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  • Christine Gardner

The dos and don'ts of a 30 day Art Instagram Challenge!

This September I'm partaking in a 30 day Instagram Drawing challenge with the very talented artist and illustrator Tati Abaurre

As I reach the halfway point I've started to reflect on everything that one of these challenges brings and thought I would share my dos and don'ts with you just in case you are thinking about doing one, but aren't sure.

It's been so much fun - I'll share some of my artwork on here for you too! Enjoy!

What is a 30 day art challenge?

Firstly, let me share the challenge with you. A lot of artists and illustrators on Instagram set up a prompt list that you can use for the month ahead to draw from. The idea is that you interpret the word of the day as you see fit in your style and using your creative license.

Subjects can include random words, colours or objects, or be themed with particular subject matters like advent or birds, like this one.

Here's what Tati created in September:

So on the 1st September I drew a Lilac Breasted Roller, on the 2nd a Red Cheeked Cordon-Bleu and on the 3rd a Silver Eared Mesia, and so on - you get the idea!

My Red Cheeked Cordon-Bleu illustration and product mock up...

Why do a 30 day art challenge?

So many reasons! I like the idea of getting a 'mini-brief' every day (it certainly is a mini brief with one word!), it keeps me illustrating, and this particular challenge pushed me as I had never really drawn birds before - even though I love them and have always wanted to include them in my designs.

Day 16, 17 and 18 as notebooks

Where can I find challenges?

Lots of Illustrators do them but a good one to start with is hosted by Rhianna Wurman Illustration (Ello Lovely) as she runs one every month here.

Do I have to be a professional illustrator to take part?

No! All sorts of people take part and commit various time to it. Some people don't do every day and just pick and choose, it's completely flexible and up to you. You get out of it what you put in.

Do I need an Instagram account to take part?

It's good to have an account to follow the artist and the hashtags associated with the challenge. You get to connect to a whole load of new artists you never knew about before and you can share your work. But, if you don't want to share or connect, then that's fine too, so you don't have to have an account.

From Day 7, a Geelvink Fruit Dove

The do's of doing a challenge

So you've decided to do an art challenge - yay! Here are some tips on how to complete it successfully...

  1. Get ahead when you can - it might not seem like a big challenge at first but showing up EVERY day is hard (especially from a standing start) so if there is a day when you can get a few compositions or ideas sketched out - do it! I sketch all my birds out before getting on my iPad and digitising them. I usually draw 5 at a time while I'm sitting with my sketchbook. This helps me get ready for when I come to my final pieces.

  2. Keep to your style - this is so important for many reasons. One, it will save you time in completing your artwork day to day, as if you are drawing in your style (ie. not copying someone elses, or trying something completely new) you can focus on the drawing and not spend heaps of time experimenting or learning new techniques. Two, this is your own project that could be added to your portfolio so keep it in your style. It can be hard when people are drawing the same subject matter but be mindful to always stay true to your essence and not copy.

  3. Get a colour palette in mind - this will save you time from the beginning (some art challenges include a colour palette which is so helpful!). It can also be used throughout the whole project which will help the illustrations look like a 'set' by the end of the challenge and creates a nice look and feel to everything. It's not necessary though - you might want to experiment with colour and try new things as you go - this is great too! I used so many new colours in my bird art and it really opened my mind to new palettes and possibilities!

  4. Set a time limit - I don't wish to take away from the 'flow' of creativity but I'm sure that you don't have a spare 3 hours a day for the next 30 days to dedicate to this one project! If you want to create a certain standard of illustrations then it could actually take that long! So be mindful. My first few illustrations took me 2 hours+ and after a few days this started to put a strain on my work/life balance and kind of took the fun out of it. So now I spend an hour to one hour and a half and that's fine for me. I do it instead of scrolling on my phone and it's become a mindful activity. Be realistic with yourself and what you can commit to every single day for 30 days or you will either spend too long on it or give it up as you can't fit it in.

  5. Have fun! - This is the most important DO of the list as otherwise, what is the point of the challenge?! Some people may use it as a portfolio addition exercise, or to create more content, or to connect to new artists, but the main reason should be to push yourself and have a little fun with it along the way.

All my do's! Keeping true to my graphic style, using a colour palette with flexibility AND structure, having fun with mock ups!

There were times that I pushed the palette though too to fit in with the bird, but because I stayed true to my style everything still looks part of a set.

The don'ts when you do a challenge

Here are a few things that you shouldn't do when taking part in an Instagram 30 day challenge!

  1. Compare your work to others - comparison is the thief of all joy. It really is, and I have to tell myself this a lot sometimes through these challenges. You'll be seeing lots of work from some very talented people and when you are all drawing and posting the same subject matter or object it's hard not to compare, but really try your best not to. If we were all the same the feed would look pretty dull. This challenge is to showcase you and your skills, or help you improve on them, your beginning looks very different to someone else's middle or end.

  2. Get behind! - It's easy to skip a day (especially at the weekends!) and it is fine, but if you really want to build up a body of work, fully commit to the process and keep in the loop with all the latest posts/hashtags/shares then it's best to keep up and post and create every day! I do sometimes skip posting at the weekend, and post my weekend results on a Monday if the weekend is a bit full and I don't want to be on my phone, so just make it work for you.

  3. Copy! - As mentioned previously, I'm a huge advocate for sticking to your own style and expressing your artistic flair. When you get tired or need inspiration on a project like this, it could be easy to start copying other peoples compositions, motifs or even style - so just check back in and make sure you are creating from your own heart and head.

  4. Give up! - 30 days doesn't seem that long when you sign up but I think it's a huge commitment! It's a whole month! And a lot can change and happen in a month! But if you get to the end of it, you'll have 30 pieces of work you never had before, a lot of new content, a lot more practise and hours under your belt learning a new skill or practice and who knows, it might form a new mindful habit of creating something everyday. I'm thinking of jumping into a new one staright after this one!

Don't give up! If I had given up on the challenge I wouldn't have drawn these birds ever. Now I can say that I have drawn a toucan, duck and red-capped robin!

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