ICAD 2017 — It’s a Wrap
The Index-Card-a-Day Challenge is an annual challenge hosted/run by Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow. The Challenge, known as ICAD, involves creating 61 creative works during June and July, the stipulation being that you create on an index card (substrate for those of you who think in art journal terms).
Each year, there are weekly and daily prompts, which are optional. You can follow the prompts or do your own thing day to day and in whatever medium you want as long as it is on an index card.
Last year, I worked with a few thematic subjects and also integrated a number of the prompt words. Many of my cards last year feature stuffed things (catch the Tracking Teddy and Noisy Paintbox shows), chairs, and windows.
This year, I started ICAD with a few self-selected rubrics, things I was planning to do with my cards for “my” ICAD. Now that ICAD is over, it is interesting to look at what did and didn’t work and what that tells me about my own process and where I am right now. Here is what I had planned for 2017 ICAD at the outset:
- Portraits. I had been drawing using inspiration photos from the Sktchy app for months (since last September/October), and I didn’t want to stop. I was a bit uncertain about committing to portraits for ICAD. I wasn’t sure that I could make it a full 2-months of daily portraits for ICAD. In part, I worried about being so far afield from the main challenge, but as it turned out, there were a bunch of artists who were working on portraits or faces. That was nice to see. But as my own series unfolded, I realized that it wouldn’t have mattered if I was the only one. I was hooked on my own series–for me. Moral of the story: Do what you love. (This fed into the “Do What You Love” show.)
- Ballpoint. I had just started experimenting with ballpoint as ICAD approached, and I decided (after doing a few test/warmups cards to see how I felt) to use ballpoint for this summer’s cards. Again, I wasn’t sure at the start that I would or could stick with it. I wasn’t even totally sure yet how I felt about ballpoint. It turned out to be the right decision and one with lasting power for me. While I did a few stragglers in black ink, I quickly slipped into a blue ink trance and stuck with blue for the duration of ICAD. The series became, in my head, a series of “blue women” (and one wisened sailor). The intensive two-month focus in blue was good for me. I didn’t want to break the blue, and committing to it for ICAD gave me a long stretch in which to really push at it, learn to live with it, and experiment with the medium. Moral of the story: go with your gut and stick with it as long as it makes sense. And, find ways to use a challenge to push your own interests and explorations.
- Mixed paper. Partly I wanted to see how ballpoint works on different surfaces. Partly, I loved how it looked the first time I tried it. I LOVED the way the ink worked on different layers and how the layers added highlights, texture, and even color to the drawing in unexpected ways. I used bristol board, sketchbook paper(s), graph paper, notebook paper, journal paper, paint chips, and more. This “mixed paper” approach ended up being a really good decision. I am a fan of finding a way to do what works for you and enables you to create cards/pieces of art you care about. I don’t do challenges simply to do them. I have a longstanding philosophy of doing work that has meaning “for me.” Had I only been working on the card itself this year, I doubt I would have continued or succeeded with the series and my own ballpoint exploration. I “also” used the index card, but the patchwork effect of multiple papers became part of my series and was an integral part of my exploration. Moral of the story: think outside the box.
- 4×6 index cards. This is my preferred size, and I like (and prefer) the thicker “divider”-style cards.
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This was the one aspect of my summer plan that didn’t pan out. I dropped it quickly, in fact. My idea was to read Pilgrim (Annie Dillard) and pull a quote from it for every card. I have been wanting to “finally” really Pilgrim for a while, and I thought this would make it a 2-month “study” of sorts, a personal read with a purpose. I had some vague notion that I might be able to map some of the quotes to the prompts, too, though it would have been very hit-or-miss to make the connections. I was really committed to this personal Pilgrim study. I took it on the plane. I read on the plane and pulled a quote. I wrote it on the card. The problem was that these hand-written quotes didn’t have the “look” I wanted with the drawings. The drawings (across the board) fill the cards. In most cases, I was struggling to get even the full “face” on the card, and so space for the quotes was scarce. Ultimately, I felt like the quotes were not a good fit simply because I didn’t like the look. When I had first considered this rubric, I was hoping to print the quotes out and have them in the background of the cards. I wanted the quotes to be part of the substrate… almost like an imprint… just something melded into the background. But I didn’t have a way to accomplish that. I thought packing tape transfers might be perfect until I realized (dumbly) that I would then have a tape/glossy surface on the card…. not just the transferred text. I could have printed my quotes and added them to my mixed paper layers before drawing, but that wasn’t possible with my summer travel, which dictated how I proceeded with the first 25 cards. I continued my Pilgrim reading and quote writing during the first week, and then it dropped off. It was a difficult angle to pursue in the busy days of my family visit, and I just didn’t like the look. I wanted to honor “just” the portraits because I was really enjoying how they “looked” on cards. Moral of the story: Be flexible. Sometimes what you plan at the outset doesn’t work, and it is okay to change your plan or your mind. You can always come back to that same idea later in a different circumstance.
I documented my thoughts on “doing” ICAD this summer in weekly posts looking back at the “week that was.” You can catch those posts here:
All in all, 2017 ICAD was a fantastic experience for me as a personal challenge and series. When I look at my cards from the 2017 challenge, there are a few that I find regrettable, but overall, I am proud of this set and this body of work, portraits in ballpoint created day by day, every day, through June and July.
I greatly enjoyed spending time in the Facebook group for the challenge and seeing and commenting on a wide range of beautiful responses to the prompts and daily work on index cards (both at Facebook and Instagram).
After the 2016 challenge, I didn’t want to transition out of index cards. In fact, I transitioned to smaller index cards for a while to use some rogue cards I had. This year, I was ready to transition out of index cards because I wanted to move my ballpoint exploration to a bigger piece of paper. I’m doing that in incremental steps, partly because I don’t have a surface (yet) to do larger drawings and partly to use paper that we already have on hand. But I am really enjoying the bigger surface and breathing room.
Index-Card-a-Day is a challenge I hugely support and suggest to every creative person who wants to begin, cement, or work on a daily art-making habit. It comes up every June, so sign up for the Daisy Yellow newsletter to stay in the loop. In other months, there are plenty of other challenges on her site around which to build your creative months and projects.