Working to perfect your skills as an artist is a challenge. Trying to find a way to do that on your own with challenging subject matter, the support of a group of international artists of all skill levels and for FREE… is quite another. The COLORED PENCIL Magazine monthly challenge has been a significant part of my life for the last 2 years. It’s crazy in a way to think that much time has passed already… but here we are.
When I started using colored pencil seriously as a medium to create my art a couple of years ago, I needed a way to get better at it and keep myself motivated every month to keep working at it. I came across the Colored Pencil Magazine monthly challenge through the recommendation of another artist online and signed myself up for a Flickr account to participate. At first, I thought “Holy crap… there are some seriously talented people here….I’m never going to win any of the prizes.” But I decided right then that it wasn’t going to be about winning anything and 100% about me using the challenge as an online classroom to improve my skills.
I never did win any of the prizes in my time doing the challenges, but I did get a hand full of honorable mentions which to me was just as good. What was even more of a reward was the friends I made in the group from all over the world. The love for colored pencil and art brought us all together and once a month made this big world feel a little bit simpler and smaller.
It sounds perhaps a little biased now that I write a monthly column for the magazine that I’m singing its praises so highly, but honestly I would be saying all of this even if I wasn’t. I have so much passion and appreciation for what this magazine and community of artists around it has created. This challenge has allowed me to draw things I never would have thought to, explore being creative with the given photo reference and figure out what type of pencils I like on what paper, and what techniques work best with them. I’m not sure in truth that I would have figured this out as quickly on my own. I had what I feel are good and not so great entries this year… but all were lessons well learned.
My 2016 COLORED PENCIL Magazine monthly challenge entries. Click on the image to see all of the full-size images on Flickr
There’s a part of me that’s really going to miss the challenges every month and wondering what the next photo will be, and figuring out how the heck I’m going to render that new texture. If I had 24 extra hours in the day I would keep on going for sure. The reality is as an artist I have ideas I want to pursue and with a limited schedule that unfortunately meant something had to be sacrificed to make room for that.
If you’re new to colored pencil (and even if you aren’t) and are looking for a way to challenge yourself and improve on a consistent basis, this is honestly one of the best ways to do it out there. Everyone in the group is so nice and encouraging too. You don’t even have to enter every month if you don’t want to. If you do and by the deadline every month, you qualify for a free year subscription of the magazine at the end of the year. That’s incentive alone if you ask me! ( plus you can read my Q&A articles 😉 )
There may come a time when I join the monthly challenges again, but until then I’m bidding this amazing experience a fond farewell.
For more on COLORED PENCIL Magazine and the monthly challenges visit: http://coloredpencilmag.com/