The 100 day project: 11 Lessons in art and life

The "best 9" pieces (most liked) on Instagram 

The "best 9" pieces (most liked) on Instagram 

I was on holidays when the idea came…Yep, I would do the https://www.the100dayproject.org/ and I would call it #100daysofartsongs  - I would listen to a piece of music daily and make a visual response in an art diary. I felt very excited about this project – an opportunity just to play and be creative.

I kept it as small and achievable as I possibly could. A small visual art diary, and I would limit each art making session to the length of the piece of music, one or two repeats at maximum. I would invite requests – what a great way to invite connection via social media in the creative community!

What I discovered...

1. Some days I felt like an artist.

2. Some days I felt a fraud, bereft of ideas / motion / positive self-talk.

3. Support comes from unexpected people. Expecting certain people to support you and be interested in your business/creative project etc is risky. Be open to possibilities that support comes from surprising places and people – and turn your focus to them, not on the lack.

4. Prioritising art making and play can be done. Making it a regular item on your to-do list normalises and legitimises creative expression.

5. BUT…some days it can feel like ANOTHER hurdle, and without space/time/freedom…can become oppressive.

6. SO, it’s ok to bend the rules. I believe this project is traditionally undertaken on 100 consecutive days. I broke that rule and stretched it out over a longer period.

7. Collage is my friend. It can hide things I’d prefer to be unseen.

8. BUT, courage is found in having a crack at things that are not my traditional forte (Realism! – although I’m ok with my interpretation of Desmond and his barrow in the marketplace!)

9. Mindfulness was found in producing art that I didn’t love, allowing it to be seen and letting the discomfort move through me.

10. Mindfulness was found in producing art that I DID love, allowing it to be seen and letting the comfort move through me.

11. Watching my children request songs and make their own visual responses in their own journals was a joy. Creativity fosters connection.

©Naomi Morrow, 2018

Why ‘mistakes’ are good for us: Lessons from my 'ruined' painting.

I’ve been yearning to make space again in my life for creativity. Being a mother of three young ones, studying and establishing my own business it’s been difficult to find the time where I can be creative as a solo pursuit. (I definitely enjoy my creative time with children, but now I’m talking about myself…where I can be alone with my thoughts and ideas and experimentation).

So I signed up to do Nicola Newman's online painting course. I was super excited. It probably wasn’t the best time for me, signing up in the week leading up to launching my business – but I couldn’t shake the call to be creative any longer. I enthusiastically visited the art shop with toddler and pre-schooler in tow to buy the requisite materials. I chose my paint colours, palette knife, palette and the special glaze wash. I recall checking a few times with the young assistant that the last product was exactly what I needed – having never used it before. I was doubtful that she had given me the right one, but she insisted and so I bought it.

About a week later, I decided it was time to create my painting. The children were in bed. I laid everything out on the kitchen table and got to work. I watched the teaching video as I painted my abstract work, learning about layering and texture and techniques. I felt excited to be honouring my creativity in this way. I loved the way Nicola made it seem so easy, I loved the process and I was having fun. As I was painting, what was emerging was really pleasing to my eye. My inner critic would normally be chattering away about the relative skill or not in my painting, but this time she was silenced. I felt creatively alive!

When I had decided my painting was finished, I left it to dry after admiring my work briefly. When I was sure it was dry, I mixed up the glaze wash. It did not look like the product in the video, and I felt a little niggle of concern, but in my haste to finish the painting – I applied it. My painting disappeared. Under a layer of colour. It smooshed all the paint together into a wobbly, blurred, I-don’t-care-how-long-you-took-to-create-that-special-art giant blergh. I felt myself become angry, sad, frustrated as my inner critic rose up to give her unwelcome commentary.

“That’s what you get for trying something new! You’re not expert enough to do this! You can’t get all your hard work back now – it’s gone! What a waste!”
Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

I packed up sadly, sullenly. Defeated.
I sat with these feelings.

Eventually, I began to notice other thoughts.

What had I learned here? Remember the Tibetan monks creating beautiful, painstaking mandala works from sand that are only temporary? To be washed away? Didn’t I love the process though, wasn’t I really in flow? Why did I need ‘proof’ of how I spent my time? Did I need validation that I could ‘do’ art? When did product become more important to me than process? Couldn’t I simply try again another day?

Yes, it stings when we try new or difficult things and it doesn’t work. We feel disappointed. Disheartened. Tempted to return to that place of safety, where we don’t extend, challenge, try or risk. But there’s no richness or growth there. It’s a barren and boring land.

I’m so passionate about bringing more self-compassion, joy and creativity into the world that I realised I had better keep trying with myself. Work in progress. The canvas can be painted again.

And I had to be honest with myself. Instead of looking outside myself for explaining the problem (“the shop assistant sold me the wrong product”), I owned up: “I put the glaze on before the paint had dried completely”.

What I learned is that my ‘mistake’ (AKA my impatience or more positively reframed ‘enthusiasm’)…ended up forming an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for my new painting.

If we stop to review what we feel are our imperfections, flaws and mistakes and consider them with more patience and compassion – we can then begin to see how they are providing an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for our life. A life we where can be open to new learning, building upon past experiences, being creative and experimental.

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.