Your Art is Not a Negotiation: Why One KCAD Alum Draws Every Day, No Matter What
Sofía Ramírez Hernández (’14, BFA Printmaking) has a serious drawing habit. The Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) alumna’s recent exhibition at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA), #sofiadrawseveryday, showcased 365 drawings from the first year of a daily art project she’s been working on non-stop since 2013.
Sofía Ramírez Hernández (credit: Tomás Calvo)
It was then, in the hectic midst of her final year at KCAD, that Ramírez Hernández began hearing warnings about the potential pitfalls of post-graduation creative practice.
“Some people in my life were telling me that it can be hard to stay motivated to create after you leave school,” she says. “I was determined not to let that happen to me.”
"Day 113" by Sofía Ramírez Hernández (image courtesy of the artist)
Ramírez Hernández pledged then and there to complete one drawing every day. She has continued to draw every day since her fall semester of her senior year at KCAD and is now well past the 1,000th day mark.
The #sofiadrawseveryday exhibition at Saugatuck Center for the Arts (image courtesy of the artist)
"This was a goal to have some self-accountability, a small daily practice that I can commit to without it being that hard to do,” she explains. “As soon as I got a month in, I thought to myself, ‘this is not going to be that hard. I can probably keep this up for the rest of my life.’”
Soon after starting the project, Ramírez Hernández began periodically sharing her drawings online, and it wasn’t long until feedback from friends and strangers alike started pouring in. The flood of positive reactions led her to create an Instagram account, sofiadrawseveryday, so she could share new work on a daily basis.
But as drawings inevitably became more personal and vulnerable during difficult times in her own life, Ramírez Hernández began to question the immediacy and public nature of the project.
"Day 168" (above) and "Day 186" (below) by Sofía Ramírez Hernández (images courtesy of the artist)
“There was a tough breakup I was going through about two years into the project, and the drawings during that time were really raw,” she says. “I remember drawing them at home and then having a moment of panic thinking ‘I’ve already committed to sharing these online, I have to share them now.’”
Despite Ramírez Hernández’s fears, the responses to even her most intimate drawings remained overwhelmingly positive.
“A lot of people reached out to tell me that they had felt a personal connection to the raw honesty and humor in my work,” she recalls. “That was such an amazing feeling.”
The recent exhibition at SCA offered Ramírez Hernández the opportunity to display her daily drawings in a different, yet still very public forum. To adapt the drawings to a gallery setting, Hernandez had to dismantle the small books she had been making so that she could frame the drawings individually. Even this part of the process became deeply personal for her.
"Day 439" by Sofía Ramírez Hernández (image courtesy of the artist)
“Growing up, I was always taught that destruction is bad as a way to make me quit my self-destructive behaviors. Little did I know, I could channel those angry and anxious feelings into a productive kind of destruction that didn’t harm me. Once I got more into art and learned about sculpture and creative destruction – scrapping things, starting over, creating things from discarded materials – that’s when I began to understand that destruction isn’t always a bad thing,” she says. “It’s all in how you handle it and what you make of it.”
All 365 drawings from the first year of the project were individually framed and displayed in a tight grid that filled a 20-foot wall. Rather than presenting pieces in chronological order, Ramírez Hernández chose to mix them up, leading viewers to a more organic kind of engagement with each one.
“Once I honored the drawings with these thick raw pine frames, their individual meaning just exploded,” she says. “They could all breathe and they all got attention that way. I met that goal of creative destruction with a purpose.”
The exhibition wrapped up in August, but #sofiadrawseveryday is still going strong. Ramírez Hernández currently has a documentary about the project in the works and hopes to exhibit drawings from years two and three in the near future.
"Day 653" (above) and "Day 731" (below) by Sofía Ramírez Hernández (images courtesy of the artist)
In the meantime, she’s constantly looking for ways to spread the transformative power of creativity to others. This past year, she participated in SCA’s Growing Young Artists initiative, which provides opportunities for creative immersion to children of area migrant workers.
For three weeks, Ramírez Hernández lead a workshop for about 170 children in which they worked together to script, cast, create scenery for, and perform an original dramatic production.
“I have a theory that if I as an artist display vulnerability, it can inspire others to display their own vulnerability. I see that on a small scale on Instagram, but then I also saw it on a larger scale when I was teaching at SCA. I remember the day after the children saw my work in the gallery, they really opened up themselves during our time together. It was a nice way to see that theory in action.”
Ramírez Hernández hopes that her mentorship will encourage the young people to use whatever is available to them to create, and to be persistent in their practice the way she has, never getting discouraged even if obstacles arise.
“You have to start small, and you will always impress yourself if you stick to it,” she says. “There’s always tomorrow and the next day and the next day. I’ll still be drawing in a month or a year. It’ll probably be better. You take comfort in the fact that you’re not quite there yet.”
Learn more about KCAD’s Printmaking program at kcad.edu/printmaking.