Have you ever sat down in the studio to create, and felt completely paralyzed by the number of decisions you had to make? In fact, no matter what kind of creator you are, a blank canvas (or a blank anything) can be incredibly daunting. Just like putting on your tennis shoes and driving to the gym is often the hardest part of a workout, getting started on a new piece of art is often the most difficult part of the whole process. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to overcome the obstacle of the blank page.
Just a month ago you may have logged onto Twitter or Instagram and been inundated with ink drawings by artists across the spectrum of styles and skill levels. They were taking part in #Inktober, a yearly art challenge that invites artists to create a new ink drawing every day for the entire month of October. They provide a list of single word prompts for each day, although not every artist uses the prompt list. Some choose to follow their own theme or be spontaneous each day.
There are many, many art challenges out there for you to participate in. But why are art challenges useful? There are a few reasons why participating in an art challenge can help you improve your productivity:
Constraints remove the need to make decisions
Part of the difficulty with starting a new project is all the decision-making. Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s a thing, and you’ve probably felt it at the supermarket when all you need is salad dressing, but you have to choose between 47 different varieties. It’s exhausting! Having to decide what to draw (or paint, or sculpt), what size to work in, what medium to use, how many pieces to make, can be so paralyzing that it’s difficult to get started. After all, what if you make the wrong choice? By the time you’ve settled, you may feel too mentally fatigued to focus all your energy on creating.
The constraints of an art challenge remove some, if not all, of the decisions you would normally need to make. #Inktober provides the medium (ink), the quantity of pieces (31) and prompts for each day. Less time making decisions = more time making art!
Art challenges are social
Internet art challenges almost always include a hashtag so you can tag your work and share it with everyone else participating. It’s fun and inspiring to see what other artists are doing within the challenge constraints. Its also a nice experience to participate in a large-scale activity with lots of other artists; also, sharing that you’re participating and then posting your work regularly helps you stay accountable. Using a popular art challenge hashtag like #inktober can even earn you new followers.
The work you create during a challenge can inspire new projects and series
Though you may decide to participate in an art challenge simply for fun or as a warm up exercise, you may be surprised at what comes out. Many artists hang on to their challenge pieces and use those ideas later to fuel fully-realized projects, whether a series of paintings or a graphic novel.
How to create your own art challenge
This is the best part — you don’t have to wait for #Inktober to enjoy the paradoxical freedom that setting constraints can provide. You can create your own challenge right now, and either invite other artists to join or simply embark on your own. You can decide on constraints that will help you to grow in areas you would like to explore or improve. The easiest formula is to choose a length of time, a medium, and a subject. Here are some ideas:
- 30 days of watercolor landscapes
- 14 days of painting animals in acrylics without using white paint
- 30 days of figure drawing directly with ink
You can take it further by providing yourself with a more specific prompt for each day, or just see where the inspiration of each new day takes you. Create a hashtag for your challenge, and begin sharing your pieces on social media and your blog. Not only is an art challenge great for breaking out of a rut and expanding your skills, but it’s a fun and engaging way to show up for your audience every day and keep them looking forward to the next day’s work. (It’s also a great use of your mailing list!)
Try these art challenges
Here is a list of art challenges to try out:
- Inktober – a prompted ink drawing every day in October
- The Sketchbook Project – Various sketchbook and print swap challenges throughout the year
- Sketch Dailies – daily character drawing inspiration
- Instagram challenges – here is a list of Instagram challenges you can use to inspire your art making. Use the hashtags to reach new eyes!
- A Year of Creative Habits – Crystal Moody created art every day for 3 years and wrote about it. She also has a Facebook group you can join. We interviewed Crystal Moody here.
- DailyPaintworks.com – if you want to try your hand at posting daily paintings for sale.
Have you ever participated in an art challenge? What did you learn from the experience?