Setting up Your Own 30 Day Challenge

Hey Everyone!

As some of you may know, the last couple of years I have been doing a 30 Day Art Challenge in the month of September. Unfortunately, this year I chose not to do it in favour of working on other big projects. I thought it was important to share with you, though, what I got out of it and how you can do your own. My first challenge was in 2014 when I was trying to find a way to get myself back into the habit of drawing more. I had taken a bit of a hiatus in terms of creating art consistently and remembered how much I was able to produce when I was in college. I was determined to prove to myself that I still “had it” and wanted to see what I could do. What resulted was a renewed spark for creating art again and set up a new habit of creating art more instead of  just every now and again. This may seem like an artist tip post, and in some ways it is, but it’s more about how setting up this challenge can lead you to explore new ideas, try new things and find inspiration to keep creating art.

Find Your Motivation
I had previously tried a 365-day sketchbook, but by the end of that challenge, I start just filing in the days to fill them and was feeling like it was becoming a chore rather than something I was looking forward to. That experience, however, allowed me to learn what worked, what didn’t and what my motivation’s attention span was. I liked the idea of a challenge and of doing a small drawing or painting each day, but the key for me was doing it for a shorter period of time rather than a year. The great thing about 30 days, is that it’s long enough to help you start to build habits but short enough that you won’t feel too overwhelmed.

It’s important to decide why you are doing this, to begin with. If you don’t have a goal you’re trying to hold yourself to, you’ll lose interest and give up a few days in. Are you trying to get better at drawing? Test your creativity? Just see if you can do it in general? Brag to your friends? All of the above? No matter what your reason, just make sure it’s something that means something to you.

For some people, finding a way to stay accountable is motivating. You can do this in a few ways, such as posting to social media or a blog each day, or enlisting a friend to do the challenge with you. I chose to post to Instagram each day which ended up actually being super motivating. I expected friends and family would probably be supportive, but it was the support of complete strangers that surprised me. I then started to feel motivated to keep going not just for myself but also for everyone who was watching for it every day. I didn’t want to be a quitter. I don’t think anyone expected me to do all 30 days but I didn’t want to be that person who just gave up or made excuses and didn’t. That may sound harsh but part of why I was doing it to begin with, was to prove to myself I could. If you can’t be accountable to yourself at the very least then how can you expect to be accountable to anyone else? That is my attitude anyway.

Plan Ahead
As much as I would love this blog and my art to be my full-time job the reality is that it’s not. (I know, try to hold back your shock LOL) Because I knew I would only have a 2-4 hour window each day during the work week to execute each piece, I had to plan ahead to help set myself up for success. Sometimes trying to think of an idea and then research reference photos can be 2-4 hours or more in itself. I wasn’t going to have the luxury of that time. I also needed to work at a size that was big enough to be able to put enough detail in but not so large that finishing in one evening wasn’t possible. I decided that this magical size for me was going to be 4”x6” or postcard size.

images from my 2015 30 Day Art ChallengeImages From my 2015 30 Day Challenge: first time mixing pastel and watercolor with colored pencil.

I then decided the subject matter I was going to draw every day. I wrote out a bunch of things I wanted to draw and then organized them into theme categories for each week. This worked well for me the first year, but towards the end, I felt like I started winging it a little, so the second year I locked down the specifics more which really helped. When I knew that my theme for the week was birds for example, I could focus on just executing those drawings rather than in the back of my mind trying to figure out what I was going to do the next day. If you have the luxury to be able to devote a whole day to figuring out what you’re going to do that’s awesome, but since that wasn’t a possibility for me I had to plan. I also would gather any reference I was going to work from ahead of time as well so that the full 2-4 hours of time I had could be fully devoted to execution.

Using Time Efficiently
I would often use weekends to do 2 drawings instead of just one. Some people might think this is cheating, but I call it being time efficient. As much as my boyfriend is incredibly supportive, I don’t think he would appreciate me ignoring his birthday for the sake of a drawing. If you know you have an event coming up that is important and that you can’t miss, getting a day or 2 ahead is just good planning. I would also argue it’s not really cheating because you still have to complete the same amount of work. Sure you’re not doing in on the same day you post it, but you’re still doing it so I don’t see the harm. ( Also, what are you, the Art Police?…yeesh)

Don’t Be Afraid to Explore
Since you’ve done all your planning ahead of time, this is a great time to explore. Use a new medium, different paper or even try a new style or technique. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but this is a good time to try. I stumbled across some new styles I may want to pursue later in both years I did this challenge. It also gave me inspiration for future projects as well. I definitely need more hours in the day to execute those ideas, but the point is I have them to go back to when I do find the time. There’s no disadvantage to pushing yourself to do new things artistically.

Images from my 2014 30 day ChallengeImages From my 2014 30 Day Challenge: exploring mixing mixed media and different styles.

If art is something that is important to you and you want to do it more, stop making excuses and make it happen. Planning small sized projects like a 30 day challenge gives you an opportunity to explore ideas, create art every day for a month and prove to yourself you have the discipline to do it. The key is to PLAN AHEAD. It’s hard to make excuses that you “don’t have any ideas” if you planned it out ahead of time. Be realistic about what you can do in the time you have but also don’t be afraid to push yourself. If you only have an hour or 2 hours to yourself to do this challenge then maybe it’s just a quick sketch. The point is that you find a way to make it happen. The more you draw and create the more you will be inspired to draw and create more.

Have you done a 30 Day Art Challenge? What was your favourite part?

Share with me in the comments below!

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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