October can be a busy time for us artists. Each year, thousands of artists around the world use this month to focus on drawing daily by participating in a month-long drawing challenge. Right now, we’re a little over halfway through Inktober/Drawlloween/Creeptober or whatever other art challenges you’re into.
Personally, I’m following Mab Grave’s #Drawlloween drawing challenge and aiming to draw a character design every day in October. I’ve been having a blast and this challenge has helped me get my sketchbook mojo back after working so hard on my Layla and the Bots #3 final art deadline.
I’ve drawn 19 out of 19 days of this drawing challenge and have been really satisfied with how they’ve turned out. Drawing challenges are great motivators, but they can also breed pressure, perfectionism, comparison, mid-way creative block, failure, and disappointment. So I started thinking: why am I doing well this year—what’s different about this year’s drawing challenge?
If I can find out what’s helping me do well this time, maybe I can short-cut it next time I inevitably struggle during a drawing challenge. I mulled it over in my mind all week and I’ve narrowed it down to one concept: self-compassion.
Confidence in Drawing Challenges
I often talk about becoming more confident and comfortable with our art, but the most accurate description of what I aim to help myself and others do is to become more compassionate with our art.
Confidence alone won’t help us complete drawing challenges. If we only focus on being confident in our work, we often begin to take our work too seriously and try to inflate our self-esteem by comparing ourselves to others. And that comparison, paradoxically, tends to make us feel worse about ourselves. Especially during a drawing challenge when so many artists are pumping out so much amazing work.
And then, when we inevitably mess up a drawing or miss a day, any confidence we managed to build up flies right out the window.
So instead of confidence, I use self-compassion to help me complete drawing challenges.
Self-Compassion for Artists: The ability to be kind and gentle with ourselves while accepting that we’re all imperfect and we all make imperfect art.
When we mess up a drawing or miss a day during a drawing challenge, we often react viscerally to that failure. We immediately start thinking:
- This shouldn’t be happening.
- Drawing daily is easy for other artists.
- Everyone else is creating beautiful masterpieces.
- Other artists don’t struggle this much.
- Why am I struggling so much with this?
And that discrepancy between your experience and what you perceive others to experience is where the real issue lies. We begin to believe we’re the only ones struggling during a drawing challenge, while everyone else is doing great, making a perfect piece of art every day.
Embracing Self-Compassion During Drawing Challenges
When we get in that mindset, our confidence is already long gone. It got one whiff of failure and peaced out. But thankfully, our self-compassion is still here with us.
Tapping into that self-compassion helps us zoom out, look at our art more humbly, and realize that everyone messes up. We are not Art-Gods who never make a mistake. We’re humans, and we’re all just out here stumbling and fumbling our way around. When we can look at our mistakes with acceptance, the crushing pressure of perfection falls away.
And with that weight lifted off our shoulders, we’re free to draw. We’re able to explore, experiment, play, and make mistakes. We’re more motivated to draw, enjoy drawing more, and are more satisfied with what we create.
With clear eyes and a lighter attitude, we’re able to see our mistakes, accept them, learn from them, and move on to the next mark, the next piece of art, the next day of the drawing challenge.