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Creating a Habit

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

The 100 Day Project: Week One

This project started as a way to sharpen my seeing and drawing skills. Drawing is mostly about the way one sees and partly about how to translate an image into a two dimensional rendering. All art students know the pain of keeping a daily sketchbook. It’s a practice akin to going to the gym. Daily drawing requires time, mental focus and dedication. Art teachers and professors know the payoff: daily practice in a sketchbook develops a student’s eye as well as her rendering technique. Refining my drawing skills should help to make my painting process more smooth. Most importantly, I hope this project will help me groove in a habit of drawing everyday. It’s a challenge to develop new routines, especially in an unstructured environment. After week one of the project, I have come to several realizations about creating a new habit.

Here are key some take-aways about creating habits:

Habit building takes time.

Every morning that I sat down with my sketchbook, it became a little easier. On the first day, I spent over an hour on a drawing of asters. It was 11 a.m. before I knew it. Over the course of the first week, I learned more about how to manage the time within the new habit and how to choose better topics. I also discovered that my drawing practice might not work best at the start of the day because it zaps energy for more important work. The benefit that comes from a full night’s rest might be better spent on the work that matters most.

New routines are painful.

If you’ve ever started any exercise routine, you probably understand this concept. There is always a lingering idea that there is something better that one could be doing. The only way to get through this pain is to push through it and do it anyway. Eventually, I began to accept the discomfort and started to consider ways to make the habit more fun. It also helps to have accountability partners to help push through discomfort. Such partners provide encouragement and useful feedback.

Accountability is important

The 100 Day Project is designed to be social. There are a set of hashtags and a clear stop and end date. The objective is to post your work or your efforts, each day for the duration of the project. At first, I was worried about junking-up my Instagram account with all of my working sketches. It felt a little like stage-fright to face the blank page, knowing that I would have to post whatever I drew. By the fourth day, I realized that no one really cares about a random ugly drawing that I might post. On the contrary, I received a wonderful week of supportive comments that really kept me going.

If it isn’t enjoyable, it isn’t sustainable.

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make during the first week was the transition from brush and paint to pencil. Pencil feels so weak. The contrast is low and it takes forever to fully shade a form. Coloring a page in graphite was just not enjoyable to me. That’s when I knew that there needed to be some changes. I added pens to my supplies, softer pencils and improved the quality of my paper. I also let go of the rigid expectation that every session would end with a finished product. After all, play is the best way to practice.

Variety makes it all better.

When I first visualized myself doing this project, I always imagined working in the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, that kind of structure is counter-productive. It induces boredom. For the fifth drawing, I worked outside in a botanical garden. The change in location helped me to achieve a wonderful flow state and truly lose myself in the process. Changing little things, like time, materials or location breaks up the monotony that can come from routines.

Now that the first week is behind me, I’m looking forward to seeing progress in my drawings and feeling more comfortable with this new routine. I hope you will follow the process and explore the many 100 Days Projects on Instagram. Just search the hashtags: #100jengillenart and #the100dayproject to follow along.

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