In the last article I wrote I talked about how sometimes the pressure of "getting out of your comfort zone" can be too overwhelming and that it is ok to consciously NOT follow that directive all of the time. In this article I’m going the opposite direction and I will tell you what I think are some of the benefits of doing so, while having fun in the process.
Art Challenges are everywhere. Like I wrote in this article, they use restriction as a tool to boost creativity. Because you have to follow specific prompts or guidelines, the restriction is built in their very nature.
And since it’s easier to find like-minded people now that the internet exists (yes, when I was young there was no internet!), we can take advantage of this and make it a social event (if we want), find a challenge that didn’t occur to us, or see how others completed the same challenge.
All of this, on top of the challenge itself, is extra food for the creative mind.
There are many types of art challenge, here’s a list of some of them:
These are lists of topics or subjects for those who can’t think of one or are bored from their usual ones. Many are created within the confines of a specific art community, like watercolorists or art journalists. But if you just search for "art prompts" you’ll find tons and will never run out of them.
If you’re less social, there are even prompt generators!
The objective of most of these is to keep you doing art. The most popular of these is Inktober, in which you have to do an ink piece for every day of October. This one has been going on for 10 years!
But there are many more if you don’t fancy ink, or if you want to do something now and it’s not October.
It’s self-explanatory. I’ll name you some, like Faerie February, MerMay, Junicorn or March of Robots. As you can imagine, these are very social in nature. Some are more popular than others, but you can always find a good one to join (or maybe you can start your own?)
I already mentioned Inktober, which is a time period one and also a medium specific one. But there are many more, like World Watercolor Month. It’s not all about joining a month of the year, though. You can challenge yourself or find others (in YouTube, for instance) that use a specific medium that they never used before as the challenge.
In this type, you restrict yourself time-wise. A popular one is the 10 minutes, 1 minute, 10 seconds challenge, in which you do the same drawing within those time limits. This one, I think, comes from gesture drawing practice in traditional art. It’s very good for learning how to synthesize your drawing (how to make something readable with the minimum number of strokes). There are many artists that do this challenge on YouTube, if you want to watch some other people sweat =)
There are tons of other types like Style ones, Color restricted ones, and even mixed ones. You’ll find lots if you search on YouTube. Not only that, but you can create your own.
For example, I created one in which I have to listen to a random song (you can pick a playlist that you didn’t create) and draw (or paint) whatever that song makes me see, or feel, for just the duration of the song.
I wasn’t here to list and describe art challenges, though (oops… too late!), but to tell you why I think they are good if you’re willing to try one every once in a while. They help you:
When you’re focused on a challenge, the world around you seems to disappear. Your brain’s synapses align with what’s in front of you, and nothing else matters. In a world where everything outside of us fights for our attention, having the feeling of being present in the moment can truly be a precious thing.
Comes from the previous point, but the practice of paying attention can be hard these days. And art challenges, since they are fun, can help with that. It might seem trivial, but these mind muscles you’re learning to flex will come in handy in many other situations in life, not just art challenges.
One big part of creativity is problem solving. And by generating new problems to solve via art challenges, you’re fueling the problem-solving machine inside you. Later on, you’ll find yourself in a predicament when making an art piece of your own, and you’d have learned how to embrace the problem instead of freaking out.
Connect with Yourself
Art challenges give you a great opportunity to listen to your inner voice. What does it tell you? Does it whine? Does it judge you? If you learn to just listen to it and let it be without trying to vanish it, you can get really important insights about yourself. And then use those to improve anything you found problematic.
Most of these challenges are about giving up the need to control everything and playing with a hand of cards that you didn’t pick. This teaches you flexibility, another great tool you will need for your art endeavors. You’ll come the other side with more mental agility to overcome the artistic barriers you encounter along the way.
Most people are afraid to try new things. Most of us stress when facing an unexpected obstacle. This happens in art, too. By learning how to deal with these inner turmoils in a controlled situation, we avoid the pressure of having to obtain a certain result, while still walking the walk. And most of the time, we can even have fun! These new skills we’ll gain will only make us richer creatives and better artists and, if we’re conscious, we might be able to translate some of that to everything else in life.
To check out Renderosity's open art challenges, click here.
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links: