Last week I completed my first creative personal project 100 Days of Pillows, where for 100 weekdays I committed to making a new design that could be printed on a throw pillow. It was one of the most difficult and satisfying projects I’ve completed in my art journey. I learned so much from it, things that I think may benefit you, too. So, here are the top 5 lessons I learned during the process.
5. Committing to 100 days of creating anything is an excellent way to build a body of work.
If you follow through with the project, you’ll have 100 new designs to choose from for your portfolio. Some designs you’ll love and others not so much, but having that many choices feels great when you see them all laid before you.
4. Rest is essential to recharging your creative batteries.
I chose 100 weekdays, instead of including weekends, because I knew I’d need the down time. As much as I wanted to complete the project more quickly, I knew it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Rest allows your mind to generate more creative ideas than when you’re trying to be creative 100% of the time, 7 days a week.
I admit that making yourself stop and rest is difficult to do, especially when you’re in that creative flow. I especially experienced this when I paused the project in December for travel and Christmas. At that point I had reached Day 50 and my designs were getting better and better…the last thing I wanted was to stop. But, when I picked back up again in January, after clearing away the rust, I got back on track and saw my work escalate even further than it had before.
Side note: if you rest AND get out of your normal environment (i.e. travel!), that’s a great recipe for gaining inspiration and new ideas. I experienced this firsthand with our trip to Nashville, which resulted in 3 pillow designs (one of which led to a similar 4th) and a fun sketchbook entry. I now know I need to be more intentional about changing up my surroundings for my creative good.
3. By the end, you’ll know whether to keep going or pivot.
After 100 designs, you’ll have a clear picture of whether you can see yourself making 100 more of those things, or whether you should try something new. In my case, in the beginning I had a hunch that designing for fabric in home decor was something I’d like to pursue further. As the project progressed however, I found that my passion wasn’t solely for fabric design. My true passion was simply about learning to draw better, improve my design eye and find colors that worked for me.
At the end of the project, I found myself (somewhat) breaking out of the limits of pillow design by incorporating more illustrative drawings that had personal meaning. I was already pivoting! So, illustration is an avenue I’m exploring next.
2. You’ll become more disciplined in creating your work.
I believe in a world of constant distractions due to technology, learning discipline is more important than ever. It’s something I’ve struggled with since working on my own and this project was a great teacher. There were moments when I couldn’t think of what to draw, or didn’t like what I had already drawn, and wanted to quit. There were moments when I was emotionally and physically tired from committing to a new design day in and day out. But when you decide that no matter what, you’re going create that design and share it with the world, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Being disciplined about your creative work leads to more art, which leads to better art.
Bonus: sharing your work, no matter what, also helps overcome perfectionism!
1. You will improve your craft dramatically.
This is the result I was most looking forward to. I’ve heard it said that an artist should look back at their work from 6 months ago and cringe, a sure sign that your skills are growing. Well, this project took almost exactly 6 months and when I look back at those first designs, cringe is right! ? At the time it was the best I had and I was proud of my work, but the bar has been raised. I’m so happy to see the clear progression of my work.
I also didn’t realize that not only would my finished art get better, but *how* the art was made would improve, too. My proficiency in both Illustrator and Photoshop increased, and I learned how to set up shop on Spoonflower, something I wouldn’t have done if not for this project.
In short, I feel like I made huge strides on my creative path and am really glad I took on this first personal project. If you’re thinking of doing the same, I highly encourage you to take the plunge. These results can be yours too, that is, with hard work and determination.
The only question now is…what will be your first (or next) project?
P.S. Find the entire 100 day project on the blog.