We are currently in the middle of a 10-day art challenge in our Facebook group community called The Soulbrush Sessions. Hi, my name is Carrie, and today on Artist Strong we’re going to talk about the benefits of participating in art challenges like The Soulbrush Sessions.
The first benefit I see from participating in an art challenge is that structure improves your skill.
The story I have to share with you as evidence of this is when I was in the classroom teaching high school students with a curriculum called IB Art. The IB Art program is two years and it’s about students finding their own voice and creating a culminating body of art to exhibit. They then have to argue the merits over in a public space or in recording for evaluation.
What I found was, when I just let students have a free choice assignment they’d flounder, so I often started with a structured assignment. One of the first assignments I often gave them was a self-portrait piece. That’s all the structure was: giving them some kind of theme or focus. They could choose their own materials, any media that they wanted to work with. That was all up to them.
I’d be so impressed with these first pieces. Part of it’s because it’s the first assignment and students want to set the bar and show the teacher what they’re capable of. It was always interesting to see the follow-up artwork after that piece too. That was when I gave them a free choice work. The skill and the evidence of students’ skill would drop dramatically in those following artworks. Isn’t that interesting? Because clearly they have the skill. I’d seen evidence of it in the previous artworks.
Without that added structure, a lot of students, it doesn’t matter what age we are, we flounder because we don’t know where to go and we don’t have a sense of direction. We’re not always good at providing that direction for ourselves. An art challenge gives you some of that basic structure to help you push through, make work, and show off some of your better skill.
The second benefit I’ve observed from hosting and participating in art challenges is that artists who participate in art challenges, when they feel challenged they improve their skills.
I’m reading a really interesting book right now. It’s called Peak, and it’s about peak performance. What qualities do people have who become the best at what they do, and how can we use that to inform our own abilities?
What I’m finding so far in this book is that our notion of talent is really false across all disciplines, and that the more people work at something, the more that we alter our brains and the better we get; the issue is we don’t understand how to practice. In the book Peak they call it a purposeful practice or deliberate practice. If we can deliberately practice a skill, we will grow dramatically.
Part of deliberate practice is to feel challenged, to push ourselves a little bit outside our comfort zone. In an art challenge, often we’re asked to do things we wouldn’t normally choose to do ourselves. That is challenge. That is extending ourselves, so an art challenge can actively improve our skill.
A third benefit of participating in an art challenge is meeting and connecting with like-minded creatives.
We need feedback to grow in skill. That’s another piece of the story that I was reading about in the book Peak. A community helps us get meaningful and useful feedback. If someone who doesn’t have an art background offers us feedback on a work, often it’s not skill-based information. It might be more emotionally based.
While that’s also helpful and informative when we’re creating, if we want to build our skill, having feedback from other artists who can catch our errors. In a drawing for example, if we’re copying an image, or something is missing in a portrait and the photo reference that we’re working from, they can help us spot things that we couldn’t see on our own.
Additionally, you have a sense of accountability because there are other people working alongside you. You’re excited to see how they’re interpreting the assignments too. It gets us making. That’s ultimately what I hope for all of us.
Of course, in addition to the reasons I’ve mentioned, I’m hoping these art challenges are fun for you! When we participate in an art challenge, there is this sense of commitment and “I’m going to work at something.” However, there’s also a sense of joy and adventure because we’re getting to play with our art materials and connect with other artists.
That’s one reason, in the Artist Strong community, in our Facebook group, I try to host at least one kind of art challenge every month. Right now we have the live Soulbrush Sessions, which is a 10-day challenge. I also often host a monthly collaborative art challenge which I really enjoy.
What we do in this one is I secretly select an artwork from art history. A whole bunch of people sign up and I break down that painting into pieces of a larger puzzle. Everyone gets a little square or rectangle that they have to interpret. They need to keep to the general shapes or outlines they see in their square, but they can interpret the image however they like.
At the end of the month, I collect all of those digital images. People photograph their finished artwork and then post it in the group. I collate them and piece them back together and share it along with the original artwork. It’s a bit of a guessing game. People like to guess which artist they are observing. Additionally, they get to have some art play and they know that there’s a deadline. It helps them follow through on making something every month too. We’ve really been enjoying that particular activity in the group.
In summary, understand that participating in an art challenge provides you deadlines. We can use deadlines to help us make more art. It gives us a sense of structure so we’re extended and challenged, and it helps us create and connect with other artists, which also can bring us a sense of joy as well as offer us feedback to grow as creatives. Priority number one is to get you making, and that’s what an art challenge can do.
Be Creatively Courageous: Today in the comments below tell me about an art challenge that you especially liked that you’ve participated in, or was there an activity in an art challenge that really pushed you and you really learned from. Share it with us in the comments below.
It’s not too late to join me and hundreds of others in the live version of my 10-day challenge, The Soulbrush Sessions. Click on the box below this video to join us all and get started today.
Thanks, guys, for watching. If you talk this video is going to help someone in your world, please share it. I’ll see you next week. Bye.
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