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Preparing For an Art Challenge

You may be considering an Art Challenge but are hesitant to commit because it feels like quite an undertaking. While you might be a little nervous about taking on such a project, the rewards are totally worth it. The daily repetition of an Art Challenge will help you build good work habits and you will expand your knowledge about your unique process along the way. I credit a lot of my growth as an artist to previous challenges I've participated in. You can read more about what I learned in my blog post ‘Growing as an Artist with an Art Challenge.

12 x 9 inch watercolor paper trimmed to size, primed and edges taped.

If you’re unsure about what activity to do or if you want to challenge yourself to something different, the choices are only limited by your imagination. Some possible ideas include photography, drawing/sketching, collage, create something out of found objects (upcycle sculpture), found poetry, squiggle art, journaling, creating an art journal page, sew or design a quilt square, or anything you’ve been wanting to try. If you’re limited on time each day, keep your activity simple and/or small. Being overly optimistic about what you can accomplish in one day may result in the activity getting overwhelming. The goal is to be successful, have fun and improve your skills.

Various painted papers for collage and journaling.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you miss a day don’t worry about it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. We’re all busy and don’t always have control of our schedules. Simply continue the next day as usual and extend your challenge one extra day. This process is meant to be fun and a way to improve your skills… it’s not a competition. It’s also a good idea to give your inner critic the month off– not everything you create will be a masterpiece. Some times you’ll love it and others times you’ll want to throw it in the trash. That’s just how it goes. Post your creation anyway and be kind to yourself. Everyone else will be kind too. You’ll find the community involved in these challenges to be very supportive and encouraging.

An inspiration file with photos, sketches, and notes about possible paintings.

Prepare your materials ahead of time. This step is essential. Regardless of the activity you choose, being prepared before the challenge starts will save you time and keep you organized giving you more time to work on your project each day. Below is a list of things to consider and prepare beforehand so fewer decisions will need to be made each day. Since I’m a painter, my suggestions are based on creating a small painting. You’ll need to tailor this list to work with your type of project:

  • Decide what kind of substrate you want to work on; paper, canvas, wood panels, cardboard, recycled book, sketch book, etc.

  • Consider the size that will work best for your challenge and purchase enough materials to get you through to the end. I recommend keeping the size consistent. If you decide to display or show your work at a later date, you’ll have a cohesive body of work that will look aesthetically pleasing grouped together.

  • If you’re working on material that needs to be trimmed down, cut them all to size before the first day. If there’s a chance you will be selling your art afterwards, you may consider using a standard size so matting and framing are easy for you or your customer.

  • Gesso or prime the substrates. Prepare both sides if you’re using paper and apply 2 coats if possible. Apply painters tape to the edges for a clean finish. It's also easier to handle the paper while painting.

  • Create an inspiration folder. Gather photos that catch your attention. Print photos of previous work you’ve done that you could expand upon. Search Pinterest for images you like and links to other artists work you find inspiring. Consider sketches you’ve created and other ideas you have for paintings. Gather everything in one place if possible.

  • Now use the inspiration folder you created to make an Idea List for each day of the challenge or at least the first week or two. This is a good reference tool when you need inspiration. Once you gain momentum in the challenge, ideas may build from what you’ve already created and you might find a concept or idea you want to explore further.

  • Create some custom collage papers for layering. I love journaling on papers I’ve painted then I glue them onto paintings. It’s an interesting, custom element.

  • Prepare some of the substrates with painted backgrounds, collage elements, scribbles, doodles, or marks as a starting point. This warm up doesn’t require any thought or plan, it’s just a launching point instead of starting with a blank sheet of paper.

  • Gather all the supplies you’ll be using into one area to save time. A box, a plastic tub, or small cart works well. You may even consider limiting your supplies so you have fewer decisions to make. Fewer supplies also encourages you to be resourceful and work with what you’ve got, stretching your creativity.

  • Enlist the support of a friend or family member who will follow you through the journey and provide encouragement along the way.

  • Consider journaling or taking notes about your experience during the challenge. How are you feeling about the work you’ve created? How does it feels to create every day? What kind of progress are you seeing and is it what you thought it would be?

  • You’ll also want to decide on a custom hashtag to use that will be unique to your activity so all of your posts are searchable and remain under that one hashtag.

I encourage you to take part in the #29DaysofHearts challenge coming up February 1, 2020 on Instagram. 29 days is a good warm up for #the100DayProject which begins April 7, 2020. Whichever challenge you choose, it’ll expand your abilities as an artist and you’ll be proud of the work you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished.

If you've completed an art challenge in the past, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below. What are some of the things you learned about yourself or your art process? And what kind of development did you see in your work over the course of the challenge?

If you feel you’re ready to tackle your first art challenge, what questions or reservation do you have about getting started? Feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

An art challenge is a fun and creative way to grow in 2020. We got this!


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