On 1 January 2013, Lorraine Loots set herself a goal: to produce one work of art a day for the next year. Two years and 730 paintings later, the results can be seen in “Paintings for Ants” and the newly launched “Postcards for Ants”.
Along the way, Loots has picked up almost a quarter of a million followers on Instagram for her pictures, which are of everything from an alarm clock to characters from “Star Wars” to a shoe to the Durban skyline. As the titles of her two series suggest, each painting is small – not ant-size exactly, but minute.
In the book “Postcards for Ants” that has just come out, which combines the second set of 365 pictures, Loots explains in the foreword – titled ‘Little Victories’ – that she did not do many interviews over the two years because she felt she was giving so much of herself in each daily piece of art.
In one of her first major interviews, on U.S. television earlier this year (video below) during her exhibition “Ants in NYC” – where all 730 paintings were on display – Loots said that she originally set herself the challenge of painting for one hour a day. But the success of the series turned it from just 60 minutes a day into an incredible career.
Her family and friends would contact her with ideas for what to paint. Not sure that she would be able to fulfill her goal of painting one work a day for 365 days, when 1 January 2014 came around and she had achieved it, she started another series. Countless people contacted her online to buy her artwork, she said. In the beginning they sold for about $40 each; now the price is over $1,000.
“I could never have anticipated the life that this ritualised project would take on, or what a profound effect it would, in time, have on me as a person,” Loots says in her foreword to “Postcards for Ants”. “As the days and weeks and months passed, I realised that it had developed a momentum of its own; somehow it had tapped into the currents and forces that pervade the online zeitgeist and now it was leading me as much as I was leading it.”
Loots appeared on the CBS This Morning in New York during her exhibition “Ants in NYC”
“As with many – perhaps all – artists, I have struggled with my work over the years, but I have found that the lessons I have learnt from difficult experiences were far more valuable than those I’ve taken from easier times. .. The first lesson: you can’t please everyone. … The second lesson: never pigeonhole the idea of what an artist is.”
Loots explains how personal tragedy has played a role in her life. She has lost some very close family, one brother from leukemia and another in a road accident, both at age 15, and then – on the very last day of “Paintings for Ants” and the day before she would begin “Postcards for Ants” – her fiancé’s brother was killed in Durban.
“When you lose people – when you suffer tragedy – there comes an emphasis on living harder and fuller. And that weight can be very frustrating without a way to channel it. The idea of making a mark on every single day made me feel like I was documenting life.”