10 Thoughts and Lessons Learned from Snake A Day

Brandy Copley recently completed her yearlong Snake-A-Day project and she shared 10 great things she took away from her experience...

1. Discipline – This might seem obvious, but wow did I get to work on my discipline skills.  Guys there were days when I was working an 18 hour day, or my kid went to the ER that day, or I was sick, or etc etc.  I made a snake, even on those days.  I didn’t let any of those excuses stop me.  365 days of anything is a marathon of epic proportions, and for someone who had not done anything visually creative since 3rd grade, this was a huge commitment.  I made it, and it’s given me a certain confidence, of the “well if I managed THAT, I can do lots of  hard things” variety.

2. Creativity – Again this one is obvious, but making something for 365 days will force you to get creative.  Particularly on days, or in locations, when your materials are limited.  Travel and hotel days were the bane of my project- I mean how many ways can you make a snake out of the things found in a bare bones business hotel? I think I found them all.  I think my ice snake is one of my favorites, for exactly that reason.
3. Respect for my family – Oceans of love to my family for their intense support and patience with this project over the last year.  My son cheered me on (“Mom, great job!) and on many occasions provided his toys for snake making materials (“Hey mom, think you can snake this?”).  My sweet husband bought me paper and sketch pads and oil pastels and water colors, which I never got the hang of, and clay and charcoals, which I grew to love.  Neither of them complained when I’d stop in the middle of some family hike or vacation and say “Wait, give me 10 minutes I need to snake that!”  And they never said “oh that one’s terrible” or “Are you really gonna post that?”  As my 8 year old reminded me, Mom there is no right or wrong in art.

4. Appreciation of art – I think I have been to more museums, art galleries, art festivals, and such in the last year than I have in the rest of my life combined.   While I always enjoyed the visual arts, I was more of a performance art type person; the ballet, dance, live music, theater, and such.  This year reminded me that I LOVE looking at art, and I will continue to do more of it.

5. Giving myself credit – Wow I am hard on myself.  It’s in my DNA.  (I’m still ticked about the one B I made in college because that left me with a 3.98 gpa instead of a perfect 4.0.  Really- all these many years later and I can’t get over that?) Well this project was good for learning to get ok with a pass/fail grade.  I set out in my opening post that the goal of this project was not perfection.  If it was longer than it was tall, and had no legs, and any vaguely snakey attributes, it passed.  Which was good, because some of the snakes made under duress- while traveling with very few materials handy for example- were pretty lame.  But they were snakes, and I made them.  Bingo, passing grade. That was a tough lesson for me.

6. Culture – My favorite month of snake a day by far was April, where I explored the potrayal of snakes in different locations, cultures, and religions.  Snakes have so much cultural importance, in so many different ways and places across the globe, and I got to explore, learn, and enjoy those stories.  The art isn’t always impressive in April, but the stories I turned up are amazing.  Including this one- did you know that the oldest consistently worshiped deity on the planet is a snake god in Australia? I love that.

7. Being present, and noticing line and color – Spending every day keeping my eyes open for likely snake making materials really improved by ability to be present in the moment, and notice my surroundings.  I am now so much more open to noticing line, shape and color, and picking up on how those things influence the viewer.  I’ve focused more on what my home looks like, so I’ve added some art from the local art festival.  Even my wardrobe has gotten a second look, as I’ve thought about what message a crisply tailored black suit sends versus a softer, colorful dress, and what outfit works better for which work meeting.

8. I enjoy drawing (even though I am not skilled) – This one stunned me.  I went into this planning to mostly use found items to shape the snakes.  I did not plan to sketch or draw or paint, because I have no training or skill.  But when I slowly started playing with my art supplies- the very forgiving chalks in particular- I loved it.  It’s almost a meditative thing, as you start layering and smudging the colors.  It takes all my focus, and calms my busy mind. I think I will keep my chalks, and draw from time to time simply for the peace.

9. Meeting new people – here’s a great way to meet new people.  Start making a giant 15 foot snake out of seaweed on a busy surf beach at dawn in southern Cali.  The curious surfers come over, asking what’s that?  And suddenly you’ve met 15 new people.  (I went surfing with them the next day.)  This story played out many times over the year, from chatting with the bowling alley owner (What are you doing with the bowling balls?, he asked) to the river rafting guide in Oregon (Hey can I borrow your paddles and life jackets for a few minutes? I asked him), to a glass artist (Hey can I take your art glass class? But I want to make snakes, that ok?) to a fly fisher in Jackson Hole (Why did you turn those leaves into a snake?, he wondered).  I think I terrified a seat mate on an airplane once when I started snaking my food and then snapped a pic of it!  

10. I chose a great subject – The one question that I got asked so many times was, why snakes? Well, they are pretty simple, geometry wise. I have minimal art skills, and could never do something as complex as Noah’s skulls. Also, snakes, like skulls, come pre-loaded with meaning. They are gods in some countries, and pests in others.  Entire libraries have been written about their religious symbolism. They lack a fixed shape, and come in a stunning variety of colors, which gave me SO much optionality in terms of how to create my snakes.  They are instantly recognizable.  When I would leave a snake behind to be found and enjoyed (for example, a snow snake near the ski lifts) I never had to lurk more than 2 minutes before some passer by noticed my work, and the reaction, every time, was a surprised “Cool!” or some similar shocked but pleased expression.
I am already missing my snakes a bit (I admit I made one yesterday just for my entertainment.)  I’ve kept a few of my favorites around.  Syd the giant stuffed animal snake sleeps in my bed.   Because of this project, every day, for a year, I used my creative brain.  That felt like success to me. I loved my 365 day project. 
Read Brandy's original 365 interview HERE.

See all of Brandy's snakes HERE.

1 comment:

troods said...

One of my favorite posts, articles, about creativity. Thank you for the inspiration. Love your snakes!!!