Pacing myself. I thought when I started this I wouldn’t care how many pieces I made, then I figured fifty would be a fine number. As it became clear that I was averaging one a day, even if that’s not exactly when I finished them, I decided to shoot for 100 pieces.
Day 100: April 30
I thought I’d bring this project to a close the same way I opened it: with a self portrait. 100 pieces. 100 Days. A road trip across the country home. A pandemic. Strange times. Bittersweet.
The end is nigh! Nigh! I’m so excited. It’s like a light went on. I’m seeing possibilities on blank paper today.
Day 86: April 16
Why didn’t I find paint circles sooner in this process? Decided to use extra paint left over in a circle and it went down a new rabbit hole.
Day 87: April 17
lines. If I learned nothing else, I learned to sooth myself by making lines and letting my headspace fall away. That lesson I do not want to lose. When I’m stuck. I can just make lines until I unstick. And the exercise rarely fails. It’s soothing and loosens my creativity.
Day 88: April 18
I’m stuck on my painting so I’m using the 100 Day to work out a problem. That’s a new development.
Day 89: April 19
Exploring whatever I feel at this point. Trying not to overthink.
Day 90: April 20
Not exactly productive. Feeling stuck at the same stage on all pieces. Meanwhile I’m completely engrossed in stripping a canvas for reuse.
I’m struggling to maintain interest amid everything.
Day 72: April 2
Productive. But, I’m not sure this is the direction I want to go? I continue to play with plant textures. But maybe I’d rather get back to skulls and ravens???
Day 73: April 3
Feeling trapped by this direction. Definitely. Will have to break free of it soon.
Just when I felt over it all. Inspiration. I found a feather floating around my house. A new experiment.
Day 74: April 4
Interesting results today. I am placated.
However. I don’t know that I’ll commit to a hundred days of anything again. 27% of the year. That’s a lot of days. A lot. Look what can happen to the world in 100 days. I’m a commitmentphobe (is that a word?) and I fell for that optimistic feeling seventy some days ago that said: you have time to commit, it’ll be fun. Maybe it’s that I feel I’ve learned what I set out to learn, with twenty-five days to go… what investment am I making with my time now?
Day 75: April 5
I lost a day again??? I guess I didn’t have an important breakthrough.
Day 76: April 6
I brought in fallen oak leaves. They are a nightmare to work with. But something new.
Started three new pieces last night playing with plant textures. Added paint today. Flattening the collected plant material in my sketchbook helped. Still awful to work with.
Day 65: March 26
I can work freely now that I am home. First I had to make a trip through the snow to the camper each time I needed something. But mostly I don’t feel like it. I start and stop. All day. Starts and stops. And staring. I’m exhausted from the drive across the country. I’m emotionally exhausted from the this world turned upside-down. I’ve begun a new blog writing ritual to get me through without the travel writing.
Day 66: March 27
Art work is the last thing I feel like doing. I feel like I’m resting on the work that came before and I think that’s ok right now. I’m just showing up for now.
Day 67: March 28
Tossed some paint on a piece I wasn’t going to. Glad I did. Started a second canvas based on the works I’ve done in the 100 Day Project.
Day 68: March 29
I lost a day somewhere. I don’t know how. I thought this was (today) March 30.
Day 69: March 30
Creative block this morning. Not even doing lines helped. Maybe later. The canvasses go better.
A little color study. Not the sexiest work, but the best way to systematically understand the colors. And of course I had way too much paint left over… so more of those spare paint types of pieces will probably be in the works.
Day 51: March 12
I also worked yesterday on some texture studies. Which I continued this morning. What a frustrating challenge to get things to stay in place. Today I white washed the pieces to make the textures pop out. To be continued.
Day 52: March 13
Lines. Lines. More lines. Struggling to find some new insightful thoughts to regurgitate here.
Day 53: March 14
Is this mid-project exhaustion? 53 is so many days.
