The Daily Illo: One Month In
In late 2015 I decided to adopt a new game plan for my creative life. It involved a strict morning routine, saying “yes” a lot, and making something everyday. Through the end of January of 2016 I accomplished all of it, but I wasn’t really focused on that last thing as much as the rest. I told myself that because I’m a book designer and photographer, it was almost built in that I would create something daily. Then in February I got serious about it.
On January 31st I got an email from CreativeLive, the brilliant online learning platform where you can take classes to expand your skills in a multitude of areas—design, photography, marketing, etc.—for free. The message informed me that the next day they’d launch an initiative called #28toMake. It was a daily prompt that encouraged participants to put aside a block of ten to twenty minutes and make something every day for the month. The thinking behind it is that habits usually take 28 days to stick, so what better month that February to run the initiative (even though this year is a leap year).
So I did the prompts everyday and documented it all on this blog and shared it on social media (an attempt to fight the fear of criticism). Each week was introduced by a different creative and revolved around various types of projects. The things in week one—hosted by illustrator Kate Bingaman-Burt—really struck me the most. They were all drawing-related: draw your drink, draw an album cover, draw a plant. And since I’d been doing those kinds of things for most of my life, I had a ton of fun with it.
Much of my youth—well into my twenties—was spent making art in various forms: painting, drawing, screen printing, music. I eventually put those things aside, though, to focus on writing and publishing. But recently I started going back to the art full-force—primarily in the form of photography—and doing these drawing prompts really ignited that passion inside of me, too.
I’ve always had a very minimal drawing style. It consists of simplified line drawings and big blocks of color—perfect for the 10–20 minutes we were supposed to use on these #28toMake prompts, and perfect for continuing everyday. That’s where Daily Illo comes in.
The 28 days to form a habit notion held true for me. After that first week, even while doing the rest of the month’s prompts I kept drawing. And about halfway through I decided I’d commit to doing one every single day from here on out, and make it public so there would be some accountability (and again, to challenge my fear of criticism). So I started an Instagram account called @dailyillo (which I also wrote about this on the blog). The first post went up on March 1st, and with yesterday being the last day of the month I now have 31 drawings posted. Not only has it been a ton of fun for the past month, it’s also been quite a learning experience. These drawings have evolved since day one, and so has my thinking around the project.
The main thing I’ve learned is that consciously blocking out time to make something during the day is essential. Before #28toMake, and now Daily Illo, I was just kind of letting it happen. But creating with intention is so important. It’s allowed me to focus more, to do better work, and to form something cohesive. Doing this project everyday has left me a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back to where I began, when there wasn’t much structure or direction with the drawings. Now, after only one month, I can see where my work is headed and I’m thinking about ways I can take it offline and into other areas, an idea that was kind of thrust upon me.
My M.O. for these daily drawings is to depict things I see all the time through my own filter. So you get a pretty good picture of the kind of person I am if you follow along. Everyday items define my time, and that’s what I’m putting out there for you. And as much as I tell myself I’m doing this to scratch my own itch, it doesn’t hurt to have followers. That’s why I tag accounts when I draw things that are made by brands. Maybe they’ll see what I’m doing and … who knows? One drawing recently was a ticket stub for the film 10 Cloverfield Lane. I was trying to think of something to make the day after seeing it, and because I enjoyed it so much I decided to share that with Instagram. I tagged the film’s official account and its director, Dan Trachtenberg. The day after the drawing went up I got a message from him saying how much he loved it and asking where he could get a print. A print? Now there was an idea.
What I realized as time went on and I made more and more of these images, was that my process lends itself perfectly to screen printing. I do a line drawing, scan it, and then add the colors in Photoshop, layers. That’s how it works for making a print. So I whether I knew it or not, I was already headed in this direction when Trachtenberg reached out to me. My plan is to start making prints this weekend. Maybe I’ll do a run of them and offer them up here on my site. Or maybe I’ll eventually start an Etsy store—I’m not quite sure yet.
I’ve realized this week that my style could lend itself well to coloring books, too. That’s essentially what I’m doing anyway when I put these things into Photoshop and fill them in. That’s down the road though. Right now I think I’m just going to keep plugging away at Instagram, because it’s been a ton of fun so far and has given me a lot of much-needed creative discipline. And it’s at the point where I kind of need it now. I couldn’t imagine going a day without making one of these drawings. Another thing I’ve found in doing them is that it helps the rest of my creative life, too. I’m thinking clearer and wider with other projects, and I’m just a lot happier because it’s so fun.
I highly encourage anybody who might read this to consider dedicating one month to creating something with intention everyday. Since I’ve started doing it I’ve had some of the most rewarding days of my life. If you need some guidance, the folks at CreativeLive have handy #28toMake e-book that can help you along.
Check me out at @dailyillo to see my drawings, and if you start a daily project please let me know so I can follow along!