Recently I had someone ask me how I got back into art after taking a break from drawing for six years while studying engineering. I told him in general terms to develop a habit of drawing a lot and that over time his skills would improve. But just drawing for it’s own sake can be boring after a while, so I also add that it would help to set some mini-goals for motivation. That’s where art challenges come in.
I’ll talk about what is an art challenge, why you should do one, what makes a good art challenge, and how they have benefited me.
What is an Art Challenge?
I think of an art challenge as a mini goal where you complete a given number of drawings for a period of time usually with something to tie them together. It could be drawing tank robots for a whole month, or drawing with colored pencils for a few weeks. It can even be making a mini-comic for every hour of the day. They can be as intense, fun, or as academic as they need to be.
Why Do An Art Challenge?
Art challenges can help you be more creative by providing constraints to foster creativity. When I got back into drawing, I wanted to do the sketch-a-day challenge for a whole year to get myself drawing all the time. The problem with doing a challenge for that long was that I didn’t make any restraints. Not only was it hard enough to come up with a different idea for a piece every day (especially when I got a creative block), it was difficult to complete each piece since I wanted every painting to be highly detailed and rendered. An art challenge would’ve provided me with the right constraints to help me to be creative and the time to complete the drawings.
An art challenge can also improve your art skills. Suppose you want to draw steampunk airplanes because you want to get better at steampunk vehicle designs. Or maybe you want to become a better character designer, so you work on designing a variety of mermaids. Or maybe you want to be better with a pencil, so you do pencil drawings for a month. Last winter, I did a series of Star Wars pandas because I wanted to learn watercolors. If after you complete your art challenge it isn’t obvious from the drawings that you’ve improved, you would still be a better artist because you put in the practice. Think of an area in your art that you would like to improve in and incorporate that in your art challenge.
Depending on your art challenge, you can even come away from it with a finished project which you can then add to your portfolio or even sell for profit. When I finished my Inktober pandas last year, I had 31 original pieces that I can sell as originals or prints which is a good amount of art! I also ended up scanning the drawings to include in my first sketchbook which is, check it, 31 pages of material! So in a span of a month, I had enough material to make up half of my sketchbook. Not bad, eh?
What Makes a Good Art Challenge?
Making your art challenge simple is a good place to start. Maybe you choose to draw a specific subject, or paint only in the color blue, or work only in ink, or just design environments, the sky’s the limit. Choose something specific that will allow for variety. If you want to become a better creature designer, you could do creature designs for a month, but it might be easier to limit it to reptiles, furry animals, or desert creatures for example.
If you’ve never done an art challenge before, I suggest starting with a shorter time frame like a month versus doing a whole year so that it’s easier to complete. Typically when I see people attempting a one-year art challenge, it ends up the same way as people who buy gym memberships before the New Year. Unless you’re Piper Thibodeau, she’s insane.
You can also participate in art challenges on social media. It’s a good motivator in that it builds a sense of camaraderie knowing that there’s so many people working alongside you at the same time. Inktober by Jake Parker is one of the most popular art challenges online. Every October, artists all over the world participate in Inktober by making an ink drawing every day and posting it on social media. There’s an upcoming art challenge called “Sketch-a-Day May” that will start next month that you can participate in by tagging your social media posts with #SketchADayMay. There’s also the ongoing Sketch Dailies by Isaac Orloff which has helped me immensely with my art. It’s a daily sketch prompt, so there’s not a time limit unless you want to impose one yourself. Finally, for the ambitious comic creators, there’s the 24-hr Comic by Scott McCloud where you make a 24 page comic in 24 hours.
How Art Challenges Have Helped Me
The image above on the left is my very first Inktober sketch back in 2014, and the middle is the last drawing of that series. Finally, the one on the right is from last year’s Inktober, about a week into it. During the first Inktober, I learned a lot about inking from asking others because the art challenge had me focused on the subject of ink for that month. I then applied that knowledge to last year’s Inktober, and during that month, I also noticed an improvement in my work. I plan on building on that knowledge with this year’s Inktober.
Art challenges can be helpful to your development as an artist. Not only can they help you be more creative, they can also improve your skills and even contribute to your body of work. When starting an art challenge, it helps to keep the theme simple and the time frame short. There are also multiple art challenges online where you can be part of a larger creative community that can help motivate you.
What kind of art challenges have you done? Have you ever tried to do an art challenge but had trouble finishing it? Which art challenges are you going to participate in this year? Feel free to post a comment below. Cheers!