What 100 Days Taught Me: Reflections on #the100dayproject2019

In late March 2019, a lifelong friend suggested I join her on an art challenge entitled “#the100dayproject,” one hundred consecutive days creating. The rules of the project were 100 days of a publicly posted daily creative practice.  In an online review of past projects, I found folks who had painted animals on tea bags, done a daily doodle, made a daily collage, created a daily quilting square, done a daily sketch, painted hilarious portraits. The projects were varied and inspiring.  So much work created in just 100 days.  The possibilities were endless.

At the time, I had a weekly oil painting routine with a lovely group of women in Salt Lake City, but progress on paintings were slow. I wasn’t painting enough. I was still unboxing myself, after years of caregiving for two demented parents, who were now passed.  I was a regular meditator, just beginning my zen study.  I wanted to elevate my painting game and 100 days of painting seemed a good way to create a lot of work in a relatively short amount of time.

Ultimately I landed on the rules for my project: 100 watercolors, based on photos on my phone, each watercolor completed in a single day. Once the day concluded, there was no going back. No touch-ups, no do-overs. Unbeknownst to me I had created a deeply challenging project that would convey a sense of place, a visual map of what inspired and comforted me, but also an experience that would point to what was holding me back from a more complete human expression.

So what did I learn in one hundred days? Over the arc of the project, I experienced much of the technical development I expected. I honed sketching skills, developed my understanding of watercolor, and explored the use of color, but I also met my deeply personal narratives. I did not expect to meet my story.  

In Zen meditation we train to watch our thoughts like clouds as they arise and pass away.  Conversely, we learn that if we view our thoughts as solid concrete objects, the thoughts cease to be cloud like and drop like lead balloons. As we engage them by adding more thoughts to them, they create a whole story narrative that is easily believed, creating a virtual reality, that can be rife with fear, anger, exhalation and giddiness...  

During the project, as I worked to create new habits around daily painting, I still had the same family responsibilities- kids to get to school, meals to make, laundry to clean, a garden to plant, did I really have enough time to do a painting a day?  As the hundred days passed, I began to see a story I was creating around worth.  Was I worthy of my time to paint?  Wouldn’t I be more worthy if I took care of someone? Was my skill worthy of taking time time to paint, at the expense of my other responsibilities? Was my talent worthy? A pattern emerged, I constantly hustled for my worth, so much so, I had used it to keep from fully expressing what I had felt called to do for 40 years, to paint!

As the weeks passed, and more people saw my work publicly posted, fear arose.  I had another narrative brewing that told me I was making a fool of myself, I fought off thoughts that people were quietly rolling their eyes or smirking at my public display of “skill-less” paintings. The project transformed into a challenge to question my thoughts, and train to let go of my thoughts. I reminded myself, once the daily painting was created and posted, it was over. No rumination, no hindrance, no fear.

Ultimately, the project gave me a framework in which I became intimate with my patterns and my stories. How was time spent? What if someone else did that chore? Why do I always insist on doing that house duty? Could I be more productive if I put my focus on creating before doing for others? What thought came up when I did that?   Did all roads lead to validating my worth? What if I was born worthy?

The exercise of daily painting and publicly posting gave me a daily space in my day to question my beliefs and see what I created with my stories.  I watched as my thoughts created my behavior. My behavior reinforced my narrative, and my narrative created my reality.  Change my thoughts, change my experience of reality.  Ultimately, the greatest thing I realized:

We create our reality: and we create our experiences of each other.

What if we all loosely held our narratives, loosely held what we were convinced was "true?"  What could we create? What fear could we relinquish? What relationship could we repair? What problem could we solve?

If you read this far, consider doing your own 100 Day Project.  I promise if you complete one, you’ll develop skills, but you might also meet something deeper, your nature- and wouldn’t that be lovely.

 

You can visit and purchase work from “The 100 Day Project” on this site, under https://candacemclane.com/collections/the100dayproject-show.