I've never completed an art challenge until now (and I've tried several other times). And yeah, I'm kind of proud that I created all 61 cards for the Index Card A Day Challenge sponsored by Tammy over at Daisy Yellow.
But you know what? Surprise of all surprises (for this novice challenger, anyway), finishing isn't the reward.
The real takeaway is what I learned both about myself and my creative process. I recommend every creative person try doing some kind of art challenge...if for no other reason than to learn, like I did, that I should not commit to creating something every day!
So here goes:
what I learned from the whole Index Card a Day Challenge experience
1. ICAD proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am seriously challenged by doing anything every day.
Like I've said before, in life I consistently fail at being consistent. It's a wonder I regularly brush my teeth!
I've spent many years trying to figure out why. I could never, for instance, write on a daily basis —yet I have years worth of journals and other writing—that I didn't write every day!
I've never been able to exercise every single day, either. I'm amazed by my current average (lifelong record) of four days per week (um at least before vacation...), and I've never made breakfast every morning for the family. Pah! Cereal is one of the best inventions of the modern world.
I think ICAD has shown me once and for all that committing to almost anything every single day just doesn't work for me. And you know what? That's okay!
2. I've always been very good at meeting deadlines imposed by others, but now I know I can meet my own deadlines to reach my own goals.
I may not work every day on a project, but I never miss a deadline— if other people rely on me. Doing ICAD proved that I can commit and follow through on something that is "just" for me.
3. Creating a "body" of exercises taught me more about my preferences and my style.
I like deep and dark colors.
I enjoy abstract collage—any collage, really.
I love shaded edges of papers, textures and images—added dimension.
I like to draw images.
ICAD suggests that maybe my best work will be come when I marry all those together.
4. I also see areas in vast need of improvement.
By working through the ICAD Challenge, I'm better able to see where I need to focus my learning next. Two areas stand out.
COLOR. When I first started this arting adventure, I had no idea how much I had to learn about color—how much there is to learn! Color theory is complex, and while I naturally love color in my work, I need a better grasp of how to develop palettes and mix colors, and to use color for greater effect.
LAYERING. Oh my gosh, layering is really a tough nut to crack. It's so difficult to cover up elements I like, to keep going, and to add dimension and contrast rather than make mud or chaos. I clearly see improvement since last year—but I still have a way to go.
5. I think I improved!
A first when I looked at all 61 cards this year and compared them to last year, I didn't think so. But you know what? A very interesting thing happened at the point I decided to throw out the themes/prompts this year and just work from my gut. As it turns out, I created 29 more cards—the exact number of cards I created last year before I stopped doing ICAD mid-challenge.
Ah, synchronicity. Chance or divine direction? At the least, I figured I should compare just those sets of 29 from 2013 and 2014.
First, as a group, this last set of 29 this year are more cohesive than the whole bunch, and as a whole I do think I began to move in the direction of more complex compositions and, yes, greater layering. Like all of us, I hope to improve the longer and harder I work so I was glad to see that.
6. Wait, look closer at this synchronicity thing.
I admit I became curious about that number 29. I don't know a lot about discovering divine truth from coinciding numbers—otherwise known as numerology—but I see all human attempts to know the mysteries of the universe (including most religious teachings) as a whole collection of possible clues. I'm open to possibilities and tend to give greatest weight to repeating patterns and collective human experiences across disciplines (spirituality, art and science).
So anyway, I love that numerology draws from ancient and diverse cultures around the globe, from Babylonia, Pythagoras and the Greeks, Christian mysticism, the Hebrew Kabbalah, The Hindu Vedas, and the Chinese I Ching, among others. Who are we modern people to dismiss the potential truths found in numbers?
Not me. And besides, I absolutely love this interpretation of my affinity for the number 29. So as a hypothesis, anyway, I'm going with it!
"...29 is a message to have faith and trust in your intuitive messages and impressions as these messages and promptings are urging you towards and along your Divine life path and soul mission."
7. ICAD helped me come to terms a little more with "failing".
I'm pretty sure all the cards that turned out to be less successful—what a certain uncharitable inner critic might call "failures"—were necessary. For instance, while I churned out tons of duds those first weeks (in my opinion), I did come out with nine I like very much. I wouldn't have created those without also creating the "bad" ones.
Not only that, but of all the cards I created for the ICAD Challenge this year, Camera Collage and Blackbird from this first half are among my favorites.
8. I also see what the "failures" have to teach me.
I don't keep going far enough.I stop before I get something I like.
I stop too soon when it comes to generating ideas. Too often, I with the first idea because I secretly believed I could only come up with one idea!
Finally—and this is where I go deep:
I think the prompts turned into expectations I used to disappoint myself.
These days I'm better at trusting my intuition when facing the blank page. I now like to start out with just color, line and form and see what comes next and next. It didn't used to be this way. When I was first starting out, I was terrified of facing the blank page and letting out whatever came to me.
With the prompts, though, I guess I was afraid again. Why? Because "I" had to perform. "I" had to come up with ideas on the spot. And as I said, I didn't trust that I could. (And I often proved myself right.)
9. So I have to ask myself, what is the difference between "my" intuition and, well, "my"creativity? (I told you I was going deep!)
Intuition comes to me like feelings. I'm not sure where ideas come from—maybe from my subconscious or from outside of myself altogether (or a mix of both). But when I work intuitively, I feel the next way to go and then the next.
When I was faced with thinking of a good idea with all those prompts, it definitely felt like it was all coming from "me"—my creativity. My ideas.
I abandoned intuition.
10. My final takeaway from ICAD going forward
ICAD is another form of art journaling. I may not have completed index cards in a book, but I was still doing what I do when I art journal: experiment and play and create compositions that come from a place of quiet give and take with my inner artist.
Now that the ICAD challenge is completed for the year, I'm more committed than ever to continuing this practice back in my art journal (regularly, though not daily because that's how I roll).
And maybe I've gained some clarity. I've always known I use my art journal to both learn skills and express myself creatively. In my art journal going forward, I'll be working on how to use color, how to build layers and I'll be shooting for that marriage between images, abstracts and collage in my work. I'll also continue the journey of trusting my intuition and my feelings.
But I think ICAD has shown me more than ever that art journaling is very much a practice of using visual language to communicate as spiritual beings.
With ourselves and with others.
I hope if you've read all the way to the end of this long post that my passion will ignite your own creative journey, too.