This year was the first time I participated in the instagram 100 day project. I needed something to focus on as most galleries were wanting work but I didn't have a particular deadline to work to. I tend to work best when I am under pressure or with an end date in mind.
I generally plan my year out in terms of exhibitions, galleries, shows I need to work towards as I need to juggle my art commitments alongside my full time job. I also set myself targets so that throughout the year I know whether I need to refocus efforts on a particular area of my art work / business.
So to decide to jump in head first into a project which I needed to commit to for at least 3 months was well... a little bit left field to say the least. But commit to it I did and it helped me get through a challenging period during lock down, I made new connections via instagram which has led to further opportunities and I had a substantial body of work to exhibit in my new studio at the end of it.
Was it hard work?
Yes it was. Mainly tiring as I had to commit at least a couple of hours a day, every day and once the 100 day period was over there was the whole process of pulling the work together into a collection over a very short period of time. This was whilst getting work ready for another exhibition, running workshops and trying to squeeze in a holiday. Oh and did mention that half way through my partner was rushed to hospital?! That's a story for another day.
Did I know from the start that I would end up with a new body of work?
Yes. It was one of my aims to create a new body of work but the project developed as it went along and with it the scale. I had the idea of what I wanted to do ie create a diary of the changing seasons and had created something similar at my residency in Brisons Veor.
With the ideas came challenges and as the project grew in scale I knew I wanted to give people the opportunity to see all 100 paintings exhibited together.
So how do you display 100 small paintings?
That certainly was a challenge! I love painting on Arches Huille paper and until fairly recently I mainly framed them behind glass. That was not going to be possible with 100 paintings because of the cost and the time it would take to have them made.
I decided early on in the process that I would mount each painting to a wooden board and then varnish them to protect them. But they really needed something else. They needed to be framed... but 100 paintings equals a bill for 100 frames and delays in the process - this was potentially going to put an end to this project!
Martin at Artworks Framing took my framing problem away and came up with a fantastic solution which was within budget and also made it easy for me to frame the paintings myself as and when they were ready. If every painting had to go to him to be framed up that would really push out the timescales by a couple of months. He also came up with the genius idea of how to display all 100 in my studio.
When it came to thinking about hanging the work well I had to call on my dad as by that time I was pretty tired and this was a challenge that my brain really didn't have the capacity for.... I am also pretty rubbish at being precise and knew I would end up with a wall full of holes.
He came over and worked all day installing the panels which needed to be straight and also needed to be securely fixed to false walls.
4 panels and 200 pins later and all that needed doing was to paint the panels and hang the paintings.
Things I never even thought about when I started out
Keeping up with the social media
Posting on instagram every day, sometimes twice daily, with updates became a ritual. Instagram reels appeared on my radar and so my 100 day project updates were reels which I would compile on my way home from the studio.
I gained a lot of new social media followers over the period who were awesome and cheered me along the way. Some of those new connections developed into other opportunities.
Launching a preview during a pandemic
As much as I would have loved to I couldn't offer a physical preview of the exhibition because of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK. I also had generated quite a lot of interest from folks overseas who wanted to see the collection and the only way to do that was to provide an online preview.
My website is hosted by Shopify so the functionality was available for me to run an online preview for my subscribers, I just didn't appreciate how popular it would be and by the end of the preview night I was inundated with orders.
Keeping track of 100 paintings
Seriously 100 paintings is a lot to keep track off so I had to create a spreadsheet in order to keep track of where each painting was in the process (mounted, signed, varnished, framed, photographed, uploaded to the website).
I even had requests from other artists for a copy of my spreadsheet to help organise them!
That I would have to take over 500 photos to upload to my website
Even now when I type that my heart sinks... oh the monotony of that process.
The paintings themselves are small and light so could easily be shipped however I hadn't expected so many international orders and I really had to think about how to keep the paintings as safe as possible for potentially being in transit for 2-3 weeks.
So the packing in itself became a bit of an art form. Each painting was carefully wrapped in archival tissue. To protect the frames they were wrapped in foam corners cut down to size and then the painting was wrapped in a bubble sleeve. Overseas paintings had wooden boards protecting the painting and all of this was then wrapped in a cardboard book sleeve and taped up with the strongest tape I have ever come across! It was pretty much good luck to those on the receiving end trying to get into these packages.
The other worry was customs but there was only one which got stuck in Chicago airport and with a few email exchanges it eventually popped out the other end after being in transit for a month. All of the paintings shipped were delivered safely across the globe. How amazing is that?
Oh boy there were a few, some trivial others not so.
- Trying to come up with a name for each painting could be really challenging and sometimes I'd find I'd already used a name. Other times I would just use the song title from the Instagram reel that I had posted. Seriously this was hard work and made for a very grumpy Paula on some days!
- Taking the paintings on holiday with me to an island in Scotland and ensuring they didn't fall overboard... yup!
- Trying to carry on when my partner, Nick, had been rushed into hospital. That was a difficult week and I missed 3 days of painting but at the same time the painting was also a good distraction.
- A couple of paintings just didn't want to work and I spent ages and ages and ages working on those tiny paintings until they resolved. I lost days on 3-4 of those paintings!
What I would do differently?
I'd have someone check my website / uploads as that was really challenging but in the end I only had a couple of images uploaded to the wrong listing and managed to catch that before the collection went live.
Generally someone to help with the admin side of things such as photo uploads, labelling and packing.
I think I need a studio assistant! Yay.. can I have one... please....
Big thanks to...
April at the Crafthouse for the awesome studio space which I could at last show off with this exhibition. Also for directing people through the cafe to the studio... and for putting up with all that banging of 200 pins in the wall!
Martin at Artworks for being so brilliant at what you do and helping me with my framing and display problems.
Ian, Vicky and Charley who were superstars and kept me fed and watered (with gin) when Nick was rushed to hospital.
My dad for just being the superstar that you are and not mocking me too much over my incorrect calculations... even after the fourth or fifth attempt at trying to work out how many paintings needed to fit on a board...
Would I do it again?
Yes definitely. The challenge however, would be what to do as I wouldn't want to regurgitate another project of 100 small paintings based on the weather. People have seen that and quite frankly I'm not sure I could bear to paint another 10 x 10 cm painting or upload 500 images.
See you again next year?