My Experiences With Popular Art Challenges

If you follow a bunch of artists on social media you’ve probably seen a few in passing: themed ‘art challenges’. They are usually named after a specific month the event is taking place, for example Inktober, Junfae, Plein Airpril, etc. I’ve participated in my share and now MerMay has ended, I’m ready to share some experiences and learned lessons!

Back in January I stumbled upon the hashtag #creatuanuary, a yearly event on Twitter where people design a creature according to a prompt list every day during January. Being a creature enthousiast, I simply had to participate. I knew I wouldn’t have the time to draw something for all the prompts, though, so I just picked a few I liked the most.

vampire bat dragon

The prompt for this one was ‘bloodsucker dragon’. Many entries were combining mosquito or leech features with dragons. I thought it would be more interesting to look at vampire bats, not in the least because bat wings are traditionally the inspiration for dragon wings – studying them would help me draw better dragons in the long run too!

wolf bear creature

For the Tibicena (a demon in the shape of a large black dog with red eyes, hailing from the mountains of the Canary Islands), I combined the heavy build of a bear with more wolf-like hindquarters. I wanted to make the beast appear rugged and hardy to be able to survive in the harsh conditions of the mountains.

In the end, though, I was only able to bring three prompts to a finish. What went wrong with #creatuanuary is that I put in too much effort in each piece, which made them take too much time to finish in one or even a couple of days. In hindsight, that was probably also the case with the Inktober challenge last year, which I also didn’t manage to finish: I wanted each piece to be good, so I put in a lot of time, which I couldn’t keep up.

So for MerMay, I wanted to do things differently. I decided to a) not to use a prompt list or plan what to draw exactly ahead, but see where it will take me and b) try to prepare myself by making some sketches in advance. This turned out quite well: by making time almost every day to sketch and paint a little, I found myself creating little watercolour paintings which I could paint quite quickly and felt like small paintings rather than sketches.

I did prepare a list of interesting sea animals for inspiration, but that was all. I just let the drawings take me, and in the end I did quite some fish creatures that only vaguely resembled mermaids, but that was fine too! I found a way to create small pieces with little effort to keep up with the treadmill of social media, but most important of all, have fun with it!