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Just get on with it: what the 100 Days Project teaches us about creativity
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Just get on with it: what the 100 Days Project teaches us about creativity
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Just get on with it: what the 100 Days Project teaches us about creativity
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
20 November 2014

Just get on with it: what the 100 Days Project teaches us about creativity

Perhaps creativity stripped of its lofty associations is simply the act of living day by day.

Written by Dennis YC Liu

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Image source: Marc’s 100 Days project.

The creative process as an elusive elixir of life is without doubt an enticing vision.

We can imagine the lone artist perched at the window seat of a quaint cottage overlooking a lake of swans with a quill at the ready… And yet, romantic notions like this are also far removed from our day-to-day realities of doctors’ appointments, cross-town commutes and grocery shopping.

I’ve often struggled with this division between the creative and the ordinary. Thankfully I’m not the only one. From talks by Brian Eno to Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, there’s been a wealth of conversation and literature in recent years that explore how we can “unglamourise” creativity so as to make it more accessible and useful.

One venture that tackles this head on is the 100 Days Project, a community art initiative led by New Zealand-based designer Emma Rogan. Originally devised by design-educator Michael Bierut as an assignment for his students at Yale, the parameters involve choosing one creative exercise and executing it every day for 100 consecutive days. It’s all about routine and action, allowing students to push the limits of their perception and hone their craft without waiting around for inspiration or getting stuck on perfectionism.

Driven by a desire to form a creative community in New Zealand, Emma Rogan decided to take the project beyond the realms of the classroom and invited people of all ages and walks of life to participate. Now in its fourth year, the initiative has blossomed into a movement with over 1000 participants, regular meet-ups and group exhibitions in four cities around the world.

The 100 Days Project website hosts all of the projects in one place and it’s easy to get lost in this overflowing trove of human experience. To get you started, here are a few of my favourite 100 Day Projects.

Marc picked something more observational by illustrating people and their clothes. Throughout the 100 days he experiments with a variety of drawing styles and colour palettes, creating vibrant portraits of people in motion.

Lena answers hypothetical questions from her 16-year-old self about the future. She explores everything from curiosities about her taste in music and predictions about technology to becoming comfortable with oneself and finding love. The “conversations” are full of warmth and affirmation. They reveal that sometimes the best advice we get comes from our own reflections on past experiences.

Then there’s Douglas, who draws a series of what he calls “mundane or extraordinary” moments. From shadow play with his son to power lines and street corners, the project is a stream of neat squares reminiscent of an Instagram feed, except instead of using an app, Douglas relies on the most timeless tools of all to filter experiences–his eyes, the pen and the page.

For another take on documentation, there’s mother-and-daughter Clare and Ruby who photograph each other in identical staged poses every day. There’s a wonderful symmetry here–of a parent physically embodying the imaginations of their child and of a child becoming the “director” of their playtime experience.

A couple of us at the Dumbo Feather office also took part in the project. I wrote one piece of fiction of no more than 25 words every day, as a direct response to my anxiety with not knowing how to communicate on social media. In the age of Twitter and instant messaging where every letter counts, I wanted to become more thoughtful and deliberate with the way I use language.

Dumbo Feather’s art director Amandine illustrated one idea every day on her journey through grief. The drawn line becomes a symbol of her thought process, twisting and turning to form tight-wires and dark clouds as she grapples with the absence of a loved one. At one point, the cloud begins to unravel and it’s a poetic catharsis for the reader when Amandine writes, “I can now unfold, observe, organise feelings once burning hot. I have words again.”

Her project illuminates one key aspect of the 100 Days Project: While all the works are deeply personal, they are also public, culminating in joyous exhibitions where the works are shared with loved ones and complete strangers.

In this sense it is more apt to call these events celebrations as opposed to exhibitions. We are often alone in our thoughts but occasions like this allow us to see and be seen; people come together to observe and honour lived experience.

Frank O’Hara once wrote a poem about an imaginary conversation he has with the rising sun. The sun encourages him to get out of bed, then says, “And now… you are making your own days.” It’s a line that’s always stayed with me, as a reminder that perhaps creativity stripped of its lofty associations is simply the act of living day by day.

Dennis YC Liu

Dennis YC Liu is a filmmaker and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia.

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