The 100 Day Project – 10 Lessons I Learned From My First Long Art Challenge

by Volta


Hi, friends!

As some of you may know, another round of the 100 Day Project started on April 3rd. In case you missed it – #The100DayProject is a global challenge where anyone can join in and practice one (small or big) activity for, you guessed it, 100 days. It is currently the fifth annual challenge, and it’s hosted by the lovely @elleluna and @lindsayjeanthomson on Instagram!

This is my second time joining in the challenge. And while I didn’t exactly finish my previous series of #100ShittyPortraits (which I started in 2017 and finished just a few days ago), I did manage to get 90 of them done! That is by far the furthest I’ve gotten with a series and I learned some things about myself and the challenge along the way.

1. Pick something small if you are pressed for time

Choose a small sketchbook, or a small area for your particular medium. Keeping it small helps with seeing success of committal faster and can help you feel good about the challenge by building momentum.

My first time doing the 100 day challenge, I didn’t realize that the particular skill I was trying to acquire would require me to spend somewhere between an hour – an hour and a half – to complete each portrait. This is why it also took me a whole year to complete all 90 portraits (life and other projects just took priority).

2. Block off time in your day

To make sure you follow through, block off time in your day to get your portraits done. Calendar reminders on your phone are great and can really help with building this habit.

My first 50 days of daily portraits I tried to stick to a 9pm routine where it would take me about an hour to finish each one.

3. Your project will evolve

watercolor portrait the 100 day project

Vincent Van-Doughnut

I started out with just the idea of getting better at sketching portraits, but I ended up with a whole theme where I made a food pun out of a celebrity’s name and include that food element in my illustration. The beauty of this project is that it can take you to new and exciting adventures! Having a baseline idea for your project is great to get you started, but it could also evolve into something different if you’re open to it.

I also wasn’t sure what kind of style my project would take on, and eventually settled on one by day 90.

4. Inject fun into your 100 day project

If your project involves learning something new (and I hope it does, because it’s such a powerful tool to create a new habit) – you might encounter some challenges. It’s important to still keep it fun and have a playful element to get you to show up, even if you feel uncomfortable.

Because I’m not that great at doing portraits, and that part, the growing of this new skill kinda sucked, I decided to add a fun element to my sketches – like a fun pattern in the background or a food element.

the 100 day project watercolor portrait

Ice Cream Conan O’Brien

5. Know yourself

If you know that you are prone to using a pencil to sketch first and then constantly erase, try using a more permanent tool, like a pen or marker. This will help you actually get your sketch done.

I knew that if I got a heavy duty watercolor sketchbook that can take a lot of layers and washes, I would take 2-3 hours per sketch. So I purposefully got a sketchbook that can take a limited amount of watercolor so that I would stop before it ruined my page.


6. Research your skill

Learning a new skill can be tricky and while 100 sketches is great, if you’re not understanding the components to acquiring your skill, you won’t see that much improvement. To truly grow, you must research and learn and build up on that knowledge with practice.

Your project can become something beyond just repetitive practice – it can be deliberate practice, where you are aware of the steps needed to develop a method.

I started out with just sketching faces, but then decided that I really wanted to learn it so I spent some time looking at youtube videos discussing facial proportions and how to correctly sketch a portrait.

7. Break or adapt the rules

Another benefit of researching how to properly perform your activity for the 100 day challenge is to break and mold the rules to your liking.

A typical watercolor portrait may not have any pencil marks at all, but I decided to embrace that look and feel because it felt more natural to me, and also more fun. My style may evolve later on, but I like this direction for my current skill level.

8. Be kind to yourself if you skip a day, or two, or 100.

It can be so demoralizing seeing a large gap of missed days on your calendar. You may even wonder, “why bother at all?” My best advice is to practice self forgiveness and try to not miss a day twice. Life can get in the way and things may come up that will make you forget or neglect your project, but if you put forth the effort of improving on this skill, even by missing some consecutive days, remember that we are all humans and there’s nothing wrong with showing up a day late – because showing up is 90% of the battle in my opinion.

9. Have reasonable expectations

If you’re starting with a new skill that you’re not familiar with, remember to have reasonable expectations. You might get frustrated with not seeing improvement right away, but a lot of times growth in a skill comes from technique repetition.

The reason why I called my portraits “#100ShittyPortraits” was to release myself from all expectations of producing awesome work, because I already know it’s going to suck since I’ve not practiced this skill enough.

10. Embrace community

My favorite part about this challenge and trying to keep up with it (at least the first 30-40 days) is finding other artists and makers who are in the same boat. The struggle becomes super real around day 30, and having that community of folks to cheer on and be cheered up by is a wonderful and magical thing. I’ve found and made some real awesome friends thanks to the last challenge. Don’t forget to engage and explore the hashtag (#the100DayChallenge)!

Sketchbook Tour + Discussion of my #100ShittyPortraits

I hope you found something helpful in my 10 tips for the 100 Day Challenge. And most importantly, I hope you join us and give it a shot. It’s never too late to start, so long as you commit to showing up. My 2018 #the100DayProject challenge is all about illustration some of my favorite foods from Dallas and beyond! I called it #100ColorSnacks because I couldn’t think of a clever name. 😀



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