows me more flexibility to focus on the aspects of being an artist that nonstop doodling may not always allow. In turn, I hope that will allow me to become more experimental in my work again, taking bigger risks, knowing that I have nothing to lose, and if I don’t have something finished to show at the end of every day, I can carry my progress over to the next.
As far as the sharing goes, I’m also going to re-focus my chosen platform. Over the past few years, I’ve bounced back and forth between my WordPress blog and my art Tumblr, making duplicate, redundant posts for most Doodle-a-Day entries this past year. That’s not the most elegant approach, and in an era where the traditional blog is becoming obsolete, I’ve come to prefer Tumblr’s more straightforward, community-driven structure. I still don’t have the heart to put this WordPress blog out to pasture just yet, but from here on, I’m going to focus primarily on Tumblr as my platform for sharing art. If you don’t follow me there already, you should do so! If you do, keep liking and reblogging my stuff when you like what you see — the support of my audience has been the reason I’ve been sticking to this project all along.
With that, I want to thank everyone, friends and strangers alike, who have supported, shared, or simply appreciated all the art I’ve shared this year. Your feedback and sharing are part of what fuels my creative drive, and cliche as it sounds, I probably couldn’t have — wouldn’t have — stuck to the project without the likes and reblogs. If you like what you’ve seen this past year, stick with me for the road ahead — I’ve got some pretty cool stuff planned for 2014 and beyond.