Coffee shop sketching creative inspiration sketchbook photograph

Use Art Challenges To Find Creative Inspiration (Tips For Artists & Writers)

Articles, How To Find Creative Inspiration

Overcoming a creative block and finding inspiration can be a real challenge, there are many methods for finding the way out of a creative rut and in this article, we’ll take a look at how art challenges can be used to find creative inspiration. This isn’t only limited to drawing challenges or painting challenges either, we’ll also take a detailed look at some writing challenges for writers to find creative inspiration.

In recent years, mainly due to the mass connectivity afforded to us via social media and a healthy dose of positive peer pressure, creatives all around the world have been using art challenges as a way to boost productivity, level up their skills, develop positive habits and increase creativity. This is why they’ve become so popular, and numerous, and for as long as we have social media, I’m sure they’re here to stay.

Back to the subject of art challenges, some of the points we’ll look at throughout this article will be:

  • What is an art challenge?
  • Benefits of taking part in art challenges
  • How to find the best art challenges [Top 6 challenges for artists and writers]
  • Essential tools and equipment
  • Using an art challenge to inspire a new project

What is an art challenge?

An art challenge, or a writing challenge for that matter, is an event set up with the intent of encouraging creatives to step out of their comfort zone to do what they do best; creating.

Most art challenges will have rules and parameters in place to serve as an outline and a guide for the process. Most also have a social media community aspect to them.

Benefits of taking part in art challenges

There are so many benefits of taking part in art or writing challenges that they could be an article of their own, maybe one day we’ll get to that article and dig deeper. For the sake of this non-exhaustive list, however, let’s just examine 3 key benefits.

Overcome decision fatigue

It can be a challenge in itself at times to decide what to create, let alone how to go about getting it created; timeframes, medium, surface, concepts, etc, etc, etc… The beauty of taking part in an art challenge is that you don’t need to make any major decisions. The parameters are already set, all you need to do is work within those and find that elusive inspiration along the way.

Develop positive habits

It can be so easy to catch that snippet of spare time and think “ahh, I wonder what’s happening on [insert relevant social media channel], I’ll have a quick scroll of the news feed…” The next thing you know, spare time is gone and you didn’t create anything, and other than learning what a few people are having for dinner and who’s gone where on holiday, chances are your auto-pilot scrolling of social media was fruitless.

In contrast, however, by taking part in an art challenge you’ll get a major kickstart in developing a new, positive habit. It’s a lot like exercise, you can’t suddenly pluck the necessary time for going to the gym from nowhere, but if you build the habit incrementally, it will soon become part of your normal routine and before too long, you’ll be doing it automatically and without having to ‘make time’.

Connect with a community

One of the most effective ways to find inspiration is to connect with a community of other creatives. Creativity breeds creativity and as well as the encouragement you’ll find, a healthy sense of competition can also work wonders for overcoming creative blocks. Even if you take an art challenge out of the equation, we humans are social creatures and social media does offer a wealth of opportunities for connecting and networking with other creatives. Take advantage of the socialness of social media and leverage the communities out there to get inspired and encouraged.

How to find the best art challenges [Top 6 challenges for artists and writers]

There are so many different art challenges out there nowadays and the list is constantly growing. The best way to find art challenges new or old is to simply Google the term, or turn to social media. Be attentive to what other artists and writers are posting, many are usually taking part in some challenge or another.

Something worth remembering too is that you can use these challenges as inspiration or just take the points you like to create something new, you don’t have to wait for the exact timeline of the challenge either, although that will be the best way to get the community encouragement, you are ‘allowed’ to do Inktober in January, nothing bad will happen.

For the sake of keeping this list at a manageable size, I’ve chosen 3 of each of my favourite challenges for artists and writers.

Inktober

Inktober is a month-long drawing challenge that was set up for improving skills and developing positive drawing habits. Every October there is a list of prompts to inspire each daily ink drawing. The community aspects of this challenge are mostly achieved through Instagram by using the appropriate hashtags, and by posting in the Facebook group. There is now a year-long version of this challenge, with a new prompt posted each week.

