In 2009, Brock Davis made a piece of artwork every single day. Not because he had to, and certainly not because he was paid to -- but because he didn't have to, and because he wouldn't get paid to. Making personal art wasn't Davis' job. And that, he suspected, is why it usually took him so long to make personal art.
So Brock decided to make it his job.
In the waning days of 2008, with earnest New Year's resolutions on his mind, Davis, a creative director at Carmichael Lynch, joined a Flickr group called Make Something Cool Every Day (MSCED). Launched by his friend and fellow designer Olly Moss, the idea was to get a group of artists and designers to commit to a daily regimen of artmaking in 2009. Each day, participants would have to upload documentation of something they created before midnight. It was the design-geek equivalent of getting your buddies to go on morning runs with you -- well intentioned, but doomed from the start -- and it had essentially the same result. Within a few weeks, thousands had dropped out.
But Davis kept on keeping on. By Dec. 31, he was the only participant to have 365 pieces online, and a startling majority of them were brilliant. His MSCED series, archived on the Behance Network, an esteemed portfolio site for creative professionals, became one of the most viewed pages in the network's history. The project drew the attention of the international art and design community, winning Davis commissions from New York magazine and too-cool-for-school design mag Tokion, plus a slew of appearances in exclusive European art books such as "It's Nice That" and "Papercraft."
This Saturday, the elusive Creative Electric Studios pops out of hiding to host a world premiere of Davis' MSCED project at the California Building. For the first time, all 365 works will be on display at once.
For Davis, who considered the project a second job ("I would punch in every day and have to have something made -- hopefully, something interesting"), what began as a grueling design marathon evolved into something quieter, a daily meditation connecting him to the poignancy of everyday life. The MSCED series, taken in at once, explodes the concept of the humdrum.
"My favorite pieces are the ones that pull something interesting out of something seemingly bland," Davis said.
You can see his ad mind at work as Davis catches on fire with a string of immensely satisfying visual puns. A battered notepad suffers a comically tragic "de-ruling" (Jan. 3), its faint blue lines appearing to go limp and sag off its cover page. Thanks to a pair of googly eyes, a tuft of cotton becomes a troubled steam puff expelled from a teakettle (Jan. 11). The "Arcade Expressionism" series (Nov. 4-6) finds Davis painting old-school video game screens in drippy brush strokes. And perhaps most brilliant, for Dec. 16, he creates a mountain-and-lake landscape by simply stretching a Kraft Singles wrapper.
The jokes are never cheap. They turn on a wit that is sweet and lovingly considered. Each is a haiku ending in a rimshot, finding poignancy in the everyday and then sending it home with a zinger.
But that isn't to suggest the pieces came easy.
"There were many times where I would be watching TV with my wife, and I'd look at the clock, and I had 45 minutes to go and still didn't have a clue as to what I would make," Davis recalled. "One time, I had about 20 minutes to go. I was pacing around the kitchen, and I saw a pen, so I picked it up and illustrated a Converse-esque shoe on my wife's foot, snapped a shot of it, and uploaded it to the group at about 12:15 a.m. Things like that happened all the time."