I'm setting up this post as a Fa'Q* to explain things and reflect on the whole project:
What was this all about, anyway?
I was attempting to raise awareness of my artwork and the upcoming Firelight Lantern Festival, a not-for-profit community art event in Picton, Prince Edward County, Ontario, happening in April 2013 that my wife, Krista Dalby, is organizing.
Where did you do this?
In my living room at Small Pond Arts so I could be close to the computer (for Facebook and blog updates as well as checking the live stream as a preview monitor), and close to my movies and music (played Aimee Mann's Charmer over and over during prep). Lots of Star Trek was watched.
Mostly the original series from the '60s, but I watched all the movies, too.
Was season 3 really that bad?
Yeah, much of it was terrible.
Why 100 paintings? Why 100 hours?
Anything less wouldn't be impressive and I felt it was a reasonable enough challenge, not so easy that just anyone could do it, but not impossible, either. Plus, 100 is a great round number.
So you didn't sleep at all?
No sleeping. I may have nodded off a few times because Krista heard me snoring, but never longer than a minute or two. I experienced a number of microsleeps, though, which ruined two paintings.
Two paintings were ruined? Doesn't that mean you only painted 98?
Because I was prepping the paintings in pencil as I received notices of people willing to participate, I ended up prepping a few that didn't eventually complete a full set of 3 and actually started the marathon with 103 pencilled portraits and ended up with 101 finished portraits.
So the numbering on this blog is incorrect?
That's likely my fault, happening in the wee hours when I was uploading completed paintings while Krista slept.
Were you disappointed that some people weren't interested in participating?
Not at all. People are busy and my projects tend to be on the silly side, so no worries; I had enough people to choose from and it all worked out in the end.
How did you choose the people?
It was partly random and partly a consideration of who could help expand the scope of the project to far-flung places (as opposed to my local community, which is already kind of aware of my artwork and the upcoming festival).
This was done on Facebook?
Yes, I wanted to use the social media aspect of it for actual community-building and not just a place to look at pictures of their breakfasts.
What do you have against breakfast?
I love breakfast. In fact, Krista made me some amazing breakfasts during the event.
So all your subjects had to be on Facebook?
Yes, and they had to be humans (as opposed to all the profiles of animals and companies) who weren't mutual friends with me (at the start, anyway); I wanted 66 strangers involved.
How did you get their pictures?
I chose and asked for photos that they'd already posted on Facebook to keep it enclosed in that arena.
Did you get good pictures?
They were all good, but some were more challenging than others.
Some had animals or people I kind of wanted to crop out, some were kind of low-res, but all were perfectly usable and served their purpose. Some people had amazingly tangled hair, which is gorgeous and fun to draw and paint, but challenging, especially under these circumstances.
What do you have against animals?
I love animals. In fact I included a couple of horses and a fish in the series.
Have you done this sort of thing before?
Kind of. While in high school 23 years ago I stayed up for 100 hours with my friend Alex Pearson (his was the first portrait I painted for this event so the two of us would be bookends, of a sort) and got schoolmates to sponsor us for each hour to raise money for the school's charity of choice that Christmas. You can read the log from 1989 here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Were you painting pictures, then, too?
No. Also, it was the last week of school before the Christmas break, so the workload from classes was light and pointless.
What do you have against schoolwork?
Don't get me started. Actually, I used the log as part of a project on sleep deprivation for my Bio class.
There was a picture of art supplies as the very first post on this blog. Were these the materials that you used?
I used the mechanical pencil, the sharpener, and the kneaded eraser in the prep stage and I used the ink and the brush on the bottom during the event.
Wait, you only used one brush?
Surprisingly, the brush in that picture (the same one in this blog's banner) wasn't meant to be used at all since Krista had gotten me a number of fresh new ones specifically for this project. I did a few tests of the paper and the ink with that brush as I started the marathon and, because it was so damn versatile, I used it throughout with the addition of a wide brush to cover large areas.
Seriously, now: only two brushes?
Yup! I'm as amazed as anyone. That little brush is the MVP of the marathon.
How much ink did you use?
I'm not sure, but I'm glad I had that big bottle from years ago.
What kind of paper did you use?
I'm not picky about brands, but I'm picky about quality and I know what I need, so I chose my materials accordingly. All 101 paintings happened to be done on 14" x 17" 100lb Canson Bristol vellum.
How did you stay awake?
Caffeine, energy drinks, showers, small meals throughout the day and night, having company helped. Puppets.
When I realized people were actually watching the live feed, Krista and I instituted occasional Puppet Breaks throughout the event where we would bring out a few of her various creations (including Casey and Finnegan, The Creeper, and the puppet portrait of me) and have them goof around for the camera. People seemed to enjoy these breaks and the hilarity helped me stay awake.
