A few months ago I created a challenge called 100 layers of paint. Layers are my gig, people always ask me how many l can do in one painting and I wanted to see if I could do more than the usual 10-20 and push to 100.
I didn’t have a chance to write about it earlier but I took notes during the process and wanted to share them with you because I received a lot of questions about the challenge and what I learned while doing it.
The rules were really simple. In fact, there was only one. One layer of paint on the same canvas, for 100 days.
I started this for me, to experiment, challenge myself and see where the idea would lead me. I never thought others would want to do it with me but many Instagrammers decided to join. It was such a joy to know that I would not be doing this alone! Some stopped along the way, a few completed the challenge, and overall it was just awesome to be able to share the experiment with others.
Showing up every day
One hundred days is very long. One thing the challenge taught me for sure is consistency. I had to show up every day and paint, even if I didn’t feel like it, even if I was not inspired. I thought a lot about my brother who’s a professional musician during these days. He practices every single day of his life. Since he’s 9 years old. And he has become one of the best french horn players in the world. It took him years and thousands of hours of practice to get there. He was practicing every morning before going to school. He was practicing during weekends, during summer. He still does. It really got me thinking about the way I treat my own form of art. Even though I love to paint, I don’t always feel like it. The challenge made me realize that when you take your art seriously, it has nothing to do with “feeling like it” or not. You have to show up every day to improve, to master your skills, to have great breakthroughs.
The more I paint, the more I paint
And that led me to a second realization. The more I paint, the more I paint. Almost every time I was picking up a brush for the challenge, I ended up working on my other pieces or starting something new. I was able to make progress on a lot of paintings and finish others just because I was showing up every day. It doesn’t mean that I had great blissful sessions every time, and I sure had a lot of very unsatisfying layers along the way, but overall, I accomplished so much more than I usually do when I’m not pushing myself to do the work on a daily basis. I ended up having so much more ideas, and like in a brainstorm, many of them were not very good, but a few were amazing and that was great for my other paintings. So it was really not only about that 100 layers painting, but also, and mainly about the other paintings I was working on.
It’s all about the journey
If you followed me during the challenge and/or took part in it, you heard me say that a lot. In this experiment, but also with any creation and I would say in life in general, the end result doesn’t really matter. What is important is the journey. It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it and how creating makes you fell. I could’ve made 100 great, visually appealing layers, using only the colors, shapes, patterns and marks I’m comfortable with. I could’ve spend twice the time I did to make sure every layer would be pleasing to my audience. But that would’ve been contrary to what I preach, what I love and what helps me grow. Remembering I didn’t have to know the fate of my painting was a great exercice in letting go and focusing on the present and on enjoying the process. I try to keep that in mind every time I enter the studio but the challenge helped me with that habit because it was an experiment and I was ok with the fact that the final painting didn’t have to end up being amazing.
Overall I loved how it challenged me on a daily basis. It taught me discipline and made me want to take more risks and join more challenges! Most importantly, I'm glad I finished my 100. I really wanted to get to the finish line of this marathon and I'm proud I did. A great achievement for someone like me who easily and constantly starts things but not always finishes them.