1.2 365 projects

The purpose of this research task was to look at illustrators and artists that develop projects over time to see what lessons could be learned and applied to my own practice.

Key words from the brief:

  • A drawing a day for a year
  • You may want to explore how other designers and artists have developed projects over time
  • Write down your response to Bryan’s project and some of the suggested artists’ work and respond to each

Artist research

Christian Marclay’s film ‘The Clock

Marclay’s film The Clock (2010) consists of a montage of archive film footage cut together so that it runs in ‘real time’ throughout a 24-hour period. When synchronised with actual time, it functions as a clock.

The project was conceived in 2005 and took several years of collaborative effort to research, and three years to edit.

The film was premiered at the White Cube’s London gallery in 2010.

It’s interesting on a number of different levels:

  • It applies a simple but strict rule that governs how the film is structured i.e. the form is more important than the content.
  • It subverts the whole concept of film editing: an activity that takes footage shot in real time and edits it down to most effectively tell a story/create an illusion. This film operates in the other direction. It takes clips of film and edits them up into a real time sequence.

Why this is interesting from a time based project perspective:

  • The project was realised over a three year period. It was conceived through when Marclay was working on a completely separate and unconnected project. This approach relates back to the ideas in Steven Johnson’s video (referenced in 1.0 Where do good ideas come from) Where do good ideas come from (2010)
  • To a certain extent, once the concept secured funding, it had a life of it’s own i.e. a team of researchers were employed to do the film research and collate footage.

Kevin MacDonald’s – Christmas in a day

Christmas in a day (2013) was created by Kevin MacDonald for Sainsburys’, and released as part of Sainsburys’ 2013 Christmas advertising campaign.

The idea came from a much larger Oscar winning film Life in a day (2012), that used the same approach to create “a historic global experiment to create the world’s largest user-generated feature film: a documentary, shot in a single day, by you” Life in a day (2012). The film was produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.

Like The Clock (2010), the concept is very simple.

The film charts the days running into Christmas Day and the day inself using video footage of people’s preparations and experience of Christmas. The footage was all user generated from contributors from across the UK.

360 hours of material were collected, and this was edited down into a 47-minute film.

It’s interesting from a brand and marketing perspective because the campaign hits many of Sainsbury’s key marketing objectives:

  • It’s engaging and simple to understand
  • It pulls from our shared understanding of the ‘magic’ of Christmas
  • The idea was daring and innovative
  • The content reinforces the Sainsbury’s brand messaging – warm, inclusive, customer focused and innovative.

Why this is interesting from a time based project perspective:

  • Once the concept and framework was established, the production of content was completely user generated i.e all of the production costs (creating the footage/rights to use the footage), were free.
  • The rules were very simple and engaging for the large number of contributors that participated in the project.
  • The post production planning would have been straightforward and predictable. 360-hours for footage to be edited down to a 47-minute programme with a fixed deadline.

On Kawara

On Kawara (1932 – 2014) was a Japanese Conceptual artist who lived much of his life in New York.

In Conceptual art, the idea or concept is more important than the finished artwork, so the work is stripped of emotion and becomes about the pure idea rather than the content.

On Kawra’s work plays with the idea of time.

The Today series (1966) was started on January 4th 1966 and lasted until January 12th 2013, just before the artists death. The paintings consist solely of the date that the work was created in simple white lettering, (initially Gill Sans and the later Futura), painted on a solid coloured background.

The paintings were produced using a strict set of rules:

  • Each painting had to be produced within a single day. Paintings not completed within the same day were destroyed.
  • The size and format of the paintings was constrained to eight possible dimensions and three possible colours.
  • The format used to capture the date would change to match the location that the work was created.
  • Each painting took around 6-hours to make and followed the same painting process that was based on a Japanese painting technique.
  • After a period of time Kawara started to create boxes for each painting that were lined with a newspaper cutting taken from the same day.
Fig 1 – Two paintings and their boxes from the Today series (1973)

What’s interesting about this is:

  • The concept is very simple and self-contained.
  • The work evolved slightly over time. The introduction of individual boxes for each painting that were lined with newspaper from the same day is a big departure from the original narrow rule set. It creates a separate narrative that sits alongside the paintings. How and why were the newspaper pages selected?
  • Like You are here (Hadfield, 2020), the work starts to operate at different levels. Very personal at one level juxtaposed with global context conveyed through the choice of newspaper/newspaper headlines/article.

