Have you ever set out to try to do a daily creativity practice? There are lots of ‘challenges’ out there that set a specific medium and time limit, or try to help you focus: like National Novel Writing Month, Art Every Day Month, 365 creative challenge, Every Day in May and many many more.
One that I have joined in on two years running is the 2-month long 2015 Daisy Yellow Index-Card-A-Day (ICAD) challenge.
Here are some reflections on participating in that this year.
But before I start – what exactly is this ICAD thing of which I speak?
About the Index-Card-A-Day Challenge
It is a visual art making activity – to draw, paint, stich, print, fold, glue (etc!) an index card (yes, one of those simple, from the newsagent index cards, like an old school catalogue card). Despite that, this challenge is not focused on creating art per se; the objective is to participate in a creative process each and every day as a way to experiment, try new mediums, explore ideas, to play and have fun.
Starting June 1, Create something on a 3×5″ index card every day for 61 days. On the back of each card, add a number to keep track of your progress. ICAD #1, #2, etc. Whatever day you start, it is your own official ICAD #1. Motto: You do not need to catch up, just start. – Daisy Yellow
The idea of the index card as a medium, says initiator Tammy Garcia, is to keep it cheap, easy to access and most importantly not ‘special’. Many of us freeze up when faced with the daunting prospect of a blank sheet of paper especially a nice, well-made, expensive one. Manish Saggar says of being creative:
The more you think about it, the more you mess it up.
So index cards were chosen to reduce that pressure and keep things flowing. In my experience an added bonus is that they are quite hardy and very handy for working on while travelling or out and about.
My 2015 experience
I first participated in ICAD last year. This year being an old hand I thought it would be easy. After all ‘once I get going I’m a prolific painter/drawer/maker…’ I thought, but life had other plans for me. As it turns out travelling overseas and interstate and studying in June and July made these very busy months. I can see the ‘stop-start’ nature of how I participated reflected back at me in this year’s cards.
I didn’t make a card every day. Instead it was a patchy creative effort resulting in 60ish cards over around 75ish days. Rather than a gradual transition between mediums and themes I see small discrete chapters in the work.
I like to approach the challenge working fast and impulsively. I have played with self imposed restrictions, like using only use pen and marker for a week, or only working with faces, because I find the limitations stops some of the ‘what am I going to do?’ musing / paralysis. I might do this for a few days, or a week at most but eventually my willful and defiant creative self demands a change and some fresh inputs, and I quickly do something unexpected, odd and on a new tangent. I see this as an interesting and productive dance between my will and my wild creative self.
When I stopped making, over very busy days for example, I would feel a nagging sense of something missing – the pull to return to creative practice, because of the accountability of the challenge.
Like last year I pre prepared some cards with acrylic washes of some colours that I was interested in. This year that was burnt orange and rose madden. These cards when dry formed a great background for wax crayon, oil pastel and even ballpoint pen drawings. I like the way I have a block colour to work on (even if it ends up disappearing under layers) and I like the way the brushstrokes of the paint create texture, which other mediums pick up on. I also rather like the effect of having some similar coloured cards dotted through my ‘collection’ for the year.
What do I see when I look at the cards?
This year I mostly used oil pastels, acrylic paint and marker. I used a lot less collage and mixed media than last year. I see a lot of faces and abstract patterns in these tiny pieces and a fascination with texture.
So what do I take away from of all of this?
This year I found again that:
- It is uplifting to be part of a community, seeing other people’s cards and sharing my own with the group.
- Participating challenged me to create almost every day and gave me a format to work with beyond my sketchbook.
- Resistance showed up and some days I made ‘ugly cards’*; deliberately ugly cards that channeled my blocks and frustration. One card just says aargh over and over: that was one of those days!
(And when I say ugly art I don’t mean that in a self-loathing and seeking-reassurance kind of way, I mean that in a matter of fact and maybe even proud kind of way. Julia Cameron uses the term when she describes the benefit of allowing yourself to make ugly art to break the ice. It helps to shoosh the inner critic because nothing you do afterwards can be worse than this and the inner critic’s worst fear that you will fail to sparkle and impress is already met head on when you make something akin to scribble first up.)
Willing to make “bad” art, what we actually are is willing to make progress. – Julia Cameron
I love the empathy and community that shows up while working in a supportive group of friendly strangers – it is a group of enthusiasts, of cheerleaders and teachers and students and exchangers and morale boosters all.
I continue to love the format of working on index cards and the freedom that it brings in part because the medium is cheap and easy to access. It’s not scary to use, the expectations are lower but also it is small and easy to carry with you in a handbag or even a pocket.
And yes I love the cards I made – they speak to me of a time and place, and I love the surprise I had when some of them emerged. I feel fondly towards them and love their diversity.
Sometimes getting going with creating daily, or weekly or whenever can be tough. Doing it with friends who have a similar mindset can help, doing a challenge like this can help, working with a coach can help, or going to a class or workshop. If a workshop appeals you might like my Spring Visioning your Dreams workshop – we will use collage, crayons, paint and other elements to create a visual reminder of your dreams.
Images: a snapshot of some of my cards this year.