Callie: Agnes I am so excited to finally get to chat with you about the 100 day project! I have been following your art online for at least a couple years and I really admire your illustrations. I know this isn’t your first 100 day project -- last year I followed along in the Instagram shadows -- but can you tell me a bit about how long you’ve been doing 100 day projects, and what made you start in the first place?
Agnes: Hi there! Well thank you for the nice compliments and the lurking. Last year was the first time I started a 100 day project and actually finished it! I have enjoyed different kinds of drawing challenges via social media but it took a while for all the factors to come together in a fashion that it felt integrated into my Work in a way that it wasn’t so easy to bail on it or throw it away… The thing that attracts me most to projects like this is the feeling of teamwork that arises when lots of people are attempting the same kind of challenge simultaneously. Despite all the eye-rolling ways social media is kind of a drag, I really depend on it to feel a sense of community and have “coworkers.” It helps me build a lot of momentum when people are jazzed about giving each other feedback and encouraging each other to flex those creative muscles.
Callie: Living far away from an urban center, I’ve definitely struggled to find a supportive community IRL -- both socially and creatively. And I have to agree there is this really great component of community within the 100 Day project. Plus, working as creatives often means you’re spending long hours alone. There are so many aspects of this career path that can feel isolating! Maybe I’m projecting right now -- but in any case I think maybe that’s where part of the popularity of 100 Day Projects comes from? Uniting creative-type people and using social media as a vehicle for positive connections?
Agnes: Absolutely. I think it also helps people in all different stages of developing a creative practice to have these parameters and these comrades, for those who may or may not get to do creative projects as part of their career, or who are fresh out of school and haven’t spent as much time dreaming up their own passion projects yet. A simple prompt can be enough “permission” to try something new, even if the goal is just self-discipline and focusing on the habit-building part to see what happens!
Callie: This is reminding me that I don’t know a ton about your background! Did you go to art school?
Agnes: I actually went to school for photography, but started veering more into (photo-inspired) illustration in my senior year of college. Then I worked at a letterpress shop for 3 years, which also felt like a different kind of art school.
Callie: Right! You went to RIT -- which is really cool, because I think Rochester, NY is the best, and if we could, my wife and I would relocate there in a heartbeat.
I studied painting and traditional printmaking in Undergrad and social practice art in Grad, but as time goes on I almost wish I could go back and focus on graphic design or business. I learned valuable things, but… I feel like I could use a whole other degree teaching me how to build a career! In some ways, I think that’s also where projects like this come in handy. Although I am not at a point where I feel like I need a prompt necessarily (though, who doesn’t need a little push out of their comfort zone??) this project has felt so similar to a thesis project for me. How did you go about picking a focus or theme for your project?
Agnes: So, last year when I finally remembered “The 100 Day Project” in time to play along, my first priority was “What’s something I can actually pull off in a pretty short amount of time each day because I am stubborn AF and I will be mad if I don’t finish?” Speed has always been something I stress about - like I feel like I don’t draw fast enough? How silly is that… Anyhow, I had been doing a lot of goofy food cartoons for a recurring freelance client and had developed a style with which I could whip out lil food friends fairly quickly, so that was how I settled on last year’s #100DaysOfFoodFriends. When the time rolled around again this year, I tried to go a little deeper and think about the project as a whole, and challenge myself to do something more personally meaningful. I also considered “What kind of work do I want to do more of?” because people inevitably make assumptions about your art when you present an extend series on a theme, so I wanted to make sure I was giving my attention to something I wouldn’t mind expanding on further.
This year’s theme, #100DaysOfTheGroceriesWeNEED came out of a little sketchbook doodle I posted a while back, that was formed out of some intense frustration and fear I was feeling around inauguration day. I had tried to take the concept in a few different directions over the past year and not really made any progress I was stoked on, so I decided 100 days of coming back to that idea and thinking about those feelings would at least be a productive time brainstorming and churning out all the hot takes to get to the juicy parts I hope are lurking somewhere. I also thought that making my theme conceptual might allow me to experiment with approaching it in different media which is something I’ve been chewing on for this series as well.
Callie: I think it goes without saying that I really, really love the work you’ve been making for this series. The fact that you have curated these snippets of popular culture with cultural critique in what I think is a really approachable medium, is fantastic.
