Wednesday, 23 January 2013

100 Days Project, 1,050 days later...

Day 89 of 100.
  If someone asked me what the one thing that kickstarted my career making comics, I'd have to say without a doubt that it was my involvement in the 'Hundred Days Project'.

Set up by comedian Josie Long, the project ran from December 1st 2009 through to March 10th 2010.  For those one hundred days each person pledged to the project had to do one thing once a day that would hopefully make them a better person.  Some took up an exercise or a craft, learnt a new word, made more of an effort to talk to strangers, or deleted a friend from Facebook(!).  Many others took on a creative project, writing poetry or taking photos.  I chose to create a daily webcomic.

I've talked at length before about this project (here and here) and you can still read it in its entirety over at the Hundred Tiny Moments blog.

However, I've been thinking recently about the journey from there to here, and it is heartening to look back at everything and think about how big an impact Hundred Days actually had.  From complete isolation, with a single print run of 100 copies of my film theory comic Filmish sitting in a few shops across Edinburgh, I found myself stepping through a door into a larger community of artists.  This was my first encounter with other independent UK comic artists, and where I first saw the work of Tom Humberstone, David O'Connell and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell who also participated in the project.

By the end of the project I had gained enormous confidence as an artist, and made the realisation of just how accessible comics could be for an unknown artist.  Meeting the other participants in person at the Hundred Days closing party, it really did feel like a community; one formed out of shared experience and camaraderie, even if we were all undertaking dramatically different projects.

And from there I began to make comics with a greater realisation of their potential, a clearer sense of the path that I wanted to take.  I found my way into anthologies like Matt Sheret's 'Paper Science' and Tom Humberstone's 'Solipsistic Pop', connections made through the project.

A panel from my piece for Solipsistic Pop 3.
But more than that, I think I saw how a local artist can become global through the smallest of acts - through tweeting and blogging, and creating work that other people want to read.  There was no need for grand gestures or international launches.  I was linked to these people situated across the country and beyond, and my work was hopping and skipping across geographical boundaries that had previously trapped my work within a five mile radius of my desk.

Day 41 of 100.
 In the last 1,050 days I've not managed to achieve as much as I might have dreamed or hoped back in 2010.  After an initial expansion during those years, I'm now seeing more clearly the limitations and challenges that exist for a comic artist working independently and for comic self-publishing as a whole.

But these are challenges that are not insurmountable.  In the way that the Hundred Days project expanded my world of comics in 2010, I expect it is just a matter of time before I discover how to step my work of today onto the next level.  The difference today compared to 1st December 2009 is that I am now a part of a community of comic artists, all striving to discover what works, all pushing to make their comics better.  I can't think of a better environment in which to work.

A lot can happen in 1,050 days, and I'm sure I could have done so much more.  In fact, looking at my contemporaries, I am humbled on a daily basis.  But there's a power to that, a motivation which emerges and sits you back down at your desk and forces you to do better, create more, and get that work out there.  This is what the Hundred Days project brought to me - the motivation to take part in something, to share my work with the larger world and to strive to meet and maybe surpass the standards being set by those around me.

One Hundred Tiny Moments From My Past, Present and Future is available now from the Kindle bookstore for £1.29 or via the Kindle lending library.

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