The Daily Leaf Retrospective & What's Next?

The Daily Leaf Retrospective & What's Next?

The Daily Leaf Retrospective & What's Next?

Daily Leaf 173

At the beginning of 2018, I announced an ambitious year-long personal daily art project, the Daily Leaf. Each day in 2018, I collected a leaf outdoors and illustrated it. I shared all of my leaves on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. I also mapped all of the locations where I collected my leaves on an interactive map.

My daily leaf project was valuable to me in many ways, and taught me some incredibly important lessons. I am glad that I committed to this project and persisted through the whole year. The Daily Leaf was also one of the most frustrating and unrewarding projects I have ever done. I am proud of myself for completing the project, and relieved to be done.

Positive aspects of the Daily Leaf project

First, let's focus on the positive aspects of my Daily Leaf year-long project. I learned many things through the Daily Leaf project:

  • I developed a strong daily art habit/routine. After a year of creating daily art, creating art has become a part of my everyday routine. I tried really hard to give myself a week off at the beginning of 2019, but I couldn't stay away. Although I am no longer completing an illustration every day, I am always constantly sketching or picking away at longer projects.
  • I learned to appreciate every bit of nature or other art subject, no matter how mundane. When I first started the project, I bundled up and trekked out through winter storms to find "interesting" subjects for my daily illustrations. Within weeks, I abandoned that strategy, and was often collecting leaves just outside my door. In the past year, I have discovered a wide range of incredible subjects within 100 m of my house. In coming years, I will explore the intricate shapes and colours of horse chestnut budding leaves in early spring and staghorn sumac in fall, among others.
  • I overcame my fear of creating and sharing imperfect work As silly as it sounds, I used to fear not only sharing rough/imperfect work, but even of creating it myself. I shied away from starting any painting unless I had hours to work on it. Through my daily art commitment, I overcame my fear of creating imperfect work. I have also reduced my fear of sharing imperfect work (although I still don't like sharing rough work)
  • I explored new techniques and refined skills. Through experimentation, I developed a new appreciation for ink and granulating paints. My sketching speed and accuracy improved. I refined my water control and colour accuity.

Daily Leaf 240

Negative aspects of the Daily Leaf Project

While the Daily Leaf taught me many lessons, this daily art project was not a very positive experience

  • I struggled to balance the mental load of daily art and longer projects When I started the Daily Leaf project, my goal was to create a number of other, larger illustrations in parallel. Since many of my Daily Leaf illustrations would be quick sketches, I thought I would have lots of time and energy for other work. In reality, while I did have time, I did not have the mental energy or mental space to switch gears partway through the day from a complex illustration to a simple leaf or vice-versa.
  • I struggled with feelings of inadequacy Because I was mentally burnt out from context switching, I spent less time overall on art. As the year went on, I felt increasingly like I wasn't creating new illustrations that stretched or showcased my abilities.
  • I neglected my mental health and isolated myself. Those close to me know I am extremely stubborn. Once I set my mind to something ( whether it's painting a leaf every day or completing an engineering degree), I do it. Unfortunately, I sometimes do so at the expense of my own mental health. In 2018, I tumbled back into anxiety and depression. I am now rebuilding my routine and confidence after this setback.

Daily Leaves 237, 238 and 239

What's Next?

I completed the painting portion of the Daily Leaf project, and I recently updated my Daily Leaf Map to include all of my leaves from the year. Because I was struggling with mental health issues and burnout, I postponed coordinating exhibits and printing for the Daily Leaf project, but I am looking into them now, stay tuned.

In 2019, I am focusing on building my portfolio and brand for the types of work I'd like to do. I see myself primarily as a technical communicator, and would like to focus on more layered illustration pieces that tell a story or communicate targeted information about my subjects.

In addition to communicating through illustrations, I am interested in other forms of communication. I love sharing techniques, pigment information and more through this blog. In 2019, I will be investing more time in blogging. I have a number of blog posts queued up. I've also started a Youtube channel to share visual tips and chattier content than I usually share on this blog.

Thank you so much for following my progress on the Daily Leaf project, and I look forward to sharing my new projects with you this year!

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