Thirty art works this month? I'll start them tomorrow

A Pioneer Square artist has a challenge for procrastinators: Thirty pieces of art in thirty days, culminating in a group show. Ready . . . set . . . delay!
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Visitors at the 2007 30 Day Art Challenge show.

A Pioneer Square artist has a challenge for procrastinators: Thirty pieces of art in thirty days, culminating in a group show. Ready . . . set . . . delay!

Andrew Buckles, an artist, has thought a lot about procrastination. It was the desire to overcome this obstacle that inspired him to take over as organizer of the “30 Day Art Challenge,” an annual group show at the Tashiro Kaplan Artists' lofts in Pioneer Square, in its twelfth year. 

The Challenge involves 100 artists of all skill levels who each agree to produce 30 works of art in 30 days. Registration requires a $75 registration fee, which includes 30 8 x 10 canvases and a guaranteed gallery show during the December Arts Walk. Anyone can sign up. 

The event was dreamed up by another artist, Charles Holzhey, who stopped in during the registration period at the T.K. Gallery, on his way home to his live-work apartment upstairs. The beauty of the Challenge, he says, is that it’s open to anyone willing to do the work, so you never know what you're going to see. "I did this for ten years," Holzhey said. "You get some delightful, amazing work, and you get some horribly abysmal stuff."

"The Challenge attracts all kinds. From people who do it for a lark, such as an 8-year-old girl who entered with her mother,” he said, adding that the girl then sold more of her work than her mom, who was an established painter. ("Art, it's not a game for sensible, sound people," he said). 

Some pros also sign up, but keep it on the downlow, using different names, because they're under contract at a gallery, he said. 

The work, once turned in, is displayed randomly, with the artists' names on the back. “There’s no program to tell you which is the important work," he said. "“You have to make sense of it yourself."

As the participants filed in, Buckles instructed them in how to type their name and contact information into a laptop, then Donna Moyer snapped headshots, which will be used on a website that Buckles is putting together to promote the event, the work and the artists. 

Dressed in a black long-sleeved T-shirt, black slacks and black slip-on mules, Buckles looked the part of the artist, while pacing the room waiting for more people to show up. The goal was 100, and the count was at 67. 

“Do you want a shot of Jack Daniels?” he asked. “Anyone want a shot of Jack?” 

Moyer, also in black, is a professional photographer who has wanted to cross over into fine art for many years. This year, she's using the momentum of the Art Challenge to make it happen. 

"I've worked as a sports photographer, I’ve worked for the army, [and] as a baby photographer. Nothing but babies for six months,” she said. “I found that the more I did [photography] for the money, the less I enjoyed it.”

But what held her back from taking the kinds of photos she wanted to take? "It was money," she said. "There's always a reason not to do something that doesn't fill an immediate need, such as, how am I going to put bread on the table."

Past strategies to motivate went awry. “I'm a list-maker, but then I get angry at the list, and I tell the list, ‘You're not the boss of me.’”

Now, Moyer has landed a job doing administrative work at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, leaving her with a lot of untapped creative energy. 

"My plan is to work two hours every day on the weekdays and six hours on the weekends," she said. The motivation this time, she said, is that she is accountable to more than just herself. “If I don't finish, people are going to say, ‘Donna didn't finish,’" she said.

Two-time Challenge participant Ed Bourelle also entered this year. His tee-shirt said "Warmachine," the name of the most popular board game made by the company, Privateer Press, where he works as the creative director. 

This year, he's doing the 30 Day Challenge with two friends, and the three of them stayed up all night over the weekend, doing a “24 Hour Art Book,” to get their creative juices flowing. During the night, they went out for beers at the Burien outpost of Elliott Bay Brewery, and sketched while they drank, and then they went back to a friend's apartment and drank lots of coffee and made a gelatin monotype, which is a layer of jello you can paint on and use like a press. 

“You refrigerate it, and it works just like a printing plate,” he explained. “It’s transparent, so you can trace over it, and you can do ghost prints,” he said, showing a video of the process to Buckles, Moyer and another Challenge volunteer, Timothy Vernor, who had stopped in to help. Vernor is a filmmaker and founder of the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF), and is currently in post-production on “Sisterhood of Death,” which he said was filmed in the T.K. Artists’ loft basement. 

Bourelle likes the goal-oriented aspect of the challenge. “I work with a lot of artists, but I don’t get to do a lot for myself,” he said. Also: “I am a major procrastinator,” he admits. “Last year I had 14 pieces to do with six days left. I was up until 4 am the day they were due.” 

This year will be different. “I’m going to go home and do one tonight,” he said. “I live a few blocks from here.”

Not only the organizer of the Challenge, Buckles also participates as an artist. “For seven years I've done it, and each time I've done it differently,” he said. This year? “I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to let the pressure cook.”

“I have these motifs, these little catchphrases, that I repeat. ‘I don't know what I'm doing … That's why they call it creativity,’ is one,” he explains. 

Buckles plans to build off of seven sketches he drew on the bus to his day job in Issaquah, which is actually a "night job," waiting tables. “I start with an open mind, and let the accidents happen,” he said. 

His all-time favorite piece was one he created for last year's show, called “Self Portrait of Me as a Time-Traveler,” which he agreed to sell, even though he didn't want to let it go. He's thinking of trying to buy it back. Buckles is also in the early stages of producing a documentary, about procrastination, called "Why Wait?" in which he will interview other waiters with creative ambitions. 

By 8 p.m, when registration wrapped up, 103 people had signed up, surpassing the goal of 100 that Buckles had hoped for. "But I still haven't signed up," he said.

"Go on,” Moyer told him, “be the straw that breaks the camel's back.”

Buckles nodded. “After I go outside and smoke a cigarette.”


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About the Authors & Contributors

Stacey Solie

Stacey Solie

Stacey Solie is a Seattle-based reporter, writer and editor and an adjunct at the University of Washington where she leads narrative non-fiction workshops for scientists. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Seattle Times and was the founding editor of The Science Chronicles, an environmental conservation monthly. Follow her @staceysolie