Art Every Day

Elizabeth Kubala

Just before the new year began, I made a commitment to create a piece of art every day for the year 2009. Although I try to live life artfully, I’ve not created much tangible art I figured if I had to create something every day, I wouldn’t have time to listen to my inner critic and creativity would flow through me like a river. I believed that this practice (like any practice taken on in an earnest way) would teach me something about myself.

I told a friend and she said she would make the same commitment. That started me thinking about sangha. I wanted a community of fellow practitioners to help me stay on the path. So on New Year’s Eve I sent an email invitation to fifteen people. I asked them to join me in the commitment to create art every day. I suggested that we could each define art however we wanted. I offered to set up an email listserv so we could report to, support and encourage each other. We could have a website with photo albums for posting photos or scans of our work. And if there was interest, we could gather in person a few times a year.

Friends joined. Friends suggested other friends. And now we have a nice sized group of 23. I don’t know how many (besides me) are creating art EVERY day, but I think most of us are creating a lot more art than we would have without the support of each other. It is nice to feel connected to others in the group even when working alone. I feel certain that I would have let this commitment slide if it weren’t for my “sangha.” I would have been too lonely.

A few people on the list identify as artists. Most of us are grateful for the excuse to act on our creative impulses. We have created poems, essays, observations, an experiment, photographs, paintings, drawings, collages, sculptures, dances and a sound montage. Some members are creating art, but not reporting. Some report occasionally. A few of us report almost daily. I always get a thrill when I see an Art_Every_Day post in my email box.

I am finding this to be a powerful practice. It requires me to engage with the world around me, to dialogue with it, to let it move through me. It is helping me to keep my eyes open and to cultivate appreciation. I feel my brain working in new ways. As with zazen, sometimes I feel curious, interested, playful and open. Other times I just go through the motions.

Following are some observations about this practice, and some of the art that goes with them:

Inspiration, tools and materials are everywhere
Many members are enjoying examining their beliefs about what constitutes art. This is an opportunity to loosen up, and an invitation to keep our eyes out everywhere. When we share, we inspire each other to see art in new places.

Pat K is enjoying her clothes.
She plays with color and texture
when she gets dressed.
She photocopies her scarves
and adds objects to make compositions
like this valentine.

Pat Y created 
spontaneous art 
on her patio.

And in her kitchen 
as with this "Reclining Nude." 

Sarah also finds art
in her kitchen creations.
This piece is called "Circles."

Lucy is stuck at work
with nothing to do.
She pulled out her CAD manual
and created this "Bright Star."

Later she painted "Cloudy"
using her PDA.

Sarah creates maps 
of her daily travels,
adding written observations 
and drawings.

Lisa draws he daily journal entries. Penina drums and dances.

Lila and I found our art materials
on the ground during a walk
around our neighborhood.
We came home and created
this collaborative piece

Art doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
There simply isn’t time every day to sink into a creative groove, and it’s a great practice to find something that can happen fast. Beverly makes a drawing of dental floss. Pat Y arranges pebbles around a plant. I make six-word entries in my meditation journal. Shiila creates disappearing brush art on her Buddha board. Lila pins objects on a cork board. Lucy folds a penny-sized origami butterfly. 

Lorraine takes a photograph 
of her cat. 
"Neville and Flowers

It’s interesting to see the influence of season and place.
The shadows were especially long in January. I did a whole series of pieces that worked with shadows.

I call this one 
“Self Portrait."

Now it’s March and 
Sarah is noticing trees 
filled with birds.

Meanwhile in Michigan, Leigh is painting her pot bellied stove, photographing snowy landscapes and only dreaming of Spring.

Even the ground does not suspect what lies beneath the snow.
The colors hum; they wait for spring
and for a chance to show
the world a thing
or two: patience, how to grow.

We can add to our art by writing about it.
Beverly posts no photos, but writes cryptic descriptions of her art-making process, leaving to our imaginations what her pieces look like. Here are a couple of her posts.

cutting a heart out by hand from an obituary
number six graphite pencil covers all the space and letters front and back except "love" "love" "enjoy being"
cut an envelope holder for the heart from translucent vellum salvaged from an advertisement
sew up two sides of heart holder with white threads

At a birthday party brunch at Enoteca I was telling a woman I just met about our project. She said, "You must have a lot of unstructured time...." I responded by opening up the envelope the rooibos teas was in and invited her to collaborate with me on making today's art. We passed the drawing back and forth between us for about seven times before ordering, after ordering, and during the meal until I had to leave. We spoke about what we liked about the drawing and I asked her to sign the back.

I enjoyed writing the following post in almost the same way I enjoyed creating the art for it:

I remember an exercise I did with my friend Jane long ago. We sat across a table from each other, pencils in hand, paper on the table. Without looking down at the paper, we drew each other’s faces. We had lots of good laughs and a feeling of intimacy that came from looking so closely at each other.

Since I didn’t have a flesh friend to play with today, I used the Buddha in my back yard. He was very patient, and studying his peaceful face so carefully had a deeply calming effect on me. I’ve heard tell of a Buddhist ancestor who recommended that all his students complete two activities before they die – copy the entire Lotus Sutra by hand and carve a Buddha. I thought about the power in those activities as I felt the power in this simpler one.
This could go anywhere.

I have been surprised and delighted to witness the twists and turns this practice has taken in me and in others. I am learning to follow the creative impulse, rather than try to lead it. One thing leads to another and there are surprises. My idea generator is cranking away, happy in the knowledge that time will be made to act on some of its output. There are close to 300 days left in the year. The possibilities are limitless. I look forward to seeing what will emerge.

If you are interested in having access to the website, please email Elizabeth Kubala (
[email protected]).


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful practice! Is there anyway to have larger images of the various works? It would be nice to see more details. Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

The idea of art as a daily practice is totally cool. I'm looking forward to seeing more of what the group produces in the coming months.