How it all began
100 Days of Making entered my life in the Spring of 2017. Then it would be the 2nd time the class was offered under the fantastic instruction of Katherine Dillon. As I was about to enter my 4th and final semester at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), I decided to only take one other class in addition to working on my Master’s Thesis. I had entered ITP as an openly terrified former teacher who knew nothing about coding, physical computing, design, or really anything related to technology. I strove to leave the program having at least one foundational and solid skill, rather than living my fear of knowing a ton of little things.
When I first learned about 100 Days of Making, I didn’t quite understand. But Katherine’s contagious and clear passion for 100 days of making made it sound more than just a class. I was ignited with curiosity. Having already taken design classes with her and knowing her reputation for being a detailed, demanding teacher, I knew I could trust her. I thought this could be my opportunity to learn something I haven’t had the time to learn through the program; it could be an opportunity to not only hone in on a particular skill, but also prove to myself that I could do accomplish this. I knew immediately what I wanted to do —
Choose the topic for now
I have always been fascinated by animation. I remember watching behind the scenes videos of Walt Disney talking about the original Mickey Mouse sketches and then later learning how Nightmare Before Christmas was made. I was amazed by how tedious, time-consuming the process was and yet it has been such an important and classic avenue for art. Even as new technologies are allowing people to animate easier, the fundamentals are still intricate and complex. I could spend the rest of my life making excuses as to why I’m not learning it or I could do something about it. With that said, if I ever wanted to pursue a secret, life-long dream of making my own animated short, I’d have to start somewhere. 100 Days of Making seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Although it’s important to consider the long-term, I had to also focus on the short-term of that time. (Lesson #1: Stay in the present). I knew for my Thesis I wanted to iterate on previous built interactive projects I had made during grad school — all of my work up until that point had been physical and I had a goal of building out a digital component from start to finish, from design to animation on my own.
Even though I was sure this was the right topic and even more sure that this would be the perfect space to learn, I was scared. So scared in fact that on January 13th, 2017 I actually broke down into tears thinking about the ‘mountain’ of 100 days that lay ahead of me. Could I really learn animation? Should I choose an easier, less time-consuming topic? What if I fail? After spending hours considering any other topic, I channeled my inner Elle Woods from the classic 90s film Legally Blond, “I pick the dangerous one because I’m not afraid of a challenge”. And that’s what I did.
Be Patient and Forgive Yourself
On my first day I spent a solid 4 hours on a 20 minute YouTube tutorial. Knowing that it wouldn’t be sustainable to keep that up for the remaining 99 days, I considered it a start and posted it on my Tumblr made for the class. (Lesson #2: Be patient with yourself and the process). I spent the first 50 days doing After Effects tutorials, rendering out 6–10 second videos. After some time I felt more comfortable with AE and was ready to explore other animation forms. I began the 2nd half of my 100 days by looking into Cinema4d, SVG + CSS animation, and even Three.js. While simultaneously doing this along with my Thesis, I was able to test out ideas that I could use for my project. By day 70, I was feeling more creatively confident that I had ever been. It was an empowering feeling, which made me fearless to try and learn new concepts or programs. On April 24, 2017 I finished my first 100 days project and on May 2nd I showed my thesis, debuting many of my animated scenes.
Many people ask what you learn through a 100 days of making project and a lot of it isn’t the big things. Approaching this project for example, with the expectation that I would be a Pixar-qualified animator isn’t realistic. What is realistic is that by allowing yourself to go through the process, you’ll pick up invaluable bits along the way. For me, among the many lessons, it was how to set up a composition, how to render, convert to mp4, and screen-recording, which seem very trivial but each of these allows me to not only produce faster but allow more time to experiment with more features in the program.
Why do another
Months after I had finished grad school and started working full-time at IBM as a UX Designer, I was feeling… well, uninspired. My work got me through the day. But it didn’t keep me up at night and wake me up early to begin again. What am I missing? Where is that empowering fuel I felt at ITP to create? (Lesson #3: Don’t create limits for yourself). I began scrolling through my 100 days project, recounting the feelings each animation and post evoked. I knew that was what I was missing.
