One Hundred Portraits of Nicolas Cage

Or why doing one thing every day for 100 days will change your life.

Last March, a few artists got inspired by a design exercise. They turned the concept into a social art project, and invited their Instagram followers to do one action every day for 100 days. They encouraged people to share what they made through the Instagram hashtag, #the100dayproject.

I was thrilled to participate. This initial excitement was immediately followed by anxiety about how my action should probably be something “serious” and show off my artistic “talent”. This is a common emotion I experience preceding new projects. The only thing I’ve ever known to combat this kind of anxiety is to dance around and do something so silly it doesn’t matter. So I traded my fancy pens and paint brushes for sharpies and printer paper, and drew the most ridiculous portrait of Nicolas Cage*.

I started small, and did what I could. Commitment doesn’t come easy for me, so I told myself I’d try it out for a few days to see what might happen. I drew them at work, while I was waiting… for my code to run, a page to load, or a meeting to start. I hung each of them on the wall behind me with Scotch tape.

After a few days, something funny started happening. People walking by started asking what these man portraits were doing on the wall. A few well-cultured individuals recognized that beautiful expressive face from a mile away. Questions started coming in, and the only answer I had was that I was doing an art project for 100 days. Every day, my co-workers wanted to know: ‘What is the face today?’ The social commitment was seemingly written in stone.

Admittedly, I’m pretty terrible at keeping routines. During the course of the project, I fell off, I got back on track, and I even had a co-worker fill in for me while I was on vacation. Towards the end of the project, my good friend and fellow troublemaker, Michelle, informed me I was to have a gallery show in July*. Whether I had 100 Cages or not, I was going to hang what I had on a wall. That little kick in the pants helped me get through the last leg of the project. I couldn’t believe it. A gallery show! For me! For all of the silly Cages.

The day of the show came, and I could not have been more stoked to see all of my work up in a gallery. I had never had a gallery show before. This experience blew me out of the water. There were memes and sub-memes made during the show. People playfully fought over who got the bees. I learned more about Nicolas Cage movies than I could ever have dreamed. We made shirts. I finished a project and shared it with the world. I never expected my first gallery show to be of Nicolas Cage, but oh how perfect it turned out to be. It was hilarious. It was ludacris. It was hugely rewarding. Seeing people wear my shirts months later with the Cage faces is still so surreal.

This year, we’re doing it again, and we’re hoping to make it really huge. How can you get involved?

  1. Follow @theGreatDiscontent, @ElleLuna, and/or @madelinw (me!) for updates
  2. Choose your action! (It can be anything, painting, writing, photography, cooking, dreaming, etc.)
  3. Make a unique hashtag for your project. Tag both the #the100dayproject and your personal hashtag. (ie. #100daysof____)
  4. Post a photo to announce your project, and tell others about the project and the start date, so they can play too.
  5. Get started! The project goes from April 6 — July 14.

Making art and putting it out into the world can be hard. It’s way easier to come up with a list of excuses, or to conveniently forget to start*. Here’s some advice for how to start, how to keep going, and how to finish (you can do it!):

  1. Pick an action you can do in 5–10 minutes. This will make it easier to not make excuses. Everyone has five minutes. Squeeze it in between things during the day. It’s easy, I swear.
  2. Art is for everyone. There will literally be millions* of regular people doing this project with you. You don’t have to currently consider yourself an “artist”, or anything fancy. The definition of an artist is one who practices art. By the simple act of practicing every day, you are an artist.
  3. Focus on the process, not the final product. It’s really easy to get caught up in the details, or day dream about the big vision. Show up every day and do the work. Even if you think it is garbage. If you skip a day, make up for it the next day.
  4. Don’t be afraid to share. Post on Instagram, share with your colleagues, hang it up at work or at home. It may feel daunting at first, but if you are able to actually look at all of your work at once, you’ll be able to see your progress and gain confidence to keep going.
  5. When you’re done, celebrate! Try not to overthink this too early on, but it helps to make it over the finish line if you have something to look forward to. It can be as big or as small as you like. Reward yourself for doing such a great job making art every day!

Read more about the 100 day project on the Great Discontent, get your friends and family involved. Get excited!