Corinne maakt

My drawing and painting life

15 Lessons from my year of daily creating

#alert #longpost #lessonslearned #yearofdailycreating

My year of daily creating

From September 1st 2015 to September 1st 2016 I practiced daily creating under the heading ‘A year of daily creating’. This was a personal project – not a course or a challenge with a lot of people entering, but a strictly personal one. It was personal in the sense that I did it on my own (most of the time). Some of my art friends joined me part of the way and others are on their own track of daily creating an art work and knowing that was helpful to me and inspiring. But I was on my own personal journey of making, my journey of discovery and I would continue whether others went on or not.

Faces collage #6

September 2015 – Faces theme – collage

Taking Inspiration from Niya Christines example

On another level this project wasn’t completely ‘my own’, it wasn’t my own idea for starters. It came from several sources of inspiration. This project was inspired first and foremost by the example of Niya Christine (writer, painter, art coach, bubbly personality) who did a similar year-long project in 2013. She posted her daily art on her blog and wrote about her experiences all through the year. She’s written a wonderful book about it in which you can find a lot of the art she produced that year and the story of what happened from month to month.

I organized my year a lot like Niya’s year, at least for about the first 9 months. She chose monthly themes, wrote her blog daily, shared her art daily. That felt like a good way to do it: a way to keep it clear from day to day and be accountable.  Like Niya I have made a point of not just doing the art and sharing it- but also taking notes on the process of doing this for a whole year.I hoped this sharing of my process would be inspiring for others as well.

I am inspired by Niya’s paintings also. Her work is highly colorful and imaginative – and I love it. I wasn’t of course trying to copy her work, but from time to time you may find a piece that seems to be inspired by her example. Her love for rabbits makes her paint a lot of them. If you see a rabbit in a piece – in a way it’s inspired by her work or it’s about my being inspired by her. At first I didn’t accept that from myself, but why not? The inspiration was part of the year. It takes on this form. It’s fine.

Lessons learned from a year of cultivating a daily creative practice

Now I’ve finished the year on September the first and some time has passed since then, I can look back on what I’ve learned. It doesn’t come as a surprise that some of the lessons I’ve learned are similar to what she’s shared about her year. The big difference for me is that now I’ve experienced it for myself, I’ve lived through it and that feels different. Some of the lessons I’ve learned are more personal ones, about my preferred ways of working, how I have responded to the challenge – while others might respond in a different way.

Well, here goes with the lessons learned! See for yourself.

Fifteen lessons I’ve learned in the process of the year of daily creating

  1. I had already learned from some of the classes I’ve taken with Carla Sonheim, that sometimes you have to do a lot of work, accept that there will be ‘failed’ pieces to get to the good ones. There are some techniques that seem to lead to this experience more than others. I remember from a class by Carla Sonheim that she told us that a particular technique has a high failure rate – and she said this with a wide smile – made me feel OK with the possibility at the time. Well, during this year I found that it’s inevitable that when you do daily art some of it is so-so, some of it is more about experimenting with materials than about making a finished piece. And probably there are more reasons that some of the art is wonderful (in my eyes) and some of it not so much. I’ve learned to be OK with that. At least for as long as the year lasted…
  2. I also learned that as I made it a point to make something every day and I wanted to finish something each day, I had to work faster and decide faster how to move on on this particular piece. Decisions on whether a piece was finished, whether to add a layer, that kind of thing, all were made faster. Either I decided that this piece is good enough the way it is (even though I could have worked on it a lot longer to see where it would go). I remember Niya Christine also wrote about something like that. It felt good knowing that from her blog at the time – but now I’ve come to experience it myself I feel even better, more certain that I can finish my pieces.
  3. The focus to make something and finish something within the course of one day has a drawback too. By the end of the year I felt I had to finish every day (I could hardy do it differently), which led me to a stance of working fast, making quick steps, quick decisions, bold moves. This is interesting, leads to interesting work often. (Or to a failed piece, but that’s OK, remember?) But on the other hand it makes the slow kind of work, like slow building a piece of art work, adding layer after layer, almost impossible. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t like that all year, though. In January I made myself start more than one piece on the first day, then built layers on more pieces in the course of a few days. That way I ended up with an amount of pieces nearly as many as the days in the month. This worked very well at the time. It also left me with unfinished pieces which I simply left behind, but also with almost as many pieces as there were days in the month. At that time I felt free to do it that way and enjoyed the results very much.
  4. Working like this – on more pieces at the same time – also helped create a set of pieces that hang together as one body of work – the color schemes among the little sets of three-four-five pieces is often similar. So I learned about working on a series – even though I wasn’t after that at the time. I found similarities between some of the pieces, like there were lines in my sets of pieces that belonged together. Perhaps it was my own style emerging.
Weird and wacky 3

January 2016 pieces – animals, real and imaginary.

5. My motto all through the year was: “Tomorrow there’s another day!”. At first this was something I told myself to feel better when I didn’t like my days result, when the work of that day was only so-so (in my own eyes at least). Gradually it became more heartfelt – I knew it was true, some days are better than others, and so on (see above). I learned to trust that it would be OK, to trust I could think of something to make or do, to trust in my ability.

6. I found that there is a kind of ebb and flow of energy and ability to make loads of work, loads of pieces that are ‘finished pieces’. This goes fine for a while and then a time comes when I need to get a refill on my ‘tank of energy’ and ‘tank of inspiration’. I do more experimenting, more copying, more drawing just for fun, just for looking and seeing well and so on. I took the sketchbook class by Cat Bennett in October/November of 2015 – her approach really helped me in seeing this. In the process I learned a few new techniques – added some to my toolbox. I’m really thankful for her kind attentive way of teaching too. (I’ve since read three of her books – and they spoke to me for the same reason…). Accepting that ‘this is where you are right now’. Of course other teachers have said similar things – I remember that Tamara Laporte tells us ‘don’t compare your work to others’, ‘don’t compare your beginnings with someone elses’ more advanced art’ (and similar ideas).

