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One Hundred Days and Six Lessons

By Becky Murphy Simpson

I started my creative residency in early May. (In case you aren’t familiar with the program, it’s a whole year in which Adobe gives creative the opportunity to fully dive into a personal project.) Three months into the residency, I feel like a toddler and the mother at the same time—increasingly curious and shocked by the growth that seems like it happened in the blink of an eye.

My main project for the year is to learn how to turn my illustrations into a business. I began by starting a new illustration every day for 100 days. I posted the process on Instagram, Twitter, Behance, and my website. You can see all 100 on my website

Pattern illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson
Illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson
Pattern illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson

The point of this project was to create space for me to explore and play. The art didn’t have to be perfect at this stage. Instead, it’s more of a reference point—a place to pivot from for later work.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last 100 days:

1. Tiny steps = big change. We all know this, but we don’t internalize it until we actually do it. Committing to drawing something every day has forced me to make decisions, seek inspiration even when it feels sparse and, the best part, no longer fear the blank canvas.

2. Patterns are awesome. I hadn’t designed any patterns before the residency started, which is crazy, because now I’m all in. It’s a great way to beef up a few small doodles, highlight a simple illustration, or make an entirely new piece out of the same forms that once lived alone on the middle of a page. Patterns are like the ugly duckling prom queens in teen movies: No longer a nerdy girl with glasses, now everyone sees the potential!

3. Simple is good. Some of my strongest pieces are the bold ones, the ones where I get to the point. I tend to overcompensate a lack of direction by drawing more and more details. P.S. I love using Adobe Shape for these kinds of projects.

4. Sharing should be sustainable. I’m a big fan of everybody sharing process, no matter how far along we are in our career, as we all have something to give. That sharing doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can work it into our workday rhythms. I share a bit of my process on Instagram, and also in captions on my website. (See my dinner invitation for an example.) It’s not meant to be a comprehensive tutorial, and that makes it easier for me to do.

5. More critiques make better art. Taking the time to ask for feedback takes….time. It’s easy to put this off when you work for yourself. We all have deadlines to meet. But this is what we need to remember: Critiques are an investment. A critique is not a one-stop shop; every critique teaches us how to look at our work. The questions our peers and mentors raise are questions we should ask ourselves as we create. I recently asked a few shop owners who sell products with illustrations to look at my work. They also told what they want to see more of from my industry. Free tips on what kind of work I can create that they’ll want to buy? Okay, I’m in.

6. Celebrate the process. It doesn't have to be perfect to be complete. Art can be reworked, repurposed, or it can just be bad. Bad can be good, too. Our process pieces are the warriors that carry us to the finish line. We can’t make the good stuff if we don’t embrace the bad. Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” 

illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson
illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson
illustration by Becky Murphy Simpson

THE NEXT 100 DAYS

So what’s next? A celebration, of course. I’m going to celebrate the process and celebrate the completion of the 100 days. Some friends and I are having a drawing night in Austin, TX, on August 20. If you’re in town, please join us!

After that, I’ll turn some of the art I began during the 100 Days of Getting Started into products. I’m also preparing for an art show in December in Austin. Follow along to see the process and new releases.