It all started with good intentions. During summer time, I saw a little post reminding artists to join in on the fun by participating in the annual Art Drop which is the first Tuesday of September. So I took a mental note, then got busy with business, family time, vacations, and well-needed R&R from teaching.
Then I saw another reminder for the Art Drop challenge a couple of weeks before it was to happen. I almost forgot about it! No problem, I'll get on it tomorrow. Then I was asked to play lead guitar for my church's worship band for the next Sunday. With no sheet music to work from I ended up practicing the songs by ear for several hours on Saturday, which I don't mind. I really like playing guitar!
The next week, I started working on catching up on my art to make a late drop, but I just couldn't seem to create work that was up to my quality standards. I think I was just trying to force something that I wasn't totally vested in. So today, with other pressing illustration deadlines, I decided to just stop. Stop doing things that don't really help me, and stop spreading myself thin with peripheral activities that can distract my focus.
Here are the two main reasons why I am saying, "No more" to art challenges:
1. Art challenges are usually created to suite their originator's needs. Think of it, when you look in to challenges like Illustration Friday, Art Drop, Inktober, or Every Day in May, these started because an individual artist needed a challenge to get them creating more art for their personal body of work. They liked their idea so much that they thought they would share it with the world via social media. And so the challenges took off and attracted all sorts of participation. Now, I actually think this is great because it can be difficult as an artist to be self-inspired, so it is sometimes nice to have inspiration from outside sources. Plus, more art in the world can't be a bad thing, can it?
However, there should come a time as an artist develops his artistic vision that he should start initiating his own path and not follow the path of others. And when I think about all the artists that I admire, one of the characteristics that I appreciate the most is their vision and drive to make their own personal mark in the world. Chuck Close was right when he said, "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work." In the beginning, waiting for others to inspire me was a helpful start in getting a good body of work for my website, thanks to Illustration Friday. But now I feel that my time is better spent on my specific needs and not the general whims of the artistic community.
2. Speaking of time, how much time does one actually have to work on the challenges anyway? Well, 24 hours is the obvious answer. And there are books, articles, and podcasts that are devoted to making more time. But really, that's impossible. We all have the same amount. Those who are more successful with what they do know when to say yes, and when to say no. When it comes to creating art, the process can be very time consuming. There are only so many projects one can take on at a time. For me, with teaching art classes and working on illustration assignments, not to mention the normal but very important stuff like family time, chores, sleep, exercise, and getting the oil changed (that's what I'm doing as I am writing this post), there can be very little time left for little side activities like Inktober. So simply put, unless you have not quite developed your artistic path, art challenges can be a real time suck.
Don't get me wrong. If you are participating in these challenges and they help you as an artist, then go for it. But keep in mind your vision along the way, and make sure to know your limits. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long, and that's not really that long at all.