Doing a daily drawing challenge and what I learned from it

thumbnails from doing a daily drawing challenge

Doing a daily drawing challenge and what I learned from it

Kelly Anne Powers from Learn to Paint Podcast hosted a daily drawing challenge beginning of the year. It was about drawing for 20 minutes a day for 20 consecutive days. She provided reference photos – which I think is very helpful for a daily challenge so I signed up to start the year with a little artistic momentum. The challenge is over, and although it has only been 20 days and only a few minutes every day, I am surprised of how good of a learning experience it has been. Here is what I learned:

Have a system for a daily drawing challenge

Let’s face it, I didn’t feel like drawing every day. There were days when I was really tired and just didn’t feel like picking up a pencil. The best way to trick myself into doing it anyway was having a system. This included:

Know what to draw: in this case Kelly Anne provided the reference images which was a big plus. No thinking about what to draw. Just open up the reference image of the day and get started.

Know what to draw with: I decided to go for pencil only for the entire challenge. Plein and simple. A medium I don’t usually use but got to really enjoy over the course of the challenge.  Another decision I didn’t have to make on a daily basis.

Know what to focus on: After the first few days I decided to always get started with a 1 minute sketch, followed by a 3 minute sketch, an outline drawing and either a slightly bigger sketch, value study or focussing on details. Always the same approach. 

Know when to draw: I went for drawing in the evening but didn’t wait for creativity to hit me. I scheduled it like a mini appointment. Not thinking about whether this was the right time, I just started. 

Having this system helped me immensely. I knew what to draw, what materials to use and what to focus on. So really there was no reason not to do it.

Set a goal

I think it helped to set a goal. Kelly Anne posted some questions at the beginning and defining a goal for the challenge was one of them. I decided to go with doing thumbnails and focussing on values since this is also one of my sketching goals for 2022.

I wanted to focus on thumbnails as I know they are very helpful when it comes to composition and deciding on focal points and so on, but I haven’t managed to make them part of my practice. I wanted to explore whether I could change that.

Values go well with thumbnails and getting values right will again help in any drawing or painting.

And the third reason was that thumbnails are small, quick to do and therefore are easy to tackle within 20 minutes.

Make it all about showing up

Thumbnails are not intended to be finished works of art. Therefore just the mere fact of showing up and doing the daily sketches meant, that I had done my part. Sometimes I kept going, either with the reference picture of the day or with something else. Sometimes doing the thumbnails was all I did and that was totally fine, because it was all I intended to do in the first place.

My eyes need my hand to see

A big learning for me was, that my eyes need my hand to see. I can look at a reference picture or a scene I want to sketch, but to understand it, I need to sketch it. The one minute thumbnails were a great way to get a feel for an image and understand the different shapes. With every thumbnail, I saw more or understood better what the reference image contained. I guess this is what others refer to as warming up. For me this was the first time that I really experienced the advantages of doing these preliminary sketches.

It’s fun to do thumbnails - and also really helpful

It’s probably because of this experience that I really started to like doing thumbnails. I don’t have to convince myself any more of doing them. I now see the value in doing them. Actually I have done thumbnails every time I sketched since finishing the challenge. That’s quite a big achievement for me – after many years of not doing them at all.

Fun fact: I can’t stay within a bloody frame

I drew frames before doing thumbnails and most of the time I wouldn’t manage to fit my sketch within the frame. No big deal, but I realized that I might want to scale up my sketchbooks. I recently really enjoyed A4 portrait sized books where before I used A5. The change in size is quite something and I really enjoy being able to go bigger.

So what’s next?

Doing the daily drawing challenge was a great way to build a daily practice and I want to build on this. Kelly Anne is thinking about setting up another challenge, so if this kind of drawing challenge sounds interesting to you, check her Patreon or Instagram.

She also shared some other daily drawing challenges which I want to have a look at. As I wrote in my first learning, having reference materials at hand is my biggest success factor to stick to a regular art practice.

Do you use reference photos for your practice? And if so, what do you use?

  • Anne Ciccotelli
    Posted at 23:26h, 29 August Reply

    I also participated in the 20/20 daily drawing challenge and loved it. One of my goals is to get into the daily practice of starting with thumbnail sketches. Kelly’s resource/photo materials were all very good. I remembered that she had a template for thumbnail sketches. Do you know how we can access those materials? I enjoyed reading your blog.

    • Kerstin Schoch
      Posted at 21:50h, 30 August Reply

      Hi Anne, thank you for your feedback. It’s great to hear that you enjoy reading my blog. Kelly shared the reference photos on her Patreon account. I am pretty sure that they are still available there.

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