That today marks the start of the fourth week of the 2017 Index-Card-a-Day Challenge, which means three weeks have passed already. Twenty one individual daily cards. That may not sound like all that many in the scope of a life, but day by day, twenty one cards is substantial. Many studies posit that to make a habit, you need to repeat an activity daily fourteen times. Plowing through to twenty one is powerful. It is a tribute to personal commitment. It is reaffirming. All of this will be true with each passing week, but finishing week three does feel noteworthy.
Three weeks of ICAD also means that my visit to my mom’s in KY is also drawing to a close. These three weeks have gone so fast. We are here only a few more days now, and these last few days will spiral. Today. Then a birthday. Then a day of scrambling to pack. And then the flight home. There is never enough time.
As I did at the close of Week 1 and Week 2, I wanted to take a few minutes today and look at Week 3 as a group, reflect on the process, and think about what happened in this week. (I was actually looking forward to this! I love the group shot. I love pulling out my cards and seeing the collected work and recognizing this phase of my life and how important my daily art practice has become to me–and how much I continue to love drawing from Sktchy, even if isn’t my strongest area.)
During Week 2, I remember a night where it was so late when I finally had time to do my card that I almost didn’t do it. I had sketched the outlines earlier in the day and had never had time to ink it. When I finally had that time, the idea of spending a half hour to an hour building up ballpoint layers was almost too much. I pushed on, knowing that allowing myself to lapse or get behind can derail me in a challenge like this. In Week 3, although busy and completing my cards at night and even falling asleep in the process of at least one or two of them, I didn’t have that same “maybe I should just not do this” moment. Week 3 helps cement the daily process, even if at times it feels like a grind or like something that has to be fit in on the peripheries and edges of what is happening day to day.
So Week 3, for me, signaled a new level of ease with the challenge and process. I am not still trying to figure out if I like what I am doing. There is a settling in that has happened. That doesn’t signal a level of auto-pilot though, not by any means. Each day is still a challenge. Each day I start with the eyes and try and get them right. Each day I look at the shadows and try and capture it in just ink. Each day I look at the photo and try and figure out where to start on the card, how much space to leave, and how close in to zoom. Each day the other members of my house pull up the Sktchy app to admire work by other artists. Especially they admire the work of artists who work in color. Several of my family members have been drawn or painted by other artists in recent days, and it is always interesting to hear how they respond. (These family members are not all visual artists.) It is interesting to hear the idle critiques that happen as people look at the art others create. It is also interesting to be a black and white (or in these days, mono color) artist in a house that gravitates towards and prioritizes color.
My work will never be “as” interesting because I am not a painter.
In Week 3, I tried several different things, worked with different pens, experienced more blobs (from one pack of pens), and tried different kinds of poses and faces. Every day is new to me, and every face poses a new challenge. I do think I am improving, but I am still far from well-versed in portraits. There are still some days where the drawing I do seems okay and feels good, and I see it the next day and realize it isn’t a favorite.
What I do think is that I have my own voice. I respect and value that. But by Week 3, I am also hitting the point where I realize, over and over, the limits of this voice in terms of reaching other people.
Week 3 of posting my cards at Facebook and Instagram has signaled the point where I can tell the community of artists doing the challenge has “seen it” already. Since I am not doing the prompts, I don’t have a card each day to which people can respond to the novelty of my response to the challenge. My cards are not going to be hugely different, day to day, in terms of concept. Each day, it’s “another face.” Each day, it’s “another ballpoint” drawing. Each day, it probably looks a bit like the day before.
To me, each day is different. Different pen. Different layers. Different perspective. Different shape of the nose. Different light. Different darks.
But Week 3 was the week where I feel like the shininess of my contributions wore off a bit. After 21 drawings in blue ballpoint, the novelty has faded.
I see the reality of that in how people do or do not comment. We all want to say that community responses don’t matter. At the same time, we would each be quick to say that community support does matter. In groups where we share our work, community support is enacted through likes/hearts and comments. These things “do” matter in terms of how individual artists view their own work and feel about the process of sharing. As artists, we learn to go on and move forward even if we don’t get comments or feedback or find that our work resonates with others. We have to. So it’s a double-edged situation. On one level, feedback and visible reinforcement may seem to not matter; on another level, we still want those signs of support, those symbols that show we are reaching someone or that someone “sees” us.
I am more confident and committed this year to what I am doing. In years past, I might have stopped sharing by now, but this year that won’t happen. (The idea still wriggles through my consciousness now and then though.) I do have support for my work. But I have noticed the shift in Week 3. I have had a few moments where I look ahead and wonder what people are going to be thinking when I reach Week 6 and am (maybe) still posting a ballpoint drawing a day. At the same time, in other communities (like the Sktchy app group), that is exactly what artists do… a portrait a day. You have to keep perspective about what you are doing and how it fits your own goals and processes and maybe shows up differently in some spaces than others.
This year, more so than in other years that I have done ICAD, there are a number of people doing drawings as part of ICAD. There are even a number of people doing portraits. This is fantastic! I remember when I felt like the only person drawing at ICAD. There has definitely been a broadening of approach at ICAD (or maybe a widening of the circle of artists doing ICAD). That is wonderful. And this year, it is fabulous to be doing portraits alongside other artists. Brenda Leonard and Opal Cocke are just two of the artists who are also sharing portraits each day. Each of these artists has her own style, and each of these artists also works with Sktchy. This summer, Brenda has been doing a one-sided portrait party of sorts and painting ICAD group members. Opal has worked through a series of her family members using a collage and paint approach and is now moving on to other people (including my family!). There are others, too, who are focusing on portraits. I see portraits here and there in the ICAD circles, especially at Instagram. I love it!
The power to “like”
Supporting other artists is part of the process! Keep that in mind when you scroll groups. Creating and uploading your own daily index card art may be the primary (and concrete) goal of the challenge, but there is (I believe) a level of give-and-take in the challenge that creates the underlying fabric of the challenge and the community.
Take a few minutes each day to scroll through the group at Facebook or Instagram (or both) and comment or click “like” on cards that catch your attention. Clicking “like” doesn’t take a huge commitment. It is easy to do. Have you ever thought about why you view twenty photos specific to a group and maybe only click “like” on one or two? Were there five that you thought were at least “so-so”? What harm does the extra “like” here and there do? What benefit might it have for the artist?
As I do these challenges month to month, and ICAD year to year, I think more and more about how we interact with the work of others and how we use the “option” to “like” or not. At some point, I will talk more about comments… and the power to “like”… about word choice… about all of this. As a participant and as a group moderator (for ICAD) and group facilitator (for Creativity Matters), I am constantly watching and aware of likes and comments. This is a huge can of worms, but I wanted to take a moment and encourage you to be generous with your power to “like.”
Commenting takes more time, and I know it isn’t possible to comment on everything. It can be overwhelming, really, how many cards there are in a huge challenge like ICAD. Use the power to “like” (or emote). When you do comment, know that the few words you leave for an artist can make a big difference in how that artist feels about approaching the “next” card. I have strong thoughts about comments, but with so many cards flying by in this kind of challenge, my own approach has changed out of necessity. More and more often this year, I am leaving simple comments with little (or no) specificity. I do, however, leave comments. Lots of them.
I encourage you to be generous with your support of other artists. It can make a dramatic difference in how a new artists feels about her work.