100 Works in 100 Days

by Barbara Hersey

On a cold night in February I began my "100 Day Project," a personal artist journey to create 100 works of art, new each day for 100 days and offer them for $100 each.

Some understand the "100 Day Project" as a tool for celebrating the 100th day of grade school, but there are all sorts of 100x100x100-type art projects, fundraisers and exhibitions in the art world. For me, the 100-Day Project began as something I would pursue for myself and share with no one.

A number of things happening around the same time, through the whirling February winds, became sources of inspiration to embark on this project.

First, the devastating earthquakes hit Haiti. Amidst the sadness in the news, I learned about the lost murals of the Episcopal Cathedral in Port-Au-Prince and searched for photos online.

Second, the concept of the 100-Day project came to me from a friend, whose friend started earlier that winter. She had strict rules: all 6"x8", oil on canvas, and one basic theme.

Next, I took my sons to the movie Avatar and the next day to the Cape Cod Symphony Rachmaninoff concert. Then Roger De Muth, a college professor who taught me the importance of a daily sketchbook, published his Nantucket Sketch Book.

A line from Anne Lamott began to haunt me. "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us."

All these disparate elements ended up in the melting pot and stewed for a short while to feed a growing desire to use my talents.

Day 18: the HH buoy, acrylic, 18x18"
Day 18: the HH buoy, acrylic, 18x18"

As a new junkie of the social media craze, I decided to ask online friends if I could sustain a 100-Day project. Being good and excitable friends, they said, "Yes, go for it!" One talented artist friend, who is also a dad said, "I think it is a great idea but maybe try a "Mom" variation, 50+ paintings in 100 days?"

I considered their comments, especially the last one, and still chose to do my very best to engage in this crazy endeavor.

I decided to stick to one size, but not one media. For years I've taken photos with paintings in mind. As a working mom with precious little time for studio work, it's much more cost and time efficient to use photographs. I could draw and block out a painting from scratch, but I do not at all mind the shortcuts that using photos provides.

The media and subject matter I used varied greatly. They were pulled from a stack of photos that I'd been saving with the idea that I'd paint from them one day. 'One day' used to seem like never because the hateful word 'busy' took over my days and all my 'free' time.

In preparing for the 100-Day project, I had to make sure I had materials (mainly acrylic, watercolor, and pastel), paper and canvas. Being the proverbial artist and packrat, none of this was a problem.

The subject matter I photographed didn't always work with a limited size, so I changed the rules expanding the format. One of my now finished 100 paintings is 3'x6', a few are as small as 3"x5", some are on found wood board or cardboard.

Frying Pan Galleryad

Frying Pan Gallery

250 Commercial Street
Wellfleet (508)349-0011

Gallery Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 12 to 8p.m.
Friday – Sunday: 10a.m. to 10 p.m.

Day 7: Whistleberries, watercolor, 10x14"
Day 7: Whistleberries, watercolor, 10x14"

My 100-Day Project was art therapy for an artist who'd never quite got the hang of a daily discipline. Not surprisingly, the 'daily discipline' part was much easier when I chose to post a photo of the art everyday to a social network site. My audience, 80+ friends and family, began to respond to the art. They looked forward to something new from me each day. I felt heartwarming gratitude, but also a great sense of satisfaction from their supportive words.

I worked to a level of finish that I could live with and still complete the art before midnight each day. I often got my children to bed and then went to the studio to work for a few hours. I haven't lived with that little sleep since my sons were infants, or since I was in undergraduate school.

A college art teacher once told me that we have all the time we need to get our assignments done and that there were levels of finish entirely dependent on the time focused on the task at hand. Those words came back to me over the course of the 100 days. My mantra became, "Just get it done."

I posted the first painting on February 18 and the 100th painting on July 4th, 137 days from day 1. I made no judgment about going over the allotted time. I acknowledged it and moved on. In doing this I freed myself from guilt, for me there was simply a need to do quality work every day.

Day 35: shoes by the door, pastel, 9x12"
Day 35:shoes by the door, pastel, 9x12"

In the end, it was a case of "Out of the frying pan (of daily life), into the fire (of artistic inspiration), and back to the Frying Pan."

I highly recommend jumping in with both feet.

A native of Manhattan, Barbara's exposure to art began at a very young age, in churches, museums and public spaces. Having grown up both on Cape Cod and Western New York, she also spent countless hours in nature's classroom.

A graduate of Syracuse University with a BFA in Illustration, Barbara arrived in the world of professional art slowly over the past 8 years through the dichotomy of commissioned children's portraits and large-scale mural art in public and private spaces.

She also works in tandem with local artist, Linda Hunter, on Liturgical Banners at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church in Barnstable. They lead workshops in Art Book Journaling and Liturgical Banner Making.

Barbara's primary focus continues to be portraiture, still life, seascape and landscape in Pastel, Acrylic, watercolor or pencil.

For Summer 2010, her large sea creature paintings and marine biologic paintings are available at the Frying Pan Gallery in Wellfleet.

Find her on Facebook at the Homeport Studio group page, or on the web at www.zhibit.org/nowisee