Why this is interesting from a time based project perspective:

  • It became a life times work. The series consists of over 3,000 paintings that took approx. 2-man years of effort to produce.
  • The outputs have become an extremely large and valuable art commodity. A quick internet search shows the paintings are currently valued at an average of $2,000 each.

John Virtue

John Virtue (b. 1947) is an English painter known for his monochrome landscapes, particularly a series he made of London.

He graduated from Slade School of Fine art in 1969 and spent a 10-year period struggling to find a voice for his work. In 1978 he started work as a postman to support himself financially. At that point he destroyed all of his work because “it fell short of everything” (John Virtue, 2010). It was then that he started his series of landscapes: “At that point I started with Landscape #1, and the painting I’m [currently] trying to finish is Landscape #761. So in a period of 26-years, you don’t have 761 works because some have been destroyed, but you have progressive chronology. If you like, it’s a non-verbal diary of my existence”(John Virtue, 2010).

John Virtue Landscape No 705
Fig 2 – Landscape No. 705 (2004)

Why this is interesting from a time based project perspective:

  • I like the idea of sequentially naming paintings. Like On Karawa’s Today series (1966), the naming convention gives the work a simple understandable context and narrative without a viewer even looking at the content.
  • Also like On Karaw’s work, this is a ‘life long’ project.


How might you produce a similar daily project?

This is a really interesting question for me because I’m currently engaged in a project titled You are here (2020), that is a visual diary of the current coronavirus pandemic. The project started as an OCA assignment and became a self-directed project once the the assignment was completed.

I will use the rest of this research task as a reflection on You are here (2020), using my artists research to situate the work in a current context.

You are here reflection

What are the rules?

The concept behind You are here (2020) is to create a visual daily diary that charts the extraordinary situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The rules I set myself at the start of the project were:

  • Create content for a diary entry every day from 19th March until the end of the pandemic (no criteria set for what this means yet)
  • The content to include:
    • A main illustration (initially based on a topic derived from an Urban Sketchers 30-day self isolation challenge). Each main illustration has a short caption that includes a title, and almost always some subtext.
    • A personal written diary entry describing my day
    • A news headline describing the broader situation related to what was happening globally with the pandemic on that day
    • Other incidental images – initially these were drawings of ‘everyday’ objects (a word that had suddenly taken on new meaning within a lockdown context)
  • Each entry should be posted onto Instagram before the end of each day
You are here - Day11
Fig 3 – A page from You are here (2020) showing the main elements of content

My original concept was to juxtapose the everyday ordinary and personal against the everyday extraordinary of the unfolding global disaster.

The current status of the project?

At the time of writing I’m creating a diary entry for Day 69 – this is still very much work-in-progress.

The current form of the diary is as a growing booklet created in InDesign. The page layout is based on a simple grid that has enough flexibility to cope with variations in image size, shape and placement. Most entries take up a single page, although there are occasions where one entry covers a two-page spread.

After 15-days I stopped creating the incidental sketches and concentrated on the main illustration. Frequently I’ll create more than one illustration in a day.

