It was at the end of January this year that I decided it was time for me to take part in my first 30 day sketchbook challenge (well, 29 day as it was going to be February!)
My sketchbook practice had become stagnant – I found that I wasn't creating anything new and every time I sat down to paint I had such a lack of inspiration and drive to create.
Okay I tell a lie, I actually did a 30 day sketchbook challenge at college, although then I saw it as just another project and not something that would actually be beneficial in bettering my creativity. I wouldn't have thought back then that completing a sketchbook challenge would be so beneficial when trying to grow my creative business, but I guess that goes for a lot of things you learn in college.
It took a little while for me to pick what I wanted to do for the challenge. I decided I wanted to find a ready made challenge so that the daily prompts were already planned out, which I think is ideal for a first one as it takes away the pressure of writing out your own. It also means that there are prompts there that you wouldn't normally create from, again always allowing you to expand on your skills as an artist/illustrator. I had found that this had become a big issue in my sketchbook practice. I would sit there and couldn't think of new things to paint, so ended up always going back to my 'safety blanket' themes that I paint again and again.
I searched on Instagram for any challenges set up for the next month, especially looking for prompts that were unusual and original, and ideally watercolour orientated as that was the medium I was wanting to work with. I think choosing a monthly challenge that is internationally followed and already popular on social media is ideal when you are just beginning on this journey. In future I may create my own challenges/prompts to follow if there is a particular skill I want to practice or improve on. Taking part in a recognised challenge also means that there are lots of different creatives from all around the world creating from the same prompt on the same day. I always made sure to have a look through what other people had been creating that day and like and comment on my favourites. This allowed me to evaluate my own against others and look at the different ways in which people had interpreted the prompts.
Completing a 30 day sketchbook challenge though is a commitment! There have been some days when I have struggled to find the energy to create my illustration for that days prompt, but I would feel so much better for taking some time out to sit down and create. You can definitely tell the ones that I spent 20 minutes on from the ones I spent 2 hours on, but I just created whatever I could with the time I had that day.
It has also forced me to continue overcoming self doubt in my work (as explored in my last blog post 'Overcoming Self Doubt In Your Work'). Every day I needed to create something and post it whether I was 100% happy with it or not, which let's face it is not that often anyway! There have been some illustrations that I have created that I definitely wouldn't have posted if it weren't for the challenge. But posting them and still having a good response in likes and comments is a great confidence booster for you in your work. And then there will always be some days when you think what you've created is amazing but you don't get the response you hoped for and that's okay too, it's all part of the journey.
By the start of the last week I was really beginning to feel ready to move on and try some new things out, however I was determined to keep with it and complete the full 29 days. I filled up my sketchbook so quickly, but I was looking forward to putting it away and immediately start on a new one. The challenge has definitely opened my eyes to so many new styles, ideas and skills that I want to explore.
This last month has also made me rethink my dependence on watercolour – it is the main medium in all of my sketchbook so far on my creative business journey and it's my go to style, but I have developed a need to explore other mediums too in my next sketchbooks. This is actually really important because without directly knowing it I have achieved what I wanted to from this experience. Not only has it made me excited to create regularly again, it has given me my creative drive back to keep growing as an artist and to experiment and explore new ideas.
The challenge has definitely increased my creative production again and I intend to keep this volume of new work up as much as possible. Daily art practice is definitely a good thing, however if there are some days that I don't feel like creating, it's important for me to remind myself to have a break. Even a quick 15-20 minute sketchbook page though can produce some of your best work. If any of you reading this are wondering whether taking the time to complete a 30 day sketchbook is right for you, I say go for it! Whatever stage of your creative journey you're at, you cannot underestimate the amount of self growth that a 30 day sketchbook challenge can give you.
Click here to view my sketchbook pages from the February sketchbook challenge.