Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A Few Thoughts on Challenges

10/26/16 The inception of Weather Bunny made InkTober 2016 more than worthwhile.

 It’s been a few weeks since I completed my 30-day compositional challenge based on Ian Roberts’ principles. I’ve been chewing on the process of how that challenge went, and that led to some thoughts on creative challenges in general:

I think creative challenges can be productive and useful if they get us to explore something new. But simply doing something for a duration in the same way as we always have, though fun, is unlikely to lead to learning. If we want to integrate whatever we learn and make it “stick,” we must have a targeted, mindful objective. It might still be beneficial, however, if the challenge leads to creating a new habit or changing an old one.

The annual InkTober challenge is an example that comes to mind. I have participated every year since 2015, but not all years led to creative breakthroughs for me. Because I couldn’t think of anything else better to do, last year I ended up making blind contours with ink each day. It was fun, but I don’t think I learned anything from the month. Nor did I learn anything new in 2020. That year, I was already drawing my hand daily and didn’t want another thing to do every day, so I simply used ink to make the drawings of my hand. Fair enough, but again, I didn’t learn anything new.

In 2016, however, one specific goal I had was to draw more from my imagination. As a result, Weather Bunny was born. Developing the character over the course of a month was a creative breakthrough that I don’t think I would have made without focusing on the task daily. In 2018, I gave ballpoint a solid chance, and it led to slight improvements in my hatching skills and greater appreciation for the Bic pen as a drawing medium.

4/24/22 Although it was grueling and I sometimes wanted to quit, ultimately the 100 Day Project was rewarding.

When I was focusing on drawing from memory and imagination during my 100 Day Project, I had the insight that even though I had read it 10 years prior, I wasn’t able to learn anything from the book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. I wasn’t ready. I had similar thoughts toward the end of my composition challenge: Although nearly every art book I’ve read and every instructor I’ve studied with has talked about the importance of using thumbnails, and although I studiously made them whenever I was instructed to, I don’t think I really understood their full value or purpose. Without that understanding, I wasn’t motivated to keep using them beyond whatever class or book exercise I was doing. To learn something and fully integrate it into one’s knowledge (and, with practice, eventually skills), I think we have to be in the right place within one’s timeline of experience. After 10 years of drawing, maybe I was finally ready to learn composition. The purpose of a thumbnail and how it could help my compositions finally clicked.

I’ve also been thinking about the duration of challenges. For things I learned during InkTober and the composition challenge, 30 consecutive days seemed about right – long enough to hit a certain stride and then keep going for a potential breakthrough. It’s also long enough to establish a new habit (if that’s the goal).

10/20/21 It was fun making daily blind contours during InkTober last year, but 
I don't think I learned much.

However, a month might not be long enough to integrate some learnings or for creative breakthroughs to occur. Though I moaned and groaned during my grueling 100 Day Project and felt like quitting many times, I’m not sure I would have reached my goal if I had stopped after only 30 days (or quit after 44). My breakthrough did not happen until Day 45. So the duration of the challenge is important. The difficulty is that we don’t know how long is long enough. It would be a shame if I had quit on Day 44.

I’m always interested in the creative learning process. If you’ve had experiences from challenges you’ve participated in, please share them.

7/13/22 In my composition thumbnail, I gave the tree more space on the left, but then I realized I wanted to give the figures more space on the right. This is an example in which an initial thumbnail gave my final sketch a direct assist -- quite an accomplishment for a practice I have known about but have mostly ignored for 10 years! Also, by the time I got to the larger sketch, the little boy had gotten down from the chair and was no longer visible. I was happy that I had scaled him in my thumbnail!


  1. Had Ogden Nash been alive in 2016, I'm sure he would have written:

    "The Weather Bunny
    Is very funny."

    (But since he wasn't, I've done it for him.)
    ~ David Miller

  2. Totally agree that learning occurs when the learner is ready. I have to say, however, 30 days is a good amount of time for me. I know I did the plant challenge for about 8 months but I only had to produce one painting per week. Making a sketch for a specific purpose daily is hard!

    1. I think 30 days is plenty for me, too! ;-) But it helps to do it on the buddy system so that we keep each other honest! :-)

    2. Ha that's true. A buddy system is essential 😁

  3. I am not sure that I have learned anything specific from Inktober. I must be doing it wrong! The 100 day project made some small improvement in drawing faces. Maybe. What I did learn is that forcing myself to spend no more than 5 minutes on a face was a very good exercise. Since I couldn't focus on the smallest details, I did better at getting the gesture. But 100 days became grueling, even when I limited my time to 5 minutes. I think I will stick to 30 days or less in future. I guess that might be a learning from challenges!!
    Anne @ HemmedWithHamsters

    1. I agree that 100 days of anything gets grueling! But it's all good practice! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...