Often when I spend time on something that doesn't directly contribute to making work - reading, drawing, mark-making - my mind starts running on all the things I think I should be doing instead. Which pulls my attention away from what I'm doing and creates a conflict between what the experience could be and what it actually is. I think part of the value of a regular practice lies in assigning time for something and giving it your full attention. Giving yourself a chance to notice something you didn't already know. I'm not always particularly good at doing this.
So, at New Year I started a daily mark-making practice. The aim being just to explore my own marks and give myself a chance to experiment. To avoid the New Year Resolution thing, I started the day I went back to work instead. And I committed to 40 days - long enough to see the impact yet short enough to feel achievable. I knew that to be sustainable it also had to be easy - so that on the worst day there would be no excuse for not maintaining it. So there was only one rule - one page a day, any mark, any medium. A single line would count.
I'm using a homemade sketchbook, about 5" (13cm) square, which is filled with different types of paper (a good way to use up offcuts). I've been using whatever tools and media are on my drawing table, which at the moment is conté crayon, fountain pen ink, sumi ink, some white paint. Most days I manage more than one page - the record is twelve. On some days, I have rapidly made some marks five minutes before bedtime. It's amazing how often those aren't the least interesting pages.
A happy side-effect has been handling my drawing materials every single day, which helps to get past any mental block about drawing. Indeed sometimes the mark-making has transitioned seamlessly into drawing - I've tried something out and then pushed my mark-making book to one side and used the same ideas in a more considered drawing.
Somewhere around the 25 day mark I looked back through what I had done. I noticed how often I had defaulted to two or three "formulae" - the habitual marks I make when I am not working from a source. My natural handwriting in a sense. This was interesting in itself but I started to look for ways I could disrupt these patterns. Not change the marks themselves necessarily but force myself to use them differently. In my case this was partly about my use of space and varying the line quality. I'm experimenting with masking parts of the page, erasing, rubbing or scratching back, drawing over wet paint - looking at what effects this has on the marks and how it changes what I do.
I have seven days to go. I think I will start another forty days after that - same rules, same principles, perhaps with a different technique or medium - but I think the main thing is just to keep going.
Some others who have experimented with a daily practice:
Fiona Wilson - 365 days - a print a day
Leslie Morgan - a collage a day
Karen Thiessen Lent - 15 minutes mark-making a day for 40 days