Art Challenges: The Best Ways to Prepare For One

Sixteen paintings by Judy Jacobs for article about art challenges

I’m excited to embark on one of my all-time favorite art challenges: the 100-Day Project. It’s my fourth attempt (I succeeded twice and had to stop midway during my third) at the #the100dayproject, so wish me luck! 

I have been mentally preparing for this challenge for the past several weeks and am ready to go. Since I’m kind of an art challenge freak, I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned along the way.

But first, here’s a brief summary of how art challenges work and how to find the right challenge for you!

How Art Challenges Work

These challenges generally involve creating art based on daily prompts or a particular theme. Whether it’s the month of January or any other time of the year, artists can find a variety of non-monthly and monthly art challenges that cater to their different interests and skill levels. 

Art challenge hosts often provide daily prompts, which can be a single word, a phrase, or a specific theme for each  day. Artists can use these prompts as inspiration to create a new piece of art every day.

How to Choose the Right Art Challenge

When deciding on joining a particular art challenge, consider your skill level and the time you can commit.

You want to ensure the challenge aligns with your interests and skill level. For instance, if you’re not a fan of figure drawing, then selecting a figure drawing challenge could be a bad choice. On the other hand, if you have always wanted to learn figure drawing and the challenge is for beginners, then stretch your drawing skills and join in!

It’s also important to consider the time commitment as well as the dates of the art challenge. If you have limited time each week, a daily challenges might set you up for failure before you even begin.

Properly Preparing for Art Challenges

It’s crucial to prepare properly when choosing an art challenge. Proper planning dictates whether you succeed or fail. And since you’re going to invest a lot of time and possibly money, why not be prepared?

Here is what I do once I’ve committed to a challenge, and prior to beginning one:

Photos of vessels and vases painted by Judy Jacobs for her theme in upcoming art challenges

Choose a theme

If your event allows you to choose your own personal challenge, then deciding on a particular theme or subject matter in advance is important.

Knowing what you want to make, paint, or draw allows you to write down some ideas prior to the challenge. If you follow prompts or suggestions offered by the challenge host, consider the specific requirements and decide how you’ll proceed.

I usually try to pick something that I haven’t done before. It can be trying a medium I want to become proficient with like oils or pastels. Or it might be a certain subject matter, like seascapes or vessels, like the ones I painted in my journals.

Pick a Substrate and Size

I’ve done small paintings on wood boards and larger ones on paper and completed challenges with both. Consider the costs and time constraints when deciding what surface to use and what size pieces you want to create.

I found it took me as long to do the smaller paintings as it did to paint the larger ones. This was because my work got “tight” on the small pieces, and using a larger surface forced me to use bigger brushes and “loosen up” so I wasn’t spending an eternity in the studio.

Figure out which fits your style best, and stick to one or two sizes for the duration of the challenge. This may force you to do one particular orientation, but you will have a more cohesive body of work at the end.

Purchase Your Materials In Advance

Another essential tip for a successful art challenge is to gather all of your art materials in advance. If you want to work with a substrate you’ve never worked with before, shop the sales. See what types of discounts you can get by buying in bulk, like these quarter-inch 12″ x 12″ MDF chipboard panels that come in a set of 20 for less than $45! A single MDF chipboard panel that size typically costs at least $3.00, so save where you can.

You also want to ensure you have an adequate supply of whatever medium or material you plan on using for the challenge.

The right tools will set you up for a smooth and successful art challenge experience.

NOTE: For The 100-Day Project, I’m taking several old 18″ x 24″ paintings on paper and upcycling them into 6″ x 6″ pieces of paper. I’m doing this because it saves money; the old paintings were not worthy of selling; and I love the fact that the old paintings can show through or provide texture for the new ones.

