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28 Days of Art: 28 Days of Disciplined Discovery and Developing Dexterity

(I know, I know, I need to get over alliteration).

Also in this post: kidney facts because I'm selling art.

Over the last few years, I've tried to develop a more robust art and design network on social media. In doing so, I was exposed to the concept of "28 Days of Art," a four-week take on #Inktober set in February. Skillshare also has organized a creative practice by the same name.

After a crazy 2020 full of capstones, internships, the terrible work-life balance I maintained working for a startup, and hundreds of ignored cold job applications, I decided I needed to stop neglecting my artistic skillset. Of course, as part of life as a digital nomad, I haven't been able to take all of my art supplies as I have moved houses from relative to relative (quick shout-out to my family for always offering a bed in between all of my unplanned life stages).

For the better part of 2 years, I pretty much relied on photography as my only creative outlet. While I love lens-based media, I really crave something more tactile. I love laboring over getting a highlight right or blending a shadow perfectly. I love to paint and draw. And I haven't really gotten to do that in a while.

Here's where 28 Days of Art popped in: on a whim, I had purchased a $5 set of brushes, a small set of Artist's Loft watercolors, and a pad of 5x8" watercolor paper. On February 1, I painted one portrait. I threw the tag on the shared Instagram story on a whim and felt like I'd committed to the challenge publicly enough that I had to stick with it. I got some feedback about it in my DMs, and told a friend--without even really thinking about it--that I'd now had a plan. I would do 4 weeks of 4 subjects: portrait week, landscape week, still life week, and leave the fourth week open to whatever my creative skills would manage.

In the coming weeks, I'll share 4 separate posts on each of the weeks of painting I did. But for now, I'm just going to do an overview, share the paintings, and reflect on general thoughts related to the challenge.

Portrait week highlights:

Landscape week highlights:

Still life week highlights:

Abstract week highlights:

This whole challenge was an interesting endeavor for me. I picked watercolors because it was cheap, easy to store, and pretty much one-take painting. I also was classically trained throughout grade school in watercolors. Watercolor is the least forgiving medium... you can't really undo, cover-up, or take back mistakes. In oil and acrylic, you can scrap it off, wait for it to dry, and use white pigments to cover the mistake. With charcoal and pencils, you can erase and lift the pigments. Watercolor's lack of forgiveness is probably only matched by pen and ink.

As a perfectionist, watercolor is not the optimal medium. I didn't have the chance to work and rework and work again error spots and mistakes. On the flip side of this, I really had to let go of my anxieties and control issues and just let the water naturally do its thing.

Portrait week was a shock. When I last spent a lot of time having the freedom to create, I did a lot of portraiture with oil and charcoal. These were both more forgiving mediums. Jumping into this medium, where my technical skills were rocky, and my previous command over portraiture as a subject was more successful, I was shocked to see how difficult it was to adapt.

I should note: throughout the challenge, I referred to images. I really wanted to focus on technical improvement, as well as the discipline of consistency. Lifting the creative burden of originating art helped me focus on those goals. The first day, I referred to a watercolor portrait; the other days of portrait week, however, I referred to pictures of people.

Overall, I learned that I really struggled with origination (the last week wound up being abstract). Moreso, though, I learned that I really loved painting glass. I previously thought that I'd want to stick to landscapes, as landscapes are some of my favorite subjects in oil (I mean, I learned oil painting plen air at a Tuscan villa... can you blame me?). But once I struck up with painting glasses, wine, and looking at glasses and shadows, I realized watercolor lends itself to highlighting the play of light itself far better than oil has previously.

Since my 28 days of art challenge, I've put up some of the artwork for sale. I've been asked for a few commissions, which is nice, too. If you're interested in buying some of the pieces, feel free to check out my Instagram, as the silent auction posts are set to end before the end of March. Portions of the profit will benefit National Kidney Month by the National Kidney Foundation. I'm selling because I don't need to hoard all of these pieces and because I'd love to help raise awareness.

If you are unaware of kidney diseases, consider the following:

  • 37 million American adults have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and millions of others are at increased risk.

  • Early detection can help prevent the progression of kidney disease to kidney failure.

  • Heart disease is the major cause of death for all people with CKD.

  • Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the best estimate of kidney function.

  • Hypertension causes CKD and CKD causes hypertension.

  • Persistent proteinuria (protein in the urine) means CKD is present.

  • High-risk groups include those with diabetes, hypertension and family history of kidney failure.

  • African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Seniors are at increased risk.

  • Two simple tests can detect CKD: blood pressure, urine albumin and serum creatinine.

I've known a couple of people whose lives are deeply impacted by Kidney Disease. One of my friends from undergrad has been on the transplant list for years, and she's spent her entire time at college on at-home dialysis. Check out the Bean Documentary to learn more and get a sympathetic understanding of what kidney disease really looks like in 2021.

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