Day 54: March 15
I about ruined a piece this morning. Added spare paint to it to cover areas I didn’t like. Then it got out of control. So I washed it all off. I like the way the lines look worn now from being under water.
Day 55: March 16
In the spirit of exploring textures and with the inability to find supplies on the road, I worked plies of toilet paper onto a piece last night with paint and added lines to it today. Can’t find hand sanitizer either. It’s going to be a long road home. I don’t know what further measures will be taken to slow the spread of this virus and I hope we don’t get caught up in it on the road.
Day 56: March 17
That didn’t go as planned. Again. Tuesday’s never seem to be a good day for one reason or another to lay the art out for documentation.
We left Arizona ready for a short drive. We didn’t have that long of a drive to get where we were going. Then I had an inspiration. Hoover Dam was only an hour away? Why not? What could go wrong.
First off. Hoover Dam was more than an hour out of our way.
Second. We needed to stop to eat before we saw the main event. Then pick up something from the store. Then stop to check out something. Then, well, nature called.
Then we had to have our truck and camper searched while the dogs went mad. Ok. That wasn’t so bad? The Hoover Dam was a lot. More than I expected. I also had no idea what a people magnet it was.
While stopped at the turn around point (because you aren’t allowed to go into Arizona) for the Dam, I saw it. A critical repair on the camper didn’t hold.
Now we were trying to find a place to camp for the night. And my husband vetoed the campgrounds for camping on BLM land instead. We drove along Lake Mead thinking we had it all figured out.
Then dark descended on us like a curse. We didn’t find anywhere. We drove through the desert night sure the next rise would yield a little BLM camping gold nugget. It did not. The last rise gave way to the vast lit spread of Sin City herself (huge and sprawling), and there was no where for us to go but through it (turning a 30 ft camper around is a challenge). After the subtleness of Arizona the lights of Las Vegas hit like a planetary object. Also, you can smoke and gamble in gas stations. Pro-tip pay outside so you don’t come out smelling like an ashtray from that 60 seconds.
It took some convincing… but I got my human to agree to drive over that line. I don’t believe he regrets it yet. (Also since when did google maps welcome users to a new state? I’m sure California is the only state that it has done that with).
There’s both more here and less here than I expected. There are little pockets of civilization to get gas, food (food is a relative term) and camp. Great stretches of empty desert. But, where is the grocery store? We went to the nearest town and nope nothing there. Why did we drive there? Because the wind storm knocked out the power and internet and we couldn’t get fuel within Death Valley. Might as well get some supplies too… nope.
Yes the wind storm. Days of wind. Though the first night it hit, it came on like an angry bull. We watched the dust storm gather at the base of the mountains. In the night the gusts reached as high as 70 mph. It has been a few days and it is still windy. There is a fine coating of dust on everything including the cat.
Despite that this place is magical. In every direction a new texture, a new color, a vista, a canyon… We explored the roads leading to the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, the Artist’s Palette, the Devil’s Golf Course and then the Racetrack Playa. After the Racetrack everything changed.
It was 60 miles to the washboard gravel backroad that takes you to the Racetrack Playa, then it is another 26 miles of rough riding up, yes up to the valley it resides. Plus the extra miles when we attempted to take a different route out and found that no we do not have a 4×4 with high clearance. It was dark by the time we reached the blacktop.
Then the check engine light came on with 60 miles to go back to camp.
The doldrums. We were marooned in Death Valley with low supplies and waiting on an alternator to be shipped. I focused on art. I scanned my polaroid collection. Started editing them. Worked on my 100 day project. We tried to keep shopping at the store to a minimum because of the premium prices. Then we ran out of dog food. The store had a cute little bag. We ran out again. Crossed our fingers that the store restocked, and it did.
When the alternator arrived, it did not work. Nothing worked. (More about the truck situation here)
Death Valley to Pahrump to Lake Mead to Las Vegas to Lake Mead to Valley of Fire to Death Valley
Here in my tale we start driving in circles. We sever ties with the old truck and finally make the commitment to a new one. With a lot of mixed feelings. I write from Death Valley where the troubles began, sitting in a new-to-us truck, and I’d be hard pressed to unravel our journey between leaving and returning with the exception of a few notable experiences.
