Over the years I’ve developed an increased interest in the arts and illustration. In particular, I was exposed to digital artists that were active on social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram. I enjoyed looking at the artwork they posted, taking in all their unique styles and uses of colour.
One thing I noticed after browsing these platforms was the popularity of art challenges. From well-known challenges like “Inktober”, to those that seemed to surge in popularity over time like #drawthisinyourstyle or “screencap redraws”. Each challenge had its own rules but ultimately worked to provide an interesting exercise for the participant, give exposure and build a sense of community.
What are some of the benefits and enjoyable aspects of participating in art challenges, both for the artist and for the viewer or follower?
Building a Routine and Keeping a Schedule
Challenges that are based on prompts like “Inktober” and “Mermay” take place over the course of a month. Each day, the artist would make a drawing, usually according to a prompt and following the theme of the month. The theme for “Inktober” is, as the name suggests, to make artwork using ink; “Mermay”, on the other hand, involves making artwork featuring different merpeople.
These challenges can help artists build a routine or a habit of drawing every day. Having a theme, a set of guidelines or prompts, can help spur inspiration. By posting online each day, the artist also feels a sense of accountability and of having an audience. It may help to push artists to keep up their practice rather than dropping it after a day or two. Followers can look forward to a new piece each day, and other challenge-takers can see the works of others in their network.
However, some artists have found these challenges to be stressful as they ask for a piece each day. Similar to challenges like National Novel Writing Month—for creative writing—participants can get burned out by the daily requirement. Prompt challenges aren’t for everyone, but they can be enjoyable and a source of inspiration to try your hand at once in a while.
On platforms like Instagram, hashtags are often created for art challenges, which the artist can use to tag their work. Other users can browse works in the hashtag, allowing for a gallery or collection of all the related works. This in itself is a great exposure for an artist, especially one who might be new on the platform or not have as many followers yet. By labelling and associating their artwork with a known or popular challenge, artists increase the chance of being seen by people.
Certain challenges are especially good at promoting exposure. For example, the “draw this in your style” challenge is usually proposed by a more established artist with a solid following. This type of challenge involves the issuing artist posting a drawing, usually of a character, and asking their followers to redraw it in their own style. The challengers generally have freedom to interpret the work as they like, but they should keep key features of the characters intact so they’re still recognizable. Challengers are asked to tag their work with the issuer’s custom hashtag and the issuer would personally select a few entries to feature on their platform, such as through a Story.
Artists participating in this challenge get to exercise their creativity within the confines of an existing piece of work and have the chance to be highlighted on a more well-known artist’s platform. Seeing the range of interpretations and styles can be fun and interesting, and followers can discover more artists through the issuer’s highlights.
Promoting Collaboration and Building Community
Taking part in the same challenge together, even online, involves the artist in a community. Through hashtags and feeds, artists can see the works of other artists doing the same challenge. They can draw inspiration from other artists’ work and share their experiences. Challenges like the telephone art challenge allows for collaboration between different artists by passing along one piece of artwork among several artists one after the other. The next artist draws their version of the previous artist’s work, and the artist after them would draw their version based on the piece they received.
Art Vancouver exhibitor Cathy Immordino also shared her experience with a challenge called “Call & Response”, where she was paired with a writer.
“I would submit a photograph to her and vice versa,” she said. “We would each have 48 hours to respond with our response to the other's work.”
For this challenge, Immordino created photographic art in response to the writer’s poetry and vice versa for the poet. The challenge took place over two to four weeks and was followed by a virtual exhibition.
“It was fun to get a new angle for inspiration to create new work,” she said. “I loved the deadlines. It was also great working with someone new with a different view on poetry and art.”
She also mentioned, however, that working on a deadline meant less cohesive and meaningful work could be created.
Participation in challenges promotes a sense of community and can encourage collaboration between artists, even across mediums. Participants can come away with a new approach or perspective they may not otherwise have noticed or taken.
With the growth of social media and innovative approaches to making art and generating creativity, new activities can pop up and trend online. It can be fun both as an observer or fellow artist to tap into these resources. Whether as someone looking to build an online presence or connect with other artists, art challenges can be an unique and inspiring way to make something new.
By Lilly L