A Year of Daily Generative Sketches

By Martin O'Leary (Twitter,Website)

On September 13th 2017, I started a new project.

Every day since then, I’ve sat down and produced a “sketch”, a small piece of generative art. Each piece takes the form of an 800x800 pixel image, which I post on a dedicated Twitter account (@mewo2sketches).

Many artists, across all kinds of artistic disciplines, do daily projects. There are lots of benefits to this kind of practice: it keeps your mind in a creative place, it lets you try new things in a low-risk way, and over time you build up an impressive portfolio of work. At the same time, having a side project like this can be really helpful psychologically when you’re stuck on a long-term project, or when you don’t have time to work on anything bigger.

I find generative art is particularly suited to this kind of daily work. If I only have a few minutes one day, then I can tweak a few parameters from yesterday’s work, and create a whole new image with only a little bit of work. If I have several hours, I can experiment with new algorithms, and make something new and exciting. Either way, I have something new to show before I go to bed at night.

I want to give some advice for if you’re planning to do this yourself.

Start Now, While You’re Excited

When I first had the idea to do daily sketches, my thought was that it would be a great New Year’s Resolution. The problem was that it was still only September, so I’d have to wait four months to get started, which was kind of discouraging. It took me a few days to realise that I could start any time I wanted, and that waiting would just mean my enthusiasm would drain away.

The first week or two, I was really jazzed about the whole idea, and I put a lot of work into each piece. Then, as always happens, I hit a patch where I had less motivation. Having already built up a little stack of sketches, I didn’t feel as much pressure on the newer ones. I knew that some would be good, some would be bad, and that each individual piece was less important than the project as a whole.

Make Your Own Rules

When I started, I set myself a few rules:

* One piece per day, no more, no less

* Ignore the clock, a day is between waking up and going to sleep

* I can stop any time I want, but I can’t skip days

* Everything is code, no external data sources

* No text, just graphics

These are my rules though, not yours! Constraints like these are really important and useful, but they have to be something you choose for yourself.

Work In Public

It can be a bit rough, putting stuff online which you haven’t spent a long time on, which maybe isn’t as polished as you might like. There’s a temptation to keep this sort of thing private. Obviously I can’t stop you, if that’s what you choose to do, but I’d really encourage you to post your work publicly.

Putting your work online has three main roles. It gives you positive feedback - those likes and comments will be a great boost when you’re feeling down about the project. It also gives you accountability - you won’t be as tempted to skip a day when you think other people are going to notice. Finally, it means that you build up a public record of your work, which you can point people at when they ask.