We drove through North Vegas, which I was told, was the “hood.” Twice we did that. The first time was the night we drove through when we were looking for a place to stay for the night before we ever reached Death Valley. Then we drove through during the day. The same road from the desert that opens up to the city. I the daylight it is littered with trash. (Other routes into Vegas are not). I saw a man laying in a parking lot at ten am. his shirt was pulled up over his torso. His torso twisted in one direction and his legs in the other. I could not say for sure if he was alive or not. There was a woman with bright blue afro styled hair wearing a surgical mask hitting a small man approaching her on the sidewalk. Near an intersection an older man in a wheelchair with no legs was nearly in the road, slumped over, sleeping, I hope. Later in another area of the city I saw a tall thin man holding his dirty blanket around his shoulders trying to get into the dumpster pen at a fast food joint. He gave up and slumped against the side of the building. His head hanging between his knees. I tried to go back when I could to get him something, but he was gone. Implored my husband, said look, he isn’t begging (referring to the professional beggars that are around) , I must. But I failed at that kindness, and it will be one of those moments I regret.
And then we were able to finally leave Las Vegas. We tried for the Valley of Fire to the north, but it was unbelievably crawling with people. We drove around a couple scenic roads before heading back to the campground in Death Valley for a night.
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park
In the winter you can still see the world’s biggest tree. As long as you are prepared with winter tires, 4×4, chains and ok with the idea of being snowed in while they clear the critical roads. On February 20th it didn’t seem likely. The mountain looked like early spring. By the afternoon of the 21st though, everyone, including us, evacuated the campground for lower ground. Storm was coming. And we weren’t staying to experience it. Nope.
But I saw them and a few days before it didn’t seem likely I would. We tried to enter from the south, a direction that was closed for the winter and the locals weren’t giving up the correct information about how to go about seeing the giant trees. Google? Cell reception was hard to come by.
Once set on the right road we climbed into the rolling green back country. Followed a winding mountain road through early spring oak forests and cow pastures. Then we climbed up and up a winding mountain road. The trees changed from hardwood to pines and then we saw the first monumental sequoia just before the entrance gate.
The things I learned about these trees that are going to stick with me the most:
They have no taproot. You cannot walk up to and touch the biggest trees. Well, you shouldn’t, if you don’t want to love them to death. They are being protected from all the tourist traffic by foot paths and a little wood fence. Unfortunately, while breathing in the General Sherman Tree, I witness two different groups of people ignore the fence. A young man speaking French from one group and a few individuals from a group speaking a language that sounded Russian/Eastern European. Another individual with a middle eastern accent chastised the second group. Declaring they “educate themselves,” well said stranger and thank you for using your voice.
The air quality is horrible. For us, for them. They are under assault. I didn’t expect the smoky haze, the locals are aware, but it has not saturated into the public sphere. This air is trapped here. Saturated. From below you can barely make out that there are any mountains. From above the land disappears into the haze. My clothes smell smokey and there were no campfires. There were no active wildfires in the area. I’m searching for the explanation of why there was so much smoke in the air. I’m told it is just the bowl effect of the mountains and the prevailing winds trapping everything in.
Joshua Tree National Park
I almost forgot that we visited Joshua Tree! We were unable to secure a camping spot and camped on nearby BLM land then drove through the park on our way south. I since learned that Joshua Tree, like many natural wonders, is threatened by climate change. Experts believe the future holds a time when there will no Joshua Trees in the park.
Did I know there was an inland sea in Southern California? Maybe once I looked on a map and since long forgot it. We drove along the western shore admiring the deep blue sparkles against the distant blue haze mountains. So we stopped to check it out.
The beach sand was made of minuscule shell particles. The closer to the water the sharper and larger.
