Personal Art Challenges: Are They Right for You?

Personal Art Challenges: Are They Right for You?

Today, I want to talk about personal art challenges.

I have three points to address: What is a personal art challenge, why they’re important, and how to choose one.

Let’s get started.

Personal Art Challenges

Personal Art Challenges

What Are They?

A personal art challenge is just what the name suggests. You personally challenge yourself to do some art-related thing for a specific period of time.

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose behind a personal art challenge varies from artist to artist. In my experience, challenges like this also vary from situation to situation.

For instance, a few years ago, I wanted to learn plein air drawing, but I couldn’t seem to make myself do it. So that fall, I gave myself a challenge to get outside and draw regularly. I did that for a couple of years, sometimes for one month, sometimes for two. That was one personal art challenge.

Last year, after months of stagnation on more “serious” drawing, I decided to sketch. One sketch a day six days a week. Any subject, any paper, any colored pencils (or only one color.) I also decided to make each sketch 4 x 6 inches, which removed that decision from the table.

In other words, I kept this personal art challenge simple.

Both challenges resulted in a body of work that’s not exhibit-worthy, but that stretched me in one way or another. The Sketching Habit also demonstrated how much improvement is possible with as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day sketching.

Art challenges are also a good way to motivate yourself to learn a new medium, a new technique, or explore new subjects.

How to Choose (or Design) One

The first thing to do is decide whether or not you need a personal art challenge, or if goal setting is better. There is a difference.

Goal setting is the best option if drawing time is effortless. When you’re making art regularly and just need a target to aim for, then set a goal. I talk more about that in this post, so I won’t go into detail here.

If you’re struggling to make art, however, then a personal art challenge is probably better.

So what do I mean by “struggling”? Let me share a few of my struggles.

  • I can’t finish anything
  • Drawing is a bore
  • I can’t seem to make time to draw
  • There’s no joy in drawing; it’s a chore

Those are just four of my struggles over the last couple of years. I have reasons for thinking I reached this point in my art journey, and perhaps I’ll talk about them at a later date. Suffice it to say it was getting increasingly easy to let each day end without having put pencil to paper at all.

Since I wasn’t making art on a regular basis, a goal wasn’t the answer. I’d set goals for each of the last two years and didn’t meet them.

So a personal art challenge was the answer.

I set a personal art challenge on July 3, 2021 and more than met it by the end of the year. It put some joy back into drawing. It also revealed a subject I loved to draw but had forgotten about (trees and branches.) The best part is that by the end of the year, I saw definite improvement in the way I drew and in the results. Win-win-win.

Do I Recommend Personal Art Challenges?


And no.

There are times when a personal art challenge is a good idea. As I mentioned above, I spent a lot of the last two years struggling with making art. A personal art challenge was exactly the right thing for me.

If drawing has gotten stale for you, or if you just don’t know what to draw, then a personal art challenge is a good idea. Even if it’s short-term, say a month or two, it may be exactly the kick-start you need.

But if you’re in the groove every time you pick up a pencil and start drawing, then you don’t need a personal art challenge. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.

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  1. Gail Jones

    Great article Carrie. I guess I am kind of doing my own art challenge. It became harder for me to find the time with a new puppy who seems to want all my attention all the time. So… I had to get up earlier to get more done to then carve out some art time in the afternoon where puppy could nap in a puppy proof room while I do the art. I had to tell myself not to feel guilty for taking time for myself. Without my art I am not as happy a person as I am with it. In short, I need that time to refresh which makes me a better family and animal caregiver overall. So… I would say… carve out art time and don’t feel guilty about it.

  2. M Sides

    I too have been wondering where the joy of sketching went when there was a time you could search my purse and find paper and pencil in it ready for any wait time I found. At the airport, waiting for soccer practice, sitting at very long train crossings, or snatching alone time in my car at a park.
    Personal challenge is more of a nudge like eating salad and not watching mindless tv. It takes prioritizing to sketch for our own good.

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