7. I worked in series – one series a month at first. Working in a series has turned out to be really worthwhile and meaningful for me during the year and increasingly so. During (Life Book of) 2014 it was Carla Sonheim who suggested working in a series to find out about your own style. Working in a series can help create a body of work that hangs together as ‘one’, one that is recognizably yours. A series (even one of 10 pieces) can also help you yourself find out what your own style is. I mean: find out what your style is in the sense of ‘recognizing’ it yourself. The funny thing is that other people seem to recognize it much sooner than yourself usually. There have been people telling me they also know some piece is mine, the moment they see it (or even the moment they see the thumbnail in a group online). This is very interesting to me. Because I don’t see it. 🙂

January was imaginary creatures month (see above). From mid May the hundred square paintings started and were held together by one set of parameters: size (20x20cm), paint brand (Liquitex acrylic), limited tools (old brushes, paper palette, fingers, old credit card). And a limited color set each time I painted, but often this color set would be used for a series of 6 to 10 paintings. I soon found I like using a lot of white paint, on top of the first layer, laid down quickly, thickly and then scratching into it. Later on I started to draw and scratch using Inktense pencils (ink in pencils, will dissolve in liquids and permanent after drying).


Letter and title paintings  – some paintings from the 100 square paintings

8. I learned new ways to warm up, from some of the teachers of classes I took, but also from just doing art every day, especially from the 100 paintings. Taking on the project of doing pieces with the same starting method, with the same limited set of supplies and size/format of the piece helped me too: to work with my own resistance, to trust my ability to work through it, to go on, to trust that something would come, that I suddenly could find my own language (symbols, recurring marks and the like).

9. In the end I worked on a series of 100 small square pieces – often making two or more a day. I had given myself a set of parameters to work with and wanted to stick with these. This practice has been meaningful in more than one way. It’s been a challenge to have to work through some feeling of resistance. The first resistance : I got bored with the limitations. Thoughts like: ‘How can I go on with this? Can this still be interesting?’. And then I found new ways to work within those same parameters.

10. Ending the year of daily creating on September 1st I have found that it takes about as long to get into a new rhythm – not doing daily art– as it took to start : about a month. After about a month I can accept it if I don’t do art one day, but still feel I want to, would love to. I’ve found that it was hard to stop. It may have not always have been the right thing to always do the daily practice this year. It having become a habit – and this habit may have both good and bad elements. It is in fact possible that not being able to stop – is both good and bad. (I read someone writing something like that – and I am slowly coming around to her idea that it could be bad sometimes). Interesting.

Originally I wanted to write about 10 lessons, but focusing on what I’ve learned, ideas kept coming. I’ll keep the text brief on the next five.

  1. During the year I’ve come to recognize some recurring subjects in my work, how much I love color, that I love the bold stroke of the brush.
  2. I’ve experienced interesting ‘ebb and flow’ in the voice of the inner critic, too.
  3. Life happened, I got sick but wanted to stay doing the daily art. I’ve learned that art work is healing, helps me stay sane and optimistic.
  4. The 100 paintings – also taught me about myself that I sometimes have resistance I didn’t know of. I found that I have a kind of silent resistance to painting with my fingers. I hadn’t realized that earlier.
  5. Also I learned from my own experience that ‘the muse has to find you working’ (variation on a quote by Picasso). You just have to ‘do the work’ again and again. And again.

All in all I learned a lot, that will work in a similar way for anyone who takes on a project or challenge like this – reading about it could be inspiring and helpful to others. At least I hope so. Apart from that I learned a lot about myself, my art, my personality, in doing this for a year.

What will stick with me: I’ve learned to trust in my ability to make art. I just sit down – or stand up – at my art table, at my easel, at my space, and I just start the work. Most of the time something will come eventually. And I’m really happy about that. And if nothing comes, I know….

 “There’s always another day!”



Niya Christine – website

Carla Sonheim – for her blogposts and online classes


9 comments on “15 Lessons from my year of daily creating

  1. bethrommel
    October 17, 2016

    Beautiful work and reminders of the creative process. The multi day challenges are a good way to understand oneself.

    • corinnebekker
      October 27, 2016

      Thanks Beth. Indeed.That’s one of the things I take away from it.

  2. Kathrin
    October 17, 2016

    It is great how you put your experiene in word. And looking at you artwork, I feel you have been growing as an artist a lot during that year. your 100 quadrats series is amazing.

    • corinnebekker
      October 27, 2016

      Thanks very much Kathrin for stopping by. I know you have a busy life with two kids and a job. I appreciate your kind words! I hope to go on growing – much like yourself. I will look at the 100 series again soon and hope to finally do something with them soon.

  3. Sheila Marie Delgado
    October 17, 2016

    Great post Corinne. Some nice reminders in there. And funny to know that you don’t see your style. I feel like I haven’t “found” my style either. But some have mentioned they recognize it. Loved seeing your animals again, and I missed some of the portraits, wonderful work there! Also, thanks for sharing Niya’s link… heading there now for a closer look. Wishing you continued joyful painting!

    • corinnebekker
      October 27, 2016

      Thanks Sheila, for the daily support over the month of September. I’ve enjoyed seeing your work on a daily basis too. I do see a kind of Sheila style in your watercolors.
      Wishing you a fruitful continuation of the art journey as well!

  4. grlie
    October 19, 2016

    Amazing to read this! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on achieving your goal! I love the animal series very much!

    • corinnebekker
      October 27, 2016

      Thanks so much, Lucy. I appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment very much!

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