Set Up a Dedicated Space

I find setting up an art-making space to be very helpful, and I highly recommend doing it if you can. For the 100-Day Project, I’m using an old 24″ x 32″ card table in my office. Since I’m using the small 6″ x 6″ paper squares, there is plenty of room for my materials and workspace. And when each painting is dried, I can easily photograph and scan the new piece without leaving the room.

Follow the Rules!

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the official prompt list, rules, or guidelines on the official art challenge website. This is a good practice and can give you an opportunity to sketch the subjects ahead of time if you wish. 

Post on Social Media

Social media plays a vital role in these challenges and helps artists stay motivated and on track throughout the challenge.

Many artists share their daily creations on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter and use specific hashtags to connect with fellow artists. If you’re not already on one or more of these platforms, consider signing up for one today.

Social media also helps create a sense of camaraderie. Connecting with other participants can provide encouragement and motivation while providing inspiration as other artists view and comment on your work.

When on social media, avoiding the “post and run” habit is important. Engage with other participants in your group and comment on their work. They’ll usually comment back, and their comments can help push your art skills to new heights. Plus, you might meet another creative soul to do more challenges with in the future! 

If you want to follow my paintings for the 100 Day Project, you can find me @comingabstractions or click the link to my Instagram page. I also made up a hashtag for my work: #100mundaneobjects

Other Helpful Tips for Art Challenges

  • Set a time limit. Working within a set amount of time each session will help you work more efficiently and intuitively. This translates into looser work, and not overthinking each stroke leads to happy surprises at the end.
  • Work ahead. Sticking to a daily practice takes dedication, and sometimes life doesn’t cooperate with your schedule. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND working ahead as much as possible so you don’t feel let down if you can’t produce a new piece daily.
  • Limit your palette. Less colors equals fewer choices you need to make. And sticking with a primary palette can help you produce a more sophisticated body of work!
  • Create your personal unique challenge. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and create your own art challenge if you don’t find an existing challenge that exactly meets your needs.
  • Break the rules. Like yoga, your challenge is for your benefit and yours alone. If you need to tailor the rules, prompts, or time frame to fit your own personal goals and schedule, do it.
  • Quit if you need to. There is NO SHAME if you have to stop before the challenge ends! When I have had to back off a challenge, I quietly remove myself from the group and quit posting any work. Nobody likes to quit, but I have had to do it two or three times.

Benefits of Completing a Challenge

Interacting With Other Artists

Creating a supportive network within the art community can be immensely beneficial, both personally and professionally. And let’s face it – you get to meet some of the best people when doing challenges!

I still am in touch with some artists I’ve met through challenges over a decade ago. One artist even showed my paintings to a gallery owner she knew who reached out to me for a show. So get social and engage with your fellow artists!!

Opportunities to Sell Work

Besides meeting new artist buddies, the new work you will be creating will help you create a nice portfolio to show art gallery owners, designers, and art consultants. These professionals are always on the lookout for new artists, so consider doing an on-line portfolio of some of your best pieces and reach out to them after the challenge ends.

My Personal Reason For Doing Art Challenges

First, I get the biggest personal satisfaction that comes with each completed goal. Art challenges push me beyond my comfort zone and encourage me to explore new techniques, mediums, and styles. 

Sharing my work with fellow artists and art communities gives me valuable feedback and connects me with others creatives.

Once I received an art licensing deal from a group who saw the art I posted from one of the challenges online. Another one led to an offer to join an out-of-state gallery.

The challenge I participated in January, 2024 helped kick my creative block to the curb and gave me new ideas for The 100 Day Project.

I also received new subscribers to my newsletter, and received several offers to purchase some of the pieces I created.

In Summary

Art challenges are a way to witness growth and improvement, and they’re an opportunity to stretch your creative muscles.

If you’re looking for a quick way to improve your work and add to your art portfolio, consider joining an art challenge today!

BEFORE YOU GO: Check out 10 Reasons Why Artists Love Art Challenges

Table with unfinished paintings, paint bottles, and ceramic pitchers for Art Challenges post by Judy Jacobs

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