Most of us have been there before – stuck with artist’s block, or just out of ideas to work on. 

Well, sometimes you need to take action before the motivation or inspiration comes, so if you’re in a bit of a rut, you can give these five art challenges a try! They’re in no particular order either, so feel free to skip to the ones that interest you the most.

#1: Blind Contour Drawing 

I’ve covered what blind contour drawing is before, but here’s a quick refresher!

It’s one of the “easier” challenges to do: simply pick a subject to draw, and then without looking down at your paper, draw without lifting your pen or pencil off the page.

I say “easier”, because as artists, we’re often tempted to make everything look perfect, or at least glance down once in a while to check if things look okay! If you’re afraid of breaking this one rule by accident, you can stab your pen or pencil through a piece of scrap paper so you can’t see what you’re drawing.

While it may feel silly at the moment, doing this trains your hand-eye coordination, and gives you a better sense of every movement your hand is making.

Bonus tip: While you can use either a pen or pencil, I recommend using a pen (with quick-drying ink) instead, because it’s not like you can erase any lines anyway, plus it won’t smudge.

#2: Non-Dominant Hand Drawing/Painting

Along a similar vein, you can try drawing or painting with your non-dominant hand. If you’re ambidextrous, I guess you could skip this challenge! But you can get interesting results with your other hand, as it’s not trained as much for those fine motor skills as your dominant hand is.

Arguably, we’re all ambidextrous to some extent – we like to use our right hand for some things, and our left for others. So it’s not like our non-dominant hand is completely incompetent!

You’ll probably find that you’re drawing or painting quite a bit slower, and the result may be something more child-like, but that’s completely fine. Maybe you’ll even discover a different art style with your non-dominant hand!

Bonus tip: For an extra challenge, you can try drawing with both hands at the same time. You can either draw the same subject, or two different ones depending on how difficult you want to make it for yourself. 

#3: The Scribble (Or Squiggle) Challenge

You might have seen this before – a scribble is randomly generated by a computer or someone, and as the artist, you take that scribble and interpret it in your way. We’ve been posting these random scribbles for this particular challenge for a while on our Instagram account!

You can take it digitally and get an exact copy of the scribble, but you could freehand it as well. Just draw the first thing that comes to mind when you see the scribble.

If you like the drawing you end up with, you can paint or colour it later. But in general, this challenge helps give a kickstart to get those creative juices flowing, and encourages more lateral thinking.

#4: Timed Challenge

If you want to improve your art skills in terms of speed, you could try the timed challengeIt’s a pretty simple idea: draw or paint the same subject several times, but with each subsequent reiteration, cut the amount of time you use in half.

For example, the first drawing or painting can be 20 minutes long (set a timer or an alarm so you aren’t tempted to go over the time limit!). The next one will be half that time, so 10 minutes long, so on and so forth until you get to however little time you want to use.

I’ve seen artists go down from 10 minutes to 10 seconds, while others go from 20 minutes to 1 minute. The intervals don’t have to be halves, either – you could go 20 minutes to 2 minutes to 20 seconds, or 10 minutes to 9, to 8, and so on. It’s just that with halving, you get a regular yet exponentially less time than before, so the difference between each reiteration is more obvious and almost quantifiable.

At the very end, you can do one last painting or drawing using the same amount of time as when you first started the challenge, and see what you’ve learned along the way. The timed challenge should help your hand’s muscle memory, plus also give you a better idea of which details are the most important, and which ones can be grouped together or even left out.

#5: Huge Paintbrush Challenge

Last but not least is the huge paintbrush challenge, which involves – you guessed it – a huge paintbrush!

For this, you’ll need a large paintbrush. It can be a round or a flat brush, or even a fan brush; whichever you feel like using. In terms of a painting subject, you can either reproduce a painting you’ve done before or do something new. Reproducing a past painting is in my opinion the better option though since you can compare how the paintbrush affects the way you paint.

With a large brush, you’re forced to omit some of the smaller details. You can still get some details with the edge of a large flat brush, or even a large round brush if it comes to a sharp point, but hopefully, the larger brush size lets you find ways to work around those tiny details rather than give you more grief.

I find that using a large brush makes me paint more loosely, yet with more intention on each brushstroke, since each one is so visible. It’s also great for the wet-in-wet technique, plus it covers a lot of ground quickly, so each painting doesn’t take too long to complete.

Bonus tip: For an extra challenge, use a smaller sheet of paper or canvas! 

All Fired Up

I hope you get the chance to try out some of these challenges! Each one may seem simple on the surface, but they’re all designed to be fun while helping you improve your art skills in some way. They’re especially good if you’re getting bored in your art practice, or if you’re stuck in one way or another.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a whole new way of drawing or painting that’s perfect for you.

Did you try any of these challenges? Which one was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below! In addition, if you’re curious and want to learn more about the art process, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter. Whether you’re a beginner or a long-time artist, we’ll notify you of all the latest happenings with Etchr!

Nicola Tsoi is a practising graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 

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