100 days of art keeps creativity alive

“Harlow Lake,” a photograph transferred to canvas by 100DayProject participating artist Elizabeth Bates, is pictured. The project ends April 30. (Photo by Taylor Johnson)

“Harlow Lake,” a photograph transferred to canvas by 100DayProject participating artist Elizabeth Bates, is pictured. The project ends April 30. (Photo by Taylor Johnson)

by Taylor Johnson

For Elizabeth Bates, the 100DayProject is all about the mulligan.

“The most valuable thing this project has taught me is the permission to make mistakes,” Bates said.

Bates, along with over 200 other people, has been participating in the third annual 100DayProject, which invites people to create art for 100 days straight. With continual growth, the event has gained the most participants in its three-year history this year. The 100 days began January 22, and while a piece of work doesn’t necessarily need to be completed every day, participants must work on their art every day until April 30. Sometimes that means spending just minutes a day on a work of art; other days, it means hours.

All manner of medias are represented in this year’s event. Some participants are writing poetry, haikus or short stories. Others are making jewelry, drawing, sketching, painting, taking photographs or even using the process of zentangle (creating images by drawing structured patterns).

The theme for this year’s work is “Across the Lake,” and it encourages artists to explore connections and relationships. The connections can be with the artists themselves, to nature or other humans—it is up to the artists to interpret the theme as they’d like. Participants don’t need a high level of artistic skill to be involved, just the will to create.

“This project is about exploring things to find out what gets our heart pounding,” said Project Organizer Catherine Benda.

Organizers and originators of the event, Benda and Ann Russ, have been overseeing and participating in the venture since it began. The idea for the 100DayProject was formed in 2008 by a small group of artists in Marquette called “PIA Art Collective.” Russ was a member of PIA and put together an art exhibit at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center gallery in 2013 showing the work of nine artists who had participated. Word got around about the gallery and a community-wide 100DayProject was announced in 2014.

Now, participants are not only from Marquette, but from all over the United States. The Grand Marais Art Colony in Minnesota, the Gaylord Area Council for the Arts and the Marquette Arts and Culture Center partnered together this year to promote the project. Anyone can join by simply visiting the 100DayProject website (the100dayproject.com) and registering his or her ideas.

When brainstorming ideas, it is recommended the participant pick something simple, but interesting. That way the artist doesn’t feel overwhelmed and can work on it every day. Once an idea is formulated (or the “spine” as artists call it), project rules are written out. These rules are made up by each artist, but generally include the main focus, what time the task will be worked on and plans. Rules keep the momentum going and set the artist up for success.

Bates participated in the project last year.

“This year I was pretty unstructured,” she said.

Her project is a transfer process in which she laser prints a photo, applies a gel medium to canvas and then places the photo face down on the canvas. Once it is dry, she spreads water on it and peels the photocopy paper away, leaving just the ink on the canvas.

Charlie West, a retired pastor and Marquette native, is a first-time participant. As he relaxes with a cup of joe at a coffee shop, he sits with a white binder of pages marked with his official project name:

“A Hundred Days with

A Hundred Cups of Coffee…

A Hundred Haiku (documented).”

West uses what’s around him as his muse.

“Sometimes I sit for 45 minutes before I see something. I try to write a short description of an event, then write a haiku. Haikus help put perspective into human nature,” he said.

Kira Preneta had a unique approach to her project. She put out a call through social media for book recommendations; then, she would flip to page 34 of each book and attempt to write a poem inspired by that page. However, she doesn’t always end up with a finished piece. Some pages in her notebook are filled with words, others have just a few scribbles.

“It’s still a process,” she said. “I’m learning rules can be broken.”

Benda said the project is about awakening creativity and giving people something to focus on during the long winter months. Not everyone who starts the venture finishes, and not everyone who finishes wants to show off the art (some participants are private and prefer to keep their art to themselves). The 100DayProject has a Facebook page and a monthly newsletter that is sent via email to help artists stay on track.

A few participants attended a meeting March 5 at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, about halfway through the 100 days, to discuss their progress. Some had done a few bigger projects, while others had multiple smaller ones. The overall vibe was positive and creative. The meeting helped inspire and encourage them to keep working.

A completion celebration will be held in May at the Ore Dock Brewing Company. A slideshow of the created pieces will be on display, as well as pieces participants bring in. The projects also get posted on the 100DayProject Facebook page. Anyone who makes it to at least day 21 can display his or her art, which could inspire others to be a part of next year’s 100DayProject.

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