Clark Kellogg, a lecturer in innovation and design thinking at the Haas School of Business, had an epiphany on New Year’s Day 2013. Actually, a friend of his had the epiphany, and he co-opted it.
“With her consent, of course,” Kellogg says. “She told me she planned to post a photograph a day on Instagram. And when she said that, it came to me: I wanted to do the same thing, but with art, not photos.”
That, of course, was the easy part of the 365DailyArtProject. Each day for the past year, Kellogg produced a work of art. Then he’d put a photo of it up on social media: Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. His artistic media were varied and included collage, acrylic paint, and photography. Sometimes he would labor for hours over a piece. Sometimes he would knock out a work in a few minutes. Sometimes things went well. A concept he had been nurturing would suddenly bloom, an inspiration would strike him like a thunderbolt, or he’d simply start working and it would seem like he was taking dictation from God (or Goddess, or the Divine Afflatus, or what have you). Other days—well, they were harder.
“By the third week, I’d pretty much run through every idea I had,” Kellogg says. “But I’d just sit down and force myself to it. And the strange thing is, some of my best work was from the difficult days, the days when I thought I had nothing.”
From the standpoint of career, Kellogg has always led something of a dual life. Even as he has prospered as a consultant on design and communications, he has worked diligently, if somewhat covertly, at his art.
“I never really talked about art or my goals as an artist,” Kellogg says. “In the business world, there’s no easy opening into a conversation like that. It would feel a little weird. So in a very real way, this project let me reveal myself for who I am. It let me come out of the closet. You are not what you do for a living. For most people, that’s something else entirely. This project let me integrate who I really am with the other components of my life—the roles we all have to play.”
As the weeks passed, Kellogg found himself integrating the project into his circadian rhythms.
“It became impossible for me to go to bed unless I had completed my art,” he says. “Sometimes I’d be running right up against midnight, but I’d always get it done. I’d get comments on Facebook—‘Can he do it? Will he finish?’ My friend was involved with her Instagram photo project at the same time, and she sometimes skipped a day, or she’d take three photos during a day and post them, then take a break. But I just couldn’t do that. It wasn’t a burden or a sense of obligation as much as something that I couldn’t avoid, something that I had to do.”
And in a very real way, 365DailyArtProject also affected the way Kellogg perceived and experienced the world.
“I developed this habit of kind of framing everything I saw, of seeing everything as a series of images that I might be able to translate into my work. I’m doing it right now. I’m looking at fence with a tree behind it, and it makes me want to get into my studio so I can try to capture it.”
Still, Kellogg was determined to make the project conform to the general flow and ebb of his life. He had other things to do, after all. And in the end, everything dovetailed snugly.
“I travel quite a lot, and I didn’t want to stop doing that,” he says. “And that meant that there were many times when I didn’t have much to work with in terms of media. But that lack of materials and the necessity for producing art with whatever was available pushed me, it was exhilarating. One piece I produced while I was traveling in China consists of a manipulated iPhone photo of Mao Zedong with some hotel receipts and other items. I enjoyed the challenge of producing those pieces. It was part of the process.”
Through it all, Kellogg says, he experienced a deepening satisfaction, and not just with the art he was producing or with the realization that he would complete the project as planned.
“Increasingly, I looked forward to the work; it became a priority. No matter what else was happening, when I started my daily piece, time went away. Those were lovely, powerful moments. When I realized that my year was running out, I became pretty sad. But I also knew that I wouldn’t continue past the one-year mark. The project was for one year, not one year and a day, or a week, or an extra year.”
Kellogg continues to produce art, and he is not yet wholly finished with 365DailyArtProject. He’s received some inquiries from collectors, and he’s planning to exhibit some of the pieces. But he’s not out there flogging the project to all and sundry.
“I consider it a significant personal accomplishment because it’s the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept,” he laughs. “But more than that, I’m grateful for the experience. It changed me. I don’t think of it as a means to more money or recognition or power. I’m 62 now, and I feel that I’ve fought all the battles I need to fight. I don’t need to keep climbing the ladder. I’m content with the view from the rung I’m on. This wasn’t about building a career. It was about tapping into the creativity that I think is universal, that we all have.”