Things learnt from my daily 2020 postcard project

January 1st 2020 I set out to draw a postcard everyday for the entire year…little did I know what kind of year 2020 would shape up to be. 366 days later, 1 Pandemic, 5 bottles of black ink, 30 postcard books, 2 lockdowns, 1 overseas work trip and 14 days in quarantine I have emerged sanity in tack with 366 postcards sketched every day of 2020.

To say it was a little tricky at times is an understatement and to be honest there were moments when I did think what am I doing? Do I really need to keep going with this project? After all we’re living through a pandemic and I’m sure no-one would bat an eyelid if I decided to stop.

However there was something I discovered about myself this year that pushed me to keep going and that is; when the going gets tough, I dig in and get going. I think there was also a part of me that thought if I could do my postcard then everything was going to be ok. I couldn’t control the news, the virus, the work coming in, other people’s opinions, but I could choose to do my postcard and that was the drive I needed to get it done.

Here are some things that I’ve learnt along the way and thought it would be beneficial to share, mostly to remind myself of what I’ve experienced this year and to take forward into 2021.

  • Keep it simple

One of the swiftest ways to give up on something is to overcomplicate before you even start. I have seen this happen on numerous occasions where I have started out with full enthusiasm and intention to complete but within a few days have run out of steam. And the reason? It’s too complicated, there are too many obstacles to work out and the direction is not clear. So with this project I intentionally limited my colour palette to black ink, kept the time to 15 minutes and the format to an A6 postcard. The only thing I had to then think of was what to sketch-and that was limited to a place, landscape or building from life.

  • Do a stock take

Get your supplies in before you start the project. When you’re in the midst of a year long project it’s very easy to say to yourself I’ll order them in tomorrow and then forget. Although I only needed a few materials to draw my postcard each day, I quickly found my ink supplies drained and my postcard books depleted. Work out how much you need and of what and order it in bulk before you begin, then you won’t be running around like a headless chicken trying to find forgotten pads of paper and ink hidden in the depths of your studio.

  • Dress appropriately

When I mean appropriately I mean for the type of conditions that you’ll be drawing in. I cannot emphasise this enough. The days I had taken time to get my weatherproof trousers on, a proper thermal top, thick socks and remembered my gloves and hat it made such a difference to my drawing experience. 15 minutes standing in one place may not sound like a lot of time, but boy do you feel it if the weather is cold and the wind is howling. Of course the summer months were lovely to draw in and made even better wearing my cowboy hat and shades to keep the sun out of my eyes, but they only account for around 4 months of the year so if you are intending to draw outside throughout the year in the UK get yourself some weatherproof clothing and proper walking boots. Your body will thank you later.

  • Don’t wait for the weather

I started this project in the middle of winter, if I remember correctly the weather on the 1st January 2020 was cold, damp and misty. This could have easily put me off, and I can list lots of reasons why this weather wasn’t ideal for me to be sketching outside i.e. the paper would be too damp, the ink wouldn’t flow very well, the mist was obscuring my view, I’d catch a cold…etc. But in reality I live in a country with a very changeable and temperate climate. Yes the weather is pretty severe at times and I did on one day attempt to sketch in gale-force winds (check out postcard no.47 at Kynance for a laugh) but if I waited for the weather to be the perfect condition for drawing I wouldn’t have gone out at all.

  • Accept the mistakes and finish

Having a tendency to be overly critical of my work this was a hard one to swallow and knowing that I was going to post each and every postcard on my Instagram account and in my shop too, heightened my fears. However after the first week had passed I knew that if I was going to complete this project I had to get over my fears of mistake making, and imperfections and just get it done and posted. I didn’t have time to edit, fiddle, and re-draw, and often times I didn’t have the time to work out the best viewpoint. I had to simply turn up in the space, get my postcard book out, get the ink and pen and draw what was in front of me, standing up within 15 minutes. It was quick, I often felt uncomfortable, exposed and dissatisfied with the final piece. However this commitment to finishing and posting kept me persevering and accepting whatever I produced at the end.

  • Don’t be afraid to adapt the project

This was something I had felt I had to do when the UK went into its first lockdown in March 2020. As the restrictions meant we could only leave the house for limited periods of time, namely for exercise and essentials only, I had to work out a new way to continue my postcards. This was when I came up with ‘A view from my window’ initiative and invited people to send me their views from wherever they were in lockdown and I would sketch it on a postcard. Thankfully people did respond and soon I had views to sketch from all around the UK and further afield. You can see all of them here: https://www.melaniechadwick.co.uk/collections/view-from-my-window-postcard-project. When submissions slowed, I adapted my project again and started my second Covid inspired project ‘Armchair Travel’ and drew this time from webcams around the world. Here are all the postcards from that project: https://www.melaniechadwick.co.uk/collections/armchair-travel

The next adaption happened after I had travelled to Madrid for work and had to spend 14 days in quarantine on my arrival back in the UK. This time I chose well known landmarks to draw from all over the world. https://www.melaniechadwick.co.uk/collections/world-landmarks-postcard-project

These adjustments have taught me to see that when the situation changes around you, and forces you to go off path, don’t give up, creatively work out how you can adapt your project and keep going.

  • Take a photo and keep accountable

The act of me taking and sharing a photo of what I had sketched and posting it on Instagram actually kept me accountable. Even though the people who follow me may not have noticed if I had missed a day, or really been that bothered if I didn’t post I think it just kept me in check. I felt like once I had posted the image on IG and in my shop, it had been done- kind of like adding the final layer of varnish to a painting.

  • Celebrate your milestones

This project was far sweeter because I shared what I was doing with others. It meant I gained cheerleaders and followers who were keen to encourage and support me in my endeavours. Sharing my posts and milestones on IG, facebook and in my newsletter was actually a highlight and I really gained from the kindness of strangers and friends on the internet supporting me through comments, sales and shares.

Projects like this are rare and I’m not sure whether I will do another one like this anytime soon but I can tell you that the satisfaction of finishing and the sense of accomplishment far outweighs the struggle of doing it.

All the postcards are up in my shop and are for sale-do take a look here.

I have plans to create more things from these postcards so stay tuned for what I will do with them next.

Leave a Comment