Back in 2015, I had just left my full-time graphic design job to pursue a freelance design and art career. (You can read more about that transition in detail here).
When I jumped into freelancing, my client workload was actually a bit slow. That, combined with an inkling that I wanted to step more into art-making and away from branding/graphic design, led to me taking an online watercolor class.
I had some basic supplies on hand from experimenting a bit with painting before, but taking an online class helped jumpstart everything for me. I immediately fell in love with watercolor. On Instagram I had heard about something called The 100 Day Project. The very next day after taking that class, I decided to begin my very own 100 Day Project - 100 Days of Painted Patterns. Here is my very first post announcing the project!
Over the next few months, I shared daily watercolor paintings to my Instagram account. Each week, I would choose a new color palette to explore. Now, let's talk about specifically how this one project changed my art career!
It got me comfortable with my chosen medium.
I had dabbled in painting before, but I knew if I really wanted to improve in watercolor I needed to paint often and consistently. The 100 Day Project was certainly challenging, but it was perfect for that goal.
I built up so many pieces for my portfolio and pushed myself to try new ideas. It helped me understand which color palettes felt like "me", and which didn't. It allowed me to explore with different materials and ultimately feel more confident with watercolor.
It spread the word about my work.
My audience on Instagram/Facebook were really engaged during the project and loved to follow along with the progression of the series. This helped build my audience further as well.
Not only that, but some exciting accounts started sharing my patterns during the project like Design*Sponge and A Beautiful Mess, all thanks to hashtags. It was so exciting and almost unbelievable for me at the time! I even was interviewed on a couple blogs after they found my work on Instagram.
Ultimately, it led to me working with Design*Sponge on a design project that was my highest paid project ever at the time. All because I put myself out there consistently on Instagram!
It gave me a fresh, confident mindset.
Creating consistently and getting positive feedback on the project gave me the confidence to continue pursuing watercolor, patterns, and surface design as a career. Not long after I finished I landed my first licensing deal.
Before the project, I felt totally overwhelmed and depressed about where by career was heading. With a lack of client work and a dwindling passion for brand design, the 100 Day Project gave me a renewed sense of clarity and excitement for art and the possibilities ahead.
I will say, maybe it was a little easier for me to cut through the noise on Instagram back in 2015 to get noticed, I still think it is absolutely possible today. Especially if you are super consistent with your project. And remember, the recognition I was getting online was great, but really it was the improvement of my watercolor skills that gave me the most confidence to move forward.
Tips for starting your own project.
After reading this, you may be excited to start your own project!
Here are my tips for starting your own project:
- If 100 days sounds like too much, start with 30. It's much better to do fewer days and actually finish the project than to let it fizzle out.
- Give yourself some light parameters or guidelines. Will you stick to certain color palettes, subject matter, or one medium?
- Assign a unique hashtag to your project and make sure it isn't already used. This will make it easier for you and others to browse all of the work (even potential clients!)
- Add it to your calendar. If you want to take weekends or weekdays off, that's ok! Just schedule your creation and posting time into your calendar to help you get it done.
- If you don't get a ton of eyes on your project, that's ok! Remember this is more about building your skills and portfolio. The recognition will come.
Have any ideas for your 100 day project? Share them below!