Challenge Yourself

As an artist, do you challenge yourself regularly? It may be for fun or to keep the proverbial fires lit under creativity’s behind. Some people might shy away from a challenge because it might sound like something beyond their abilities. Or maybe they just don’t like conflict and stepping outside of the comfort zone is…well…uncomfortable. But, challenges can really focus your attention on what we love to do most…draw and create. And just like muscles in your body, they don’t grow unless you challenge them by doing the physical exercises.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard over the years the same words, “You have to challenge yourself in order to grow and in order for your abilities as an artist to grow.” And I asked the question I’m sure many of you are asking…”How do I challenge myself?” Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have run across a number of artistic challenges. And guess what? Today’s your lucky day. Out of all the challenges I’ve run across to date, I have five that are my favorite go-to challenges and I’m going to share them with you now, cuz that’s just the kind of gal I am. So without further ado…

  1. Join a challenge online, like Inktober. Inktober was introduced to the world by Jake Parker back in 2009 as a means to improve his own inking skills. Since then, artists around the world have joined in, posting their inked designs and doodles online every day during the month of October. The challenge is to do a daily sketch in ink. But Inktober is just one of many online challenges for artists and many of them have their own Facebook communities. And if I’m not mistaken, for Inktober you just have to #inktober when posting to Instagram, if that’s more your forte.
Inktober is just one of many online art challenges. (Image Credit: Jake Parker)

2. Use an Idea Generator. I originally posted this idea back in December 2016 and it is one of my own design. This idea requires three jars to pick from, each with strips of paper with pre-written ideas on them. The first jar will contain different characters. The second jar contains situations. And the third jar is optional, but can add some interest to whatever you pick from the first two jars. For more information, you can check out that post here. There’s even a downloadable file with starter strips for you. Just print them out and put em in jars!

An idea generator can challenge you with totally random ideas. (Photo Credit: Copyright : Viktoriia Marteniuk)

3. Draw 100 Somethings. Here’s another one from Jake Parker. This challenge isn’t to draw 100 different things, but rather to pick one thing and draw 100 different versions of it. For example, in his YouTube video, he draws a little robot-alien character 100 different ways. Check out his video here and find out why you should build constraints into this particular challenge.

4. Redesign a character or a series of characters. Do you have a favorite character, be it a superhero, a cartoon, or maybe even a live action character? Re-imagine them and put your own spin on them. Or maybe decide on a whole cast of characters. Let’s take Disney princesses, for example. Redesign them! Maybe make them all into superheroes or robots. The challenge, aside from just redesigning them, is to maintain enough of their look and characteristics that anyone else looking at her would know exactly which Disney princess she is.

Re-imagining characters or illustrating your favorite books are two great ways to challenge yourself. (Photo Credit: Copyright : olegdudko)

5. Illustrate your favorite book. You can choose to do a children’s book, but here’s my problem with that and it may or may not be a problem for you, too. But the issue is that children’s books are already illustrated and seeing them somehow blocks my own creativity. It’s almost as if their work becomes that song I can’t get out of my head no matter what I do. After seeing someone else’s work and their take on the story, my own ideas somehow become skewed towards their ideas. My work ends up being a version of what they did. That’s why I like using books that don’t have illustrations. The Harry Potter series, for example, is primarily all text. A story like that provides dozens, maybe even hundreds, of scenarios for you to illustrate without anyone else’s work to sway you one way or another. Or, if you insist on illustrating a children’s book, you might consider working on a part of the book without a preexisting illustration.

So, there you have it. My five favorite Challenge Yourself ideas. I hope they come in handy for you. If you like them, please let me know. If you have a different challenge idea that you really like and has been working well for you, let us know in the comments below.



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