January 9, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: The Drakes’ Bright Night Project



What are you working on—on the side?

The Bright Night Project started as a simple wine-fueled idea to have an art exhibition in the dark. It then grew into a 4-month epic project that ate all our evenings, weekends and spare moments. A collaboration between myself, Leigh-Anne Drakes and the solar-powered lamp Little Sun. We selected 23 South African artists, illustrators and photographers. Each was tasked with creating an original work around the theme of light.

In order to fund the exhibition, we launched a successful IndieGogo campaign and raised $11,780 by 149 backers, across 15 countries.

The actual event took place in the Old Transvaal Post Office in the heart of Johannesburg. We blacked out the venue and hung each artwork lit only by a Little Sun. Over 450 people came to explore the space with their own Little Suns. After the exhibition, all the lights used were donated to Mophela Primary in KwaZulu-Natal.

Contributing artists: Kent Andreasen, Maaike Bakker, Mzwandile Buthelezi, Elford/de la Forêt, Jean de Wet, Rohan Etsebeth, Rikus Ferreira, Jono Garrett, Ross Garrett, Koos Groenewald, Jana Hamman, Hanro Havenga, Bruce Mackay, Ian Marley, Louis Minaar, Karabo Poppy Moletsane, Kristin-Lee Moolman, Slim, Sindiso Nyoni, Travys Owen, Paul Samuels, Chris Saunders and Warren van Rensburg.



How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

Ross Drakes: Evenings and weekends. In truth, when you are excited by something, it becomes easy to carve out the time to do it. I think a little bit of delusion also helps. You start the project thinking that is it going to be really simple and easy to pull off. By the time you realise it’s a monster, you already invested too much time into it to quit. I love what I do, so it’s easy to not watch that TV show and spend the time doing something else instead.

Leigh-Anne Drakes: I think if a side project is a passion project, you just sort of find the time, y’know? Suddenly that TV series everybody is raving about seems less important, and the excitement fuels you. We tend to separate the idea of work and off-time these days, for me, if you rather let them melt into one, it doesn't feel like work all the time.

Why have a side project?

Ross Drakes: I see my life as a rolling series of connections. Each project you work on has an impact on all future ones. When you work only on your “Day Job”, you are limited by the scope of the projects your company can commercialise. Side projects give you an opportunity to do something out of the scope of your normal work. There are no bounds or rules, you are free to scratch whatever creative itch or dream you have. This infuses your life with new skills and perspectives. These skills and perspectives, in turn, allow your daily work to improve.

Leigh-Anne Drakes: To feed the lateral thinking bits. Today, we often end up being so specialised and hyper-focused, as there is so much depth to even the smallest aspects of industries. I think side projects help widen perspective and remind us that there are so many more levels to our own capabilities outside of what we do daily. Also, when you look at it from a different angle, you quickly realise that it’s all connected anyway, in some form or another.

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Diptych courtesy of Leigh-Anne Drakes and Ross Drakes.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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