In the spirit of ~making more art~, I decided last month to commit to my first October art challenge. I am pleased to report that I pushed through and made finished artwork everyday (group shot above)!
To give a brief overview, October art challenges began with the popularity of Inktober. Artists were encouraged to draw anything based on the daily prompt using ink and share their illustrations on social media using the hashtag. Inktober fell into controversy sometime last year, which proliferated many other art challenges from artists/influencers during the month of October. I chose to follow Peachtober, a challenge created by Sha'an d'Anthes (furrylittlepeach).
Below I’ll go into the preparation, process, self-critique, and reflection on completing Peachtober. Thanks as always for reading and would love to hear any questions or feedback you have!
Preparation & process:
The prompt list for Peachtober (above) was released in early September. I was quite overwhelmed initially looking at this, getting distracted by prompts that I didn’t want to draw and not sure to unify everything I would be making. Thankfully, a lovely Instagram friend Dorothy posted this video on how to prepare for an art challenge, which outlined clear action items to get started!
Clarify goals. My main goal was to complete my first art challenge. Mostly I felt salty about starting a 100 day sketchbook project in January and giving up by week 2, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could commit. Some secondary goals were to have a consistent color palette and character in each piece. This was how I decided to incorporate a duck character everyday (I am not partial to ducks in particular—I like most birds, but ducks are cute and easy to stylize!)
Choose a medium. I was focused on ease of use when deciding materials since I wanted to make it easy for me to find the time and energy to make a piece every day. I decided to use a limited number of brush pens and colored pencils on 3x3 hot press paper. By day 5 I ended up switching my medium to gouache paint—but more on that later!
Ideate and sketch thumbnails. I wrote out all of the prompt words in my sketchbook and jotted down word associations of what came to mind. I sat with just the words for a few days before beginning to sketch. For each prompt I tried to come up with three different thumbnails/ideas a few days before (I would usually batch these, tackling five or so prompts at a time). I wasn’t able to do that for every prompt, but generally I found making thumbnails for more than one idea was really helpful in spurring my generative brain! There were a few days I ended up going with a completely different idea from what I had sketched, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to come up with that idea without clearing out “idea gunk”, so to speak.
I started making final artworks the last week of September. I had travel planned for the first few days of October so getting a head start was crucial. The first few pieces were really tough (read: I did not know what the heck I was doing) but the impending deadline of posting stopped me from ruminating too much. After returning from travel, I mostly stuck to a schedule of sketching two days in advance, painting one day in advance, and posting finished artwork in the morning.
I learned and grew so much this past month thanks to Peachtober! I’m proud that I showed up every day to complete the challenge, and that there are a bunch of pieces that I truly love. I got to more deeply discover what I gravitate towards drawing (home scenes, food, fashion, pop culture references, animals, vintage packaging).
Most importantly there were many days when the challenge felt fun (though there were also definitely days it felt like homework) and I felt really happy that I could enjoy the process and find joy in my own art, outside of any external validation. Some of the more difficult prompts like “spade” or “submarine” were surprisingly the ones I ended up enjoying the most, since I was forced to think about how I could create a piece that I could have fun with instead of just drawing the prompt word.
I ended up switching to using gouache paints by day 5 because I didn’t like how my use of brush pens made the pieces look sketchy, not finished. Changing midway meant my color palette became inconsistent (maybe even chaotic?) but I am really happy I switched and got to familiarize myself more with gouache. I was nervous to choose gouache initially even though it’s the medium I most want to focus on because I feared how long I would take on each piece, but I found a good groove of painting at nighttime.
Throughout this challenge I discovered that photographing and editing artwork is a whole process! On my Instagram you’ll see variations of daily shots—some with a background, some with a flat lay including materials, and some cropped in. I found myself wishing that I made bigger pieces so it could photograph more nicely and that I had a scanner so I could more properly edit and clean up before posting. Overall these aren’t hugely important factors though, and photographing my work and cleaning up in Lightroom is serving me well for now.
If I had to choose top areas of improvement for next time, it would be to create more of a consistent character and to converge on a color palette. Regarding the character, although most pieces had a pink duck with a yellow bill, there were minor inconsistencies like the shape of the bill or feet that I wish I explored and decided on before the challenge. For color, I used a lot of yellow, warm red, blue, green, brown, and black—which is a good start for identifying what colors I gravitate toward! I’d like to learn how to better use complementary colors within a piece and push myself to use more consistent shades of blue and green.
(From left to right, top to bottom)
Fall: Ghost ducks walking in the neighborhood—it’s simple and cute with limited colors. Really happy with how I didn’t overwork this one.
Treehouse: Duck peeping out from a tree—I disliked this one when I finished and felt like I overworked the piece, but looking back I really like the multiple layers and feeling that this one gives.
Scout: Moonrise Kingdom based scout master ducks—it was such a joy to redraw pop culture references “in my style”, which I did here and with the “beetle” Beatles prompt!
Uniform: Duck in Korean royal guard uniform—I wanted at least one of my Peachtober pieces to incorporate yarn somehow. This was the one! Would love to play more with incorporating textiles/fiber into paper.
Sound: iPod with duck inside—Love the warmth of this indoor scene, paralleling the comfort that music provides.
Harvest: Jesa table honoring ancestor duck—This piece did the best on IG and I am so so happy because I love it! I’m surprised it turned out well because I didn’t plan very much of it in advance, but I think it’s because I took my time while painting and enjoyed the process. I also love the wet on wet technique I used for the rice cakes on the right bottom corner.
Summit: Two ducks at Arches National Park—This one was painted based on a photo reference my parents sent me of themselves enjoying the park. Feel sentimental about this one ❤️
Submarine: Duck with sub sandwich bill —I am really proud of this idea, which came to me randomly before going to bed 🙃
Spade: Duck wearing Kate Spade—Silly fashion illustrations are fun and I want to do more of it! This was another example of good results from a prompt I was dreading.
My least favorites:
Jar: Moon jar with duck—I generally like loose brushwork but really wish I cleaned up the shape of that jar. It looks so wonky!
Sun: Sunburnt duck on holiday—The colors here make me feel nauseous 🤢 but I did like the sunburn effect and blending I tried here.
Honey: Dalgona candies, including a duck-shaped one—This one felt like a lazy derivative idea (though it did do well on IG because Squid Game is so popular).
Orange: Duck watching a kdrama while eating lots of satsuma oranges—I would like to redraw this one, so that the oranges could be more visible! Also that blanket is very cool toned compared to the rest of the warm piece, so I would try to balance out colors.
Thunder: Duck cozily reading indoors while it storms outside—Poor color choices and wish I characterized the duck differently. I did have fun painting the details on this piece though.
Water: Ducks doing hot yoga—I like the composition here but wish I used warmer pinks to emphasize the heat.
# of finalized artworks: 31
# of redrawn artworks: 5
# of times featured on @peachtober: 3 on feed, 2 on stories
# of days traveling and lugging around art supplies: 8
If you read this far down or have skimmed and reached the end, thank you either way! I hope you learned something or were inspired to try something new from what I’ve shared. I’d love to hear from you—have you done an art challenge before? If so, what were your biggest struggles with it and what did you learn? If not, what’s stopping you and how can I help?
If you’d like to see more of my art, you can always find my latest updates on Instagram. Otherwise I’ll meet you in your inbox next month 👋