Then you are assaulted by the aroma of the Salton Sea. The posted warnings were to not eat the shell fish, but swimming was fine. My ocean drinking dogs weren’t interested in these waters. The Salton Sea is a beautiful manmade mistake (yes, man accidentally filled an ancient lake/sea bed). And if cared for she’d be the bell of the desert again.
Forty-five miles of sand dunes cresting in light and and shadow. Changing color with the light. Pure form. Hundreds if not thousands of people come every week to these BLM managed dunes to play in the sand with their toys, but I came for the light.
And I got to see part of the Sonoran Desert bloom in white, violet, pink and orange.
When I started I figured I’d make maybe 50 pieces. I’m on track for one a day even though I don’t finish one each day. I work here, there and then all of a sudden a bunch teach the finish line together. Today I worked with a textured crow again, and again used the leftover paint to experiment with. Definitely not how I want to create work, but still a fun thing to explore.
I have to acknowledge this. It was supposed to be a color study. But oh no no no…
Things went wrong quickly here. The colors didn’t work the way I imagined. Then it just kept getting worse. I’m still thinking of ways to salvage it. But I feel nauseous looking at it from the color combinations.
Day 44: March 5
It isn’t that I don’t have time or ideas today. It’s that I just don’t want to. Not even a little bit.
I’ll start some pieces just with color. And leave it at that. No pressure today.
And then I never stopped.
Day 45: March 6
Traveling today. Had to fight for my work time this morning.
Day 46: March 7
No Internet Service.
Day 47: March 8
Did minimal today and yesterday. Was busy with human interactions. But I did start a big canvas…
I’m going to work on that separate from the 100 Day Project, even though it has sprung from it. I make the rules here.
Day 48: March 9
Day 49: March 10
This week became about exploring color. I was working it out on the paper and letting the colors surprise me. I think in the near future I’d like to explore color more.
Yesterday being entirely too windy for photos, this morning’s work time was spent catching up on documenting last weeks progress and posting the blog. Now we travel. I hope to touch paper later…
Day 37: February 27
It’s a slow start to this week. I started the bones of a new piece, but I cannot do much else. The camper isn’t stable enough to do lines and I don’t want to pull out the paints. I am thinking it’s about time to break out a canvas though. I feel I am ready to begin a body of work based on where I am at currently. My one thought is… “can I get myself to continue making small studies past the 100 Day Project?” Working out different ideas at the 5×7 level has given me many new ideas. I’m not one to work in a sketchbook, I like to put my energy into works not sketches. This is something of a compromise. I’m forced to explore “mistakes” (which I love) and follow them into new creative paths, but I’m not invested into a large piece.
Today I feel very confident in myself. I feel I’ve found a way to open it up to include exploration so I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice a medium or idea I love, nor do I have to keep working with one forever and always. I’m not looking at other art with doubt for my own choices.
I feel like I’m here. I can draw, paint, explore texture, symbolism… all in the same piece. Yes! Yes! Yes! One million times yes!
Day 38: February 28
A lot and yet a little happening this morning. Been sitting here working for some time. Peace in my heart.
Day 39: February 29
Just a little bit today.
Day 40: March 1
Came very close to nothing happening today. Then I caught a second wind and prepped some pieces with white paint tonight. When you are not feeling it… you can always do groundwork. It’s also very clear if I don’t work in the morning, I’m going to struggle to do something.
Day 41: March 2
Very productive this morning. Working on a lot of pieces, but not finishing anything.
Ok… maybe I am finishing things. I don’t love everything I’ve made, but I’m glad I explored them.
Took up a lot of the day.
I showed them in person for the first time to real live humans other than my husband this week. It was good practice being able to explain the process. WHAT? I used complete sentences about my work with people I didn’t know well and I think I even made sense. This process is working for me. Make art, daily. Preferably in the morning. Reflect on it using the blog. Who cares if anyone ever reads it, there’s an accountability that makes it happen, it works for me.
Day 42: March 3
That’s a wrap on week six. Explored color combinations and layering color combinations on textures this morning.