Now that 2012 is a few weeks old and 2011 is behind us, I am beginning to miss making a 4”x4” piece of art every day. Last year the 2011 Project became the focus of my artistic life. There were a few days when it felt like a chore, but overall, I truly enjoyed working on it. Gradually my wall kept filling with the grid of piece after piece. But it really wasn’t until near the end of the year that the impact of the project began to feel “real” to me. Around November I was reaching the point where I had that I did it feeling. I’ll never forget the final moment when I put the last coat of varnish on the last piece on the evening of December 31st. I was sad that the long journey was over but also had a sense of accomplishment with having actually made it.
When I conceived the idea for the 2011 Project, I was experienced enough to understand that I could not really predict how the project would unfold. I had the basic concept of a piece of art every day. Having spent years exploring pattern and making grid like collages, the idea of using 4”x4” canvases and laying them out in a big grid was natural to me.
Starting with the commitment to making a piece of art every day, I quickly realized I also wanted to explore a different idea every day. There are reoccurring themes and styles throughout the project, but I really did strive to make each individual piece about an individual idea. There were many themes and materials I was well versed in and they started to appear in the project. As I began looking for new ideas it also lead to new styles, materials and subject matter. There are so many things I painted for the first time ever in 2011, everything from magnolias, to a goat to a quahog shell. Maps appear in plenty of the pieces and I also used other materials that I had used previously like old photos, vintage postcards and stamps. But the list of new materials grew to include: naugahyde, MUNI passes, dice, jigsaw puzzle pieces, Eucalyptus leaves, candy wrappers, wax and incense boxes to name just a few.
One advantage of working small was that each piece took me about 1-3 hours to make. There was some additional prep time and scouring around for materials. But basically, as an artist, each piece was a small commitment. This brief amount of time opened me up to experimenting. Unexpectedly, many pieces have become studies for future projects. The 2011 Project is also a vast personal sketchbook of ideas I will be expanding on for months and years to come.
Each artists needs to develop their own rules. And, I do not want to be one of those artists that tell other artists what they should do. But I will suggest that by imposing a disciplined structure for yourself, if even for a month, you will likely have a similar experience of positive and unexpected results.
The year 2011 is over, but the 2011 Project is far from finished. There is the need to show as an installation(s) in 2012. Then the separate pieces will be distributed to supporters so they can curate them for the future. And some point 10 years, 20 years or even further into the future, it will be even more interesting to revisit the project.