Did you hallucinate?
Sometimes flashes of light or movement (from the computer monitor or TV screen) would get my attention and I did (apparently) have a weird moment of surreality where I ruined a painting.
Was this the same painting that got ruined by a microsleep?
It was, actually, and I only noticed the hallucinatory mistake after studying the painting after the microsleep-induced mistake.
What happened, exactly?
During this specific microsleep event (where I would nod off while holding the brush over the painting) I was working on the lower lip of a woman and the brush dashed a line into the teeth. Looking at the painting after this terrible accident I noticed I had painted the eyelashes over one of the eyes in a crisscross manner, sort of like the eye was wearing a black Fortress of Solitude. Terrible.
What happened to the other ruined painting?
The likeness wasn't satisfying enough so I put it in the wood stove with the other one.
You didn't try to recreate them?
There wasn't any time to start from scratch. I just had to hope that I really did count 103 prepped paintings; with 2 destroyed I could now only afford to screw up that badly one more time.
How can you prove that you did all 100 paintings in 100 hours with no sleep?
I set up a webcam and streamed the whole thing live. You can actually still watch a lot of it recorded in chunks at my Ustream channel.
Did people watch you paint?
Surprisingly, a large number did. Like I said, I set up the broadcast as proof, but an unexpected element was that it sort of became a show that people tuned in to. Judging by the comments, people were addicted, inspired, confused, supportive...it was pretty amazing and helpful, actually.
Were there any skeptics?
There were a couple of people genuinely concerned for my health, but even they were supportive. There was refreshingly no negativity surrounding this, considering the nature of the internet.
Do you have any regrets?
I wish I had included some more of my friends so they could have been part of the "show", but I had a plan and had to stick to it. If more people dropped out or whatever, I would have gotten to ask other people.
Do the subjects have to buy the paintings of themselves?
Not at all. I didn't want to have a situation where I did a portrait and pressured the subject to buy it; that seems cheesy to me, so they are under no obligation to buy, but anyone can buy the portraits. The main reason for this was to get the word out about my work and the Firelight Lantern Festival, after all, so any sales are a bonus, as far as I'm concerned. That said, the paintings are gradually selling.
Did it work, trying to get attention?
My press release got picked up in various local papers before the event, there was an article in the Toronto Star which captures the humour of the whole thing quite well, an excellent piece by the CBC (at around 18:42), and various radio interviews...who knows what else will come of it...
Was it hard?
It was hardest between 4AM and 6AM, feeling very tired, sleepy, cold; unconsciousness was pulling at me like that creature which swallowed Artoo in that murky swamp on Dagobah. But this was all done willfully, so that made it a little easier. I just had to keep going with a steady pace, like a running marathon. Also my back got sore from hunching over the table, so I needed frequent stretch breaks.
So you weren't chained to the table?
No, I was allowed to walk around (inside and outside), have showers, eat meals, watch Star Trek, etc. as long as it was for short periods as I really did need to keep painting.
Did you ever fall behind?
I started out very strongly and was ahead by about five or six paintings for about a day and a half...then the hours caught up...then I fell behind to the point where there were only three hours left in the marathon but I still had four paintings left. Rather than speeding up, I did minimal wash work (they were still fully inked with rich blacks).
Other than on this blog, how can we see the paintings?
We're having an Open House on Dec 16 so people can come by, see the paintings and buy the remaining few.
Are you going to do this again?
100 paintings in 100 hours...blindfolded.
Did you sleep a lot afterward?
I went to bed at around 9:30 last night after my gang of supportive revelers and the press left and woke up around 2PM today. I wanted to have an early night tonight, but here I am, writing this blog entry.
I'm going to work on some figurative oil paintings like The Lady and the Lions, maybe a few peculiar landscapes...
Are you available for commissions?
You bet. I'm always available for commissions using inks, oils, watercolours...whatever medium and size you like.
Are you happy with it all?
I'm extremely happy about it. Overjoyed, in fact. The amount of support, the well-wishing, the cheers, the online sharing, the participation was just phenomenal.
I'd like to thank the 102 people that trusted me to paint their portraits (sincere apologies to Trevor and Jodi); the various folks who came out to document this (Lenny! the Loyalist College students!; the press; and others I'm likely forgetting due to my still slightly impaired state. Thank you all!
MVP paint brush aside, the real MVP of this whole silly thing was she who is my wife, the amazing, lovely, supportive (etc!), Krista Dalby. Attempting this without her would have been incredibly difficult. Having her keep the online communications flowing with updates to this blog, Facebook, etc.; supply me with food; take care of everything in order for me to concentrate on just painting was invaluable and these words are woefully inadequate. But thank you, Krista. Thank you.