Personal View

A Year of Living Artfully

By Clark Kellogg
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I didn’t plan this in advance. In fact, I stole the idea from a friend. She got it from someone else on New Year’s Eve: take an Instagram photo every day throughout the year and share it. I thought, “I’m an artist, not a photographer. It will be too much work. What if I can’t make something every day? What if I fail?”

That was Jan. 1, 2013, the day I made the first of 365 pieces of art, titled “365DailyArtProject,” on Tumblr and Facebook. After that, for the next 364 days, I made and posted a piece of original art every day. This is the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept.

I do lots of routine things each day. I learned that making art every day is different. There is no routine to creativity. But there is discipline. There is intention and focus. And, when one is making something, there is a palpable joy in working hard.

I know this now with great certainty. It is one of the best lessons of this year of work. But that certainty has only come since the project ended on New Year’s Eve. Now, I see that—as Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote—we live life going forward but understand it in reverse.

The first 100 days were full of questions and self-doubt. I feared I’d run out of ideas. I’d just go dry. “Where do I get inspiration? How many more collages do I have in me?” This only got work April 18 (day 108) after a friend innocently posed a question on Facebook: “Will he make it to 365?” It was a gentle joke, but it wasn’t funny to me. I was running scared. I became convinced I couldn’t keep going. I decided to make whatever came to me, since I’d be quitting soon anyway.

With the freedom to fail, a remarkable thing happened: I started making good work. Nine of my best pieces of the year were made during the next three weeks. I was released from my self-imposed judgments. I got out of my own way. Learning to defer judgment saved the project—and in many ways, saved me.

Doing art every day became the lens through which I exper- ienced daily life. Wherever I might be—with my son in Canada traveling on motorcycles, teaching in Beijing, speaking in Poland, vacationing in Mexico—my life was reflected in the work. I learned to have a beginner’s mind. Being curious became more important than being right. Seeing differently made me think differently. The more present I became, the more interesting the world became.

In the fall, on day 325, something new happened. I’d been doing the work one day at a time. 365 still loomed as a huge number. But on Nov. 21, I realized there were only 40 days left, only 40 more chances. I was starting to mourn the end of the project. Like life, I would run out of time. I went for broke. Again, my art got better.

Throughout the year, I started each day with a blank slate. I made it up from what the day gave me. I grew happier and more confident in my ability. The stuff of daily life became the springboard for encountering the unknown—the blank page.

By the end of the year, my courage to create from what I didn’t know was greater than my fear of failing with what I did know. On Dec. 31, as I posted “365/365,” the last piece of the year, I saw that I’d come full circle. And now, when people ask me about what I’ve learned from this work, I tell them that it all comes down to a simple six-word story—the story of my life:

Trust the process. Do the work.

To view all 365 pieces, visit: 365DailyArtProject.Tumblr.com

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Clark Kellogg is a lecturer in design thinking and innovation practices at the Haas School, and taught at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and College of Environmental Design before joining Haas. A former architect, Kellogg teaches the Haas School’s core MBA Problem Finding, Problem Solving course as well as the Haas@Work applied innovation class.

Clark Kellogg