I also appreciate the issue of time. I don’t know if there is a fair measurement of time for creating an illustration or work of art, but I do know that we are both balancing businesses and life with this project, and personally it’s taking soooooo much time! I was chatting with my friend who is also doing the project, and we agreed that our need to finish the work to a certain point can be such an achilles heel situation. I’m enjoying my project, so I wouldn’t change anything at this point, but I don’t think I was realistic about the time it would take to do an illustrated portrait every day! Did your experience with the project last year change anything about how you planned your time utilization for the project this year?
Agnes: I definitely noticed last year that I felt compelled to make the technical style of each piece consistent, and that part started to feel like a drag after a while. Many of the earlier pieces actually had more thoughtful concepts behind them, but later on I was just, like, “FUCKING FINISHHHH ITTTTT.” So this year I told myself, time to recalibrate what the definition of success is. I decided that:
1) I could do a pencil sketch, or a finished illustration, or something else like a sculptural interpretation, and it would all count. Thinking about the ideas was more important than the piece being totally polished.
2) 100 Days Of ________ doesn’t need to mean 100 unique pieces. I was committing to putting my attention on this concept each day and sharing where that took me.
It’s 100 days of starting my day with this ritual of sharing something - it can be progress, it can be an idea that’s a little wobbly, it can be a new rendition of an old piece if necessary. So it has felt more relaxed so far… but of course it’s only day 21! Also it doesn’t hurt that this concept is so well-aligned with my general outlook and all the other work that I do, that it isn’t necessarily a separate item on my To Do List from my daily attempt to live as an artist and evolve into a better human.
Callie: I’m a tiny bit worried that I am on Day 16 of the project, and I have already had several moments of FUCKING FINISH THISSS! BE DONE WITH THE DRAWING OF THE THINGGY THING. I went into the project with a really broad idea - I wanted to make more work about queer women. And as I got closer to actually starting the project, it started to evolve and get more and more specific. Once I started including other people in the project, it got a lot more intense. I know that component of including others has always been important to my art practice, but it’s also really challenging. Do you get a lot of feedback on your work? Does that feedback inform any of the creative decisions you make?
Agnes: I don’t feel like I get a lot of feedback in general… but a couple of days of this project so far have produced a startling amount of comments compared to what I usually expect, and I would say the only effect that really has is the comfort of feeling like I have some extra cheerleaders on my team saying “Yeah, keep doin that thing!” and also the acknowledgement of some shared experience. Even things that are silly sometimes come out of some intense, personal feelings, and I will SWEAT IT for a while before sharing, wondering if it’s just going to be crickets and I am going to be all alone with my weird feelings, so even if it’s just 50 people saying “YES!” it is a sigh of relief, and gratitude for that understanding. All the times I have shared things from a really personal place (for this project and otherwise), just feeling seen and heard and tiny peeps of recognition via emoji make it a little easier to go for it the next time.
Callie: I know it’s still early, but do you have a favorite illustration of the series so far?
Agnes: Hmmmm (*scrolls back through Instagram and starts critiquing the shit out of everything*)... Ok, I think my favorite so far that is a new piece for this series is my pink TV from day 5. It feels a little more developed and closer to a finished piece, but also has so much juicy potential inside it that I considered making this my whole 100 day theme, so I already know it will have so many more pieces connected to it. And as one friend pointed out, it also fits in really well with things I have already done. It has been a surprise bonus of this series that I started to feel like many other things I have already made feel connected to the project theme and they all support each other.
Callie: I appreciate how connected and cohesive your project feels, and integrated within your regular practice, while simultaneously pushing into new territories. I’m really excited to see how this series evolves!
Agnes: Thank you so much! I am excited to see your project rolling along as well! If it stresses you out just change the rules!! You’re the boss. But I’m cheering for you!
Callie: Cheers to that!
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Agnes Barton-Sabo's life as a Maker of Things began in a family of very artistic grizzly bears in the snowy wilds of Alaska. She earned a BFA in photography from RIT, and then moved to Nashville to get down and dirty with the type spirits of the universe at Hatch Show Print. After letterpress heaven and a stint as a professional cake decorator, she now focuses full-time on art shenanigans from my headquarters in Oregon.
Callie Garp has a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University. Keep up with Callie here.