100 days of making is an incredible experience, but when you can share it with others going through the same thing, that’s when the magic happens. I wanted to do another 100 days with a group. Being newer to my team at IBM, I wasn’t even sure how to get started. But with the help of several people on my team, there was an official announcement made to the 100+ person team, spread throughout the country. It was challenging at first to lead this being that the motivation in this setting was very different than that of in a graduate class. The obvious ones that you’re not paying for it, there’s no impact on your transcripts, etc. However, what is has shown time and again is that it brings people from all over together in one place where we can share and document our progress.
We are now in our 4th cycle of 100 days, which is in thanks to supportive leadership, a slack channel, bi-weekly check-ins, and occasional quarterly showcases.
In addition to leading at IBM, I have also started teaching 100 Days of Making at NYU/ ITP, which has been a very humbling and exciting experience. Due to popular demand there are two sections, of which the other is taught by Producer/Designer, Paula Ceballos Delgado (IG: @madebypaula), who also began 100 days in Spring 2017. This alone is the testament to the beauty of letting go and not creating limits for yourself- you never know where and what things will bring.
Starting with Why
Now in my 5th journey of 100 Days of Making, I often get asked Why I do it and more importantly, how I stay motivated. What started as a way to test and hopefully prove to myself that I could create something for 100 days has now become a lifestyle.
Above are posts from my current 100 days, which is “100 days of recreating original art”. The reason I chose this was simply because I wanted to improve my drawing, without having to think about what I’m drawing. I am using the hashtag #drawthisinyourstyle to find new drawings daily. Depending on the day’s schedule, some days I can only spend 20 minutes, while others days I am able to spend close to an hour. (Lesson #4: If you start simple, you can always make it more complex)
This leads to my why: the first part to this answer and arguably the obvious is that I love learning.
Learning allows us to explore new areas and uncover new things about ourselves, and much more. However we must distinguish the difference between loving to learn and learning: loving to learn doesn’t mean you make time for it. 100 days allows you to explore that thing you’ve been saying you’re going to learn and keep putting off. Or even the thing you once did when you had more time at a younger age. It gives you the platform to learn without the fear of not being good enough. It’s not about making 100 perfect animations, VR experiences, or water-color paintings, it’s about going through the process and showing up for yourself, all the while contributing to your community.
This leads to the 2nd part of my why: The community 100 days builds and the beauty of sharing your journey. This is my 5th 100 days- in both my IBM group and my class at ITP, I see people go through their projects for the first time. I see their struggles and successes, which are inevitably different than mine. I could approach this in a prescriptive way and say, “this is the way to do it” or I could step aside and learn from them as they learn about themselves. One of the most empowering areas I’ve found to share is talking about when it becomes difficult and when you find yourself unmotivated- this leads to a breakthrough on an individual level and group level. Individually, if you keep pushing yourself forward and showing up for your project, despite how much you are hating it, you begin to find a new perspective and it often leads to an unexpected, wonderful shift. On a group level, having the honesty to express when something is challenging, creates a sense of trust and provides the space to being vulnerable.
Why are the “Whys” Important
All of this comes down to knowing and trusting yourself. Your why is your foundation; it’s like the thesis to your life, or in this case your 100 days. What inspires you. What gets you up in the morning. What makes you want to do & be better. None of this is easy. It takes courage. It takes vulnerability, especially because this is not a type of project where you can see immediate results. It can be scary and uncomfortable, but when something is uncomfortable that means change is also happening. It’s all about how we perceive it. Often at the end of a journey, those difficult moments you faced seem trivial. However, those seemingly small, difficult bumps are the pieces that make us stronger.
100 days of making doesn’t just allow you to learn a new skill, it also teaches you about yourself, builds self-confidence, and brings people together. It is the crossroad between fear, courage, and confidence. This project gives you the chance to discover what fear is preventing you from doing and invites you to surrender to the process by showing up every day for you.
Follow my 100 Days on IG: @kclathropcreates
1st 100 days: 100 Days of Animation (Jan 14, 2017-April 24, 2017)
2nd 100 days: 100 Days of Animating Patterns in CSS (Oct 1, 2017-Jan 7, 2018)
3rd 100 days: Drawing and Animating Monsters (Jan 8, 2018-July 24, 2018)
4th 100 days: Drawing Faces (Oct 1 2018-Jan 9, 2019)
5th 100 days: Recreating Original Drawings (Jan 12, 2019- April 22, 2019 expected)