365 Days Before I Sleep

365 Days Before I Sleep is the creative journey of Michael Joyal. Consisting of 365 pieces, one completed on each day of the year, the exhibit is to be displayed on 12 large boards, one for each month. An exploration of colours, imagery and countless subjects, Joyal’s work is opening to the public at Cre8ery Gallery on Feb. 9.

Joyal’s first piece was completed on June 25, 2010. The challenge of completing a drawing each day first began with simple sketches, completed before bed each night. The project eventually expanded as the days went on, each sketch inspired by sources as varied as pin-up art, Facebook photos and even a set of 1958 encyclopaedias. The more complex the pieces got, the more time they took to complete; starting and finishing a sketch before bed was no longer an option.

“I started working on them on the bus to work,” Joyal said. “The initial sketch was done en route, lunch hours were spent completing layout and inking, and the final touches were done at home that night.”

Of course, dedication to a goal like Joyal’s doesn’t come free of speed bumps. Among the many challenges that came with such a huge undertaking, the most consuming was figuring out what subject matter to use the next day, Joyal said.

“As I was working on a piece, my brain was worrying about what the next one would be. Some mornings I would awaken to a fear that I had no ideas for the day.”

Despite the worry that ideas for subject matter were becoming scarce, Joyal still says that the project has expanded his artistic horizon, both in subject matter and colour palette. Beginning with subject matter like people, drawn in ink and then coloured in watercolour, Joyal made the move to landscapes and animals with some scepticism at first, he admits.

“I never considered [animals and landscapes] as subjects that would interest me and that I could put my style onto as a serious subject matter, but I was wrong. I grew fascinated by birds, leathery skinned elephants, flowers and moody landscapes.”

Joyal’s daily Facebook posts about his project and the support he received from family and friends helped him stick to it whenever he doubted himself or his motivation became weak. He discovered that Facebook photos could be a great source of information, he says, and eventually, friends even began to send him images to draw.

“I had a community of friends and family who were waiting each day for the next image to be posted on Facebook,” Joyal said, “From day one, I would post each finished piece the next day and their support would give me the boost I needed to create an even better piece the next time.”

After a full year of varied subject matter, new experimentation with bold colours and admirable determination, Joyal completed the last drawing in the project on June 24, 2011, surrounded by cheering family and friends.

“I enjoyed learning a new colour palette. I enjoyed watching my skill level grow and learning how to draw new things,” Joyal said about the challenge as a whole. “I feel it changed me as an artist.”

Learning to enjoy the simple and often under appreciated act of drawing again was also something he came away with, Joyal said. “It really is the building block of all art.”

Sure to be a display of remarkable talent and impressive dedication, Joyal’s 365 Days Before I Sleep is not to be missed. Check it out at Cre8ery Gallery, 125 Adelaide Street from Feb. 9 to Feb. 21.