A Painting or Drawing a Day

Jill Hejl in Oglesby, Illinois is creating A Painting or Drawing a Day...

Why did you decide to do this project? I had heard about Noah Scalin doing his Skull-A-Day project several years ago and had his book, Skulls.  While I had been making art forever, I decided to get really serious about it in 2012.  Things started happening for me, and I thought, what if I really dedicated myself to this craft of drawing and painting? I wanted to find out so I decided to give myself a Christmas gift...an early New Year's Day resolution, if you will.  A promise to make a drawing or a painting a day for one year.  On a serious note, I think I felt unchallenged in my life and job, and wanted to go on this journey for both artistic growth and to fill this void.

How has doing a yearlong/daily project affected your life? It has been one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I started out innocently enough with unlimited time available while on Christmas break (I work at a college).  However, once the full-time job kicked back in, it was another story.  I'd come home, make supper, walk my dog, talk to the man, and suddenly think, it's 9 p.m. and I need to paint a picture and write a blog post.  It was a startling experience to realize, hey, if you're going to do this, you have to have your rear-end in gear and make this a priority!  Believe me, there were times when I'd push that publish button at 11:59 p.m.  During the month of May, my computer crashed, and it took all I had in me keep painting daily even when I couldn't post about it.  I try to include stories and writings with most of the art as well so that added immensely to the time involved, too.

A weird phenomenon developed around Day 40, Day 80, Day 160.  It was strange.  I would hit a wall about those times, and think, I don't think I can go on.  If that doubling effect were to have held steady, I shouldn't have had a problem again until Day 320.  Instead, around about 200, I thought, I don't want to do this anymore.  (I think it really started at the 1/2 way point.  My husband said, "You're on the downhill slide now," but somehow the thought of 6 more months seemed insurmountable.)  That feeling--instead of lifting after 5 or 10 paintings as had happened before, persisted for about 2 months, Day 259 ("The Weight and The Pressure") was probably my lowest point.  I almost felt adrift--what was I doing?  Who even cared?  I still have so far to go--I'm never going to get there!  But I had a couple of friends who would cheer me on.  And I think 3 things kept propelling me:

  1. I had publicly put it out there that I was doing it;
  2. I just continually reminded myself, just do a picture today.  Just one a day.  Whenever I would think of how far I had to go, I would feel overwhelmed and crumble in a heap.  Don't think about the total number--this is my greatest advice!; and
  3. I had made a promise, a commitment to myself.  I wanted to honor that most of all.

Let me put that last sentiment another way.  Someone said to me recently, "But are you having fun doing it?"  To me, the question was almost beside the point.  I thought, are marathon runners having fun running when they hit the wall at mile 21 and feel like you can't go on?  You keep going because of the pure drive to reach your goal.  Anyway, that's the way I feel.  I don't know, maybe others have skipped happily along with no self-doubt of struggle.  This has been my experience while plugging along.

On a happier, sunnier note, here's what I have gained.

I think I have gained better artistic ability.  I feel like I'm a much better artist, and I can better and more quickly access creativity.  I have lived by all those calls of famous people to work daily for your art:  "The Creativity Habit," by Twyla Tharp (a favorite for years and years!); "Do the Work," by Steven Pressfield; "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron; "Skulls," by Noah Scalin. 

I pay attention more.  I have written funny pieces of conversations or ideas I've had on scraps of paper and post-it notes for over a decade, and I have always loved nature.  But this project made me become even more aware of what was happening around me.  Everything became fodder for a piece of art.  It almost slows life down by really being aware and creatively curious about everything around me as I tried to come up with new subject matter.

If I was ever doubtful of my artistic ability or how it would be accepted by the world or if I could go on with the project, these were the quotes, posted overhead on my desk, that I would gaze at, inhale deeply, and press "post."  (Ironically, they emanate from my some of my favorite areas of life:  books, music, fashion, and film.)

Barbara Sher's quote saying, "Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very, seriously."

Eddie Vedder saying, "It's so important. Everyday we wake up, we're creating our memory.  We have to create the best ones we can, even if for one day.  Find your goals and take them one step at a time.  Your happiness and control form responsibility.  It takes work and you MUST do things yourself.  Don't expect anyone else to do it for you.  Don't feel sorry for yourself.  I've learned that about myself.  I once thought I was under the lion's paw, but when I decided to take on responsibility, I became much more free."

Diane Von Furstenberg's quote by her mother, a holocaust survivor, "Fear is not an option."

I would watch "Julie and Julia" on my Amazon Prime, and remind myself that Julia Child plugged away for 12 YEARS on "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and started over numerous times.

And this one, Marie Forleo from Marie TV:  (paraphrasing) "Don't set yourself up for failure--do one thing at a time."  This one is a biggie--I constantly overcommitted in the past, got frazzled, and then never felt like I fully achieved in any area.  This message and episode came at a crucial moment for me.  I can't overemphasize how her video post really helped me focus, commit, and succeed.

Finally, no matter how much work it took – and this is why you should also do a 365-Day Project – the sense of accomplishment you'll feel, knowing you can follow through, be creatively committed to something and succeed, is incalculable.  You gain confidence in yourself that you can succeed at the next thing if you just work hard enough.  That's the incredible gift Noah has all of us by his example.

See all of Jill's paintings and drawings HERE.

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