Jawa trading with Tusken Raider - Ink Drawing - Star Wars Art - Illustration -
23. Leak – A Jawa can sell a bucket of sand to a Tusken, even with a leak…

Character Design Challenge

Each month a theme is announced and an international community of artists of all levels get to work in designing a character based on the theme. There’s a Facebook group that allows some participants to share their results and you can also post your characters on Instagram and use the appropriate hashtags in order to be found by others taking part.

Character Design Challenge - Mushroom Warrior - Fantasy Art Illustration Drawing - Japanese Inspired Art
The prompt for this sketch was – Mushroom Warrior

Studying The Masters

The Studying The Masters community was founded as a place for artists, as students of the Old Masters to improve in skill and to also encourage each other to keep learning and growing, regardless of experience level. As well as a journey inside the masters’ minds, it’s also a great place to learn some general art tips and some noteworthy art history too.

NaNoWriMo

Quite possibly the most-known of the writers’ challenges, the goal for NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, is to end the month of November with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. This international communal writing event has been at the centre of practice for many great writers and you’ll also find real-life places hosting events related to it in certain areas.

As a side note, there is also NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month for those of you who prefer to write poetry to novels.

StoryADay

Spoiler alert! The title is exactly what this creative writing challenge entails. The goal, every day during May and/or September to write a short story. This challenge is a great way to force your own hand at getting something on the page, also promoting positive writing habits in the process thereof.

As with the previous challenge, there is also a PoemADay variant of this challenge.

52 Week Short Story Challenge

If a short story each day seems too daunting, then this creative writing challenge may be more up your street. Of the 3 writing challenges, this one is certainly my favourite.

This challenge was born from a quote from author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury:

The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week — it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden a story will come that’s just wonderful.

Ray Bradbury

With no real rules or limitations and no requirements to publish what you do create, this personal writing challenge can be the perfect opportunity to get yourself writing and enjoying the craft with no obligations. Also, as with all the other challenges, there are online groups that can be found if you do want that community spirit and encouragement.

Bonus Idea – Create your own challenge

If none of those art or writing challenges appeals to you, or if you like different aspects of each, a smart option may be to create your own personal challenge and use that to find creative inspiration instead.

You could choose to keep it as a personal challenge, or package it up and promote it online and who knows, it may well be the next Inktober or NaNoWriMo.

Essential tools and equipment

One tool that can be used to great effect for artists and writers alike is Pinterest. Pinterest is in my opinion the greatest platform not only for finding inspiration but for categorising it and organising it in whichever way best suits your workflow.

I recently wrote an article about how to create inspiration boards and how to use Pinterest to find creative inspiration.

The most crucial tools

For artists – Pencil and paper.

For writers – Pencil and paper.

Whilst that may seem either basic or extreme, the truth is that at the root of your creativity you can express yourself with just those tools, anything more than that is a bonus and an advantage.

Using an art challenge to inspire a new project

The theme of this article is using art challenges to find inspiration, and there’s no better way to put that to use than a brand new project to sink your teeth into. Using myself and my own experience as somewhat of a case study, let’s take a look at my recent Inktober Star Wars Art Project – Life As A Jawa.

Jawa Survival Skills - Sun Compass - Ink Drawing - Star Wars Art - Illustration - Desert Survival
16. Compass – The latest in Jawa navigation technology, the stick compass…

I started the project with some clear goals in mind, I wanted to hit every daily prompt throughout the month, improve my storytelling both visually and in writing, putting thought into the captions, I also wanted to explore Jawas and create a body of sketches to serve as a foundation for some further exploration in more detail.

Overall I feel that I achieved the goals that I set myself and ultimately, I found a lot of creative inspiration for future projects, one of which I’m now in the planning stages for, striking while the iron is still hot.

Having goals set before I started helped me a lot with the art challenge, but even without clear goals, once you get stuck into a challenge and the creativity starts flowing, you’ll begin to spot plenty of opportunities for new projects and ideas.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think of art and writing challenges, do you think they’re helpful for finding creative inspiration?

Do you regularly take part in any particular challenges?

Which is your favourite challenge, have you created your own challenge?

Please feel free to leave a comment, or get in touch with me via email with your thoughts.

Explore The Art Of Storytelling.

Another great way to get inspired is to Join The Journey with me in exploring the art of storytelling; discovering new worlds, stories and techniques for capturing a narrative, creating moments and bringing stories to life.

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