The creative journey can often be challenging, filled with the endless pursuit of perfection and the pressure to produce work each day. But what if the key to unlocking true artistic growth actually lies in embracing the power of daily practice?
Creating something new every day may sound daunting, but for artists Noah Kalina, Jonathan Mann, and Justin Aversano, it has become a way of life. Each has committed to a daily practice — to an art project that they add to every day of the year. This daily practice has shaped their art as well as their relationship with themselves and their communities.
Through Kalina’s Everyday series, Mann’s Song a Day project, and Aversano’s Every Day is a Gift collection, these artists have learned valuable lessons that can be applied to every artist’s creative endeavor and daily life. We spoke with them to learn more about these lessons and the struggles and rewards they’ve faced since committing to these ongoing projects.
Noah Kalina‘s Everyday
Noah Kalina is a photographer and artist who is best known for Everyday, a self-portrait series that spans decades. Kalina began taking a daily photo of himself when he turned 19, on January 10, 2000. Now 42, his collection includes over 8,400 self-portraits.
Kalina first shared these images in a timelapse on YouTube six years after he began, on July 31, 2006. Since that time, he has shared three other videos. All-in-all, these pieces have more than 45.7 million views.
But growth doesn’t happen overnight, and it can take a long time to see the results of a daily practice.
For Kalina, it took years of dedicated work before the world responded. “Years before I put the YouTube video up, in 2006, a friend suggested I should make it a timelapse, and I thought: ‘that’s so dumb,’ he told nft now. “When I did post it, nothing happened for a week. Then it went viral. I had hundreds of emails, my website was down from the traffic, I was fielding calls from Oprah and Ellen, and The Simpsons even made a Homer version.”
Kalina says that he credits the project’s popularity to both his own dedication and the work’s relatability. “Doing something over and over again is inherently fascinating to others. When the idea is so simple, and all it takes is commitment, it’s easy for the viewer to put themself into the shoes of the artist and reflect upon their own life,” he explained. In this respect, Kalina argues that his commitment and persistence paid off.
On January 10, 2023, Kalina added a new dimension to the project with the launch of everyday.photo, an interactive gallery of his Everyday project. The site, an evolving capsule of Noah’s life, offers a new way to explore time’s subtle yet profound impact. Each day is tagged with identifying traits, such as Kalina’s location, clothing, accessories, and beard length. Visitors to the gallery can mint each self-portrait as an NFT.
Regarding what’s next for the Everyday project, Kalina shows no signs of stopping. In fact, it sounds like he’s in it until the very end. “There’s always the question with projects like this of ‘when does it end?’” he tells nft now. “I’m not really obsessed with doing it, and I’m not obsessed with myself. I just started it, and at this point, it makes no sense to stop. And I think we all know how this ultimately ends.”
Jonathan Mann’s Song a Day
Jonathan Mann is a singer-songwriter and internet sensation known for his 14-year commitment to daily work. He rose to prominence with his Song a Day project, for which he writes and records a new original song each and every day. The song is then minted as NFT, paired with an accompanying illustration, and auctioned over the following 24 hours.
This unwavering dedication to his craft has earned Mann tens of thousands of followers and established him as a leading voice when it comes to daily practice and artistic self-expression. But Mann doesn’t believe his work and practice are necessarily unique. “Most people I know, who are artists of all kinds, have some kind of daily practice. It’s never as structured as my ‘One Song a Day,’ but everyone I know works on some piece of a project every day. I think it’s just what artists do,” he tells nft now.
While Mann’s consistency and commitment gave rise to his popularity, he partially credits his success to embracing the imperfections — to letting go and allowing the work to be whatever it will be. “You never know what will happen when you sit down to make something. But the key is giving myself leeway, giving myself space to just let the song be whatever it needs to be that day. Whatever there is room for. Not putting too much pressure on myself. There’s not really anything more to it,” he explains.
While others may see Mann entirely through the lens of this project, he tells nft now that it’s important for him to remember that what is is known for is not the same as what he is.
“It’s pretty much the only thing I’m known for, so I’d say that, in a wider sense, it defines me entirely. But also, I like to regularly remind myself, in a Ram Dass kind of way, that we are only ever playing a part. All the ambition, and creativity, and even our relationships, it’s all just stories we tell ourselves and each other,” he said. “If you strip everything away, somewhere in there is the true ‘me,’ and that has nothing to do with being a father, a son, a husband, a song-a-day guy, an NFT bro, a musician, a Bob Dylan fan, etc. The things we do define us only inasmuch as we live in a society. But there’s a deeper thing going on, and I try to remember that.”
Justin Aversano’s Every Day is a Gift
Justin Aversano is a photographer, curator, creative director, and social entrepreneur who is perhaps best known for his Twin Flames collection, the highest-selling photography NFT collection of all time. He also co-founded the digital art curation platform Quantum and the non-profit SaveArtSpace, which aims to bring community art into more public spaces.
In addition to these accolades, Aversano created Every Day is a Gift, a collection of polaroids taken each day over a year that show different people celebrating their birthdays. The pursuit often led to him wandering the streets holding an “Is it your birthday?” sign.
Reflecting on that time, Aversano tells nft now that the project ended up dominating his life and habits. “Every single day, my only focus and goal were to find someone and make art. When that comes before eating, showering, or anything, you become obsessed with the process and obsessed with the project,” he explained.
While his daily pursuit sounds daunting, he notes that the benefits were also plentiful. “After the shutter clicks, there’s a relief, a calmness. The camera can create that feeling when you have an idea like this,” Aversano says.
Like Mann, Aversano embraced imperfection throughout the project. He tells nft now, “I only took one shot for every single day, and whatever that shot was, was the final product. I never did redos. If the exposure was off, I kept it. I think it’s important.”
Ultimately, Aversano noted that the biggest lesson he took from his daily practice is to “learn to live with the things you hate, learn to live with the things you think make you fail, and when you look at them and confront them, that’s actually what makes you better, that’s actually what makes you more diligent in your craft.”