My reflections on the current state of the work

Having read through the diary on a number of occasions I would make the following observations:

  • I like that it reads on a number of levels. A reader can:
    • Just look at the images and images plus captions
    • Look at the images and headlines
    • Read the whole page; images headlines and diary entries
  • The pacing is the same throughout the diary. It would be very easy to vary this to make the reading experience more varied and to provide punctuation at important points
  • There is a lot of content. Some of it is of questionable quality but hopefully that gives it more of a ‘genuine’ feel
  • User feedback has been positive. The chatty informal personal diary entries seem to be well received and do juxtapose nicely against the more impactful news headlines
  • Given that the pandemic is still happening and the content is growing, I haven’t yet thought through what the format for this diary could become
  • There are many opportunities to add new time based content into the mix. For example, I’ve started an online gestural drawing class that consists of approx. 40-lessons. During each lesson I create drawings, sometimes many drawings. I am going to experiment digitising these and running them in sequence through the pages of the diary.
  • I should start to use reportage as a way to record and comment of the situation more explicitly. Although observational drawing is the core of my work it would be valuable to start to think about how to use it to record the broader effect of the pandemic, particularly at this moment in time where restrictions are being eased and the country is in a strange inbetween state, where everything isn’t quite ‘right’.

My response to Drawing Every Day – Bryan Eccleshall (2013)

My response Bryan’s experience to making Drawing every day (2013), and the working processes outlined in the video are through the lens of me engaging in a similar daily drawing project.

Many of the statements Bryan makes about the process and experience of ‘just doing the work’ resonate with me.

One of the things I’ve been reflecting on is the power of making a firm commitment to start a major project. Steven Pressfield highlights the importance of this moment in his insightful and instructive book The War on Art: “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occured” (Pressfield (2002:122).

It’s almost as if once your ego accepts that you’ve fully committed to something it moves out of the way and stops resisting or putting up barriers. The creative part can more easily come to the surface and express itself.

I am also experiencing the benefits of just doing daily work:

  • My drawing is getting better and I have a wider toolbox of techniques to draw on – basically through a lot of concerted practice
  • I’m less phased by staring at a blank sheet of paper – I know I’ve got to do the work so starting and doing is more important than fussiness or concerns about quality (although this frequently still creeps in)
  • I have a large and growing portfolio of content that sits within an overall pandemic diary narrative that I may choose to develop into something later
  • Daily posts of new work to Instagram are a great way to share the work and make contact with other artists

What are the lessons to be learned from my research into the time based work of other artists?

Probably the biggest lesson is how working within the constraint of a framework is a freeing experience and rather than restricting creativity, conversely allows it to surface.


There is one observation that came from this task that needs further action:

  • In relation to the illustrations for the You are here diary entries: I should start to use reportage as a way to record and comment of the situation more explicitly. – This has already started and I’ve made a decision to frame the new illustrations within a reportage context.


Drawing Every Day – Bryan Eccleshall (2013) [online video] At: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/fine-art/bryan-eccleshall/ (Accessed: 27.05,20)

Hadfield, H (2020) You are here At: https://hughhadfield.com/assignment-4-you-are-here/ (Accessed: 25.05.20)

Life in a Day (2012) Life In A Day. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIw7dJg1L84 (Accessed 27/05/2020).

Marclay, C (2010) The Clock [online video] At: https://youtu.be/C0ZLrW2dmAw (Accessed: 26.05.20)

MacDonald, K (2013) Christmas in a day [online video] At: https://youtu.be/Od1WIDxl44Y (Accessed: 26.05.20)

Pressfield, S (2002) The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles New York: Black Irish Entertainment LLC

Scott, R., Marclay, C. (2012) Life in a day [online video] At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIw7dJg1L84 (Accessed: 25.05.20)

John Virtue (2010) [online video] At: https://vimeo.com/7202072 (Accessed: 27.05.20)

Where do good ideas come from (2010) [online video] At: https://youtu.be/NugRZGDbPFU (Accessed: 27.05.20)

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Kawara, O (1973) Two paintings and their boxes from the Today series At: https://www.artmarketmonitor.com/2012/01/10/on-kawara-leaves-little-trace-but-art-and-prices/ (Accessed: 25.05.20)

Figure 2  – Virtue, J (2004) Landscape No. 705 (acrylic, black ink and shellac on canvas) At: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3638891/.html?image=1 (Accessed: 27.05.20)

Figure 3 – Hadfield, H (2020) A page from You are here (2020) showing the main elements of content In possession of: the author

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