top of page

6 Things I've Learned From Hosting An Instagram Art Challenge

If you follow any artists on Instagram, you know that drawing challenges are hard to miss. From daily to weekly prompts, florals challenges to DTIYS (draw this in your style)... It's all there. Don't believe me? Just search for #artchallenge and you'll find over 3,000,000 posts.

Although I' had already joined in here and there, I could never fully commit to more than one or two prompts from an Instagramart challenge. So, last month, I decided to host my own. My theme was Excuses to Celebrate, and I illustrated a different "weird" holiday for each day of September. Here are some insights into how it went, what I learned in the process, and things to consider if you're thinking about hosting your own:

1- It's a great way to hone in on your skills and "find" your creative voice

The first part is simple: The more you practice something, the better you get. I used this challenge in part to help me get better at lettering. So, I pushed myself to include more quotes than I'd typically illustrate, and the last one felt significantly easier than the first.

But what about finding your style? Well, I always say that style is not something you find. It's a choice you make. (I even have a Skillshare class about this). For this, I think the challenge can help in two different ways, depending on where you are as an artist:

• If you already have a fair amount of art that you are proud of, but feel like it isn't as cohesive as you'd like:

Look at the art you already have, what details stand out to you? What do you enjoy drawing the most? What colors are you drawn to? Having a style guideline with a set color palette during a challenge will make your work consistent, and after a while, you won't even need to refer to it anymore. I enjoy having my style guideline visible, just to keep me on track, so I've printed mine and taped it to the wall. You can download a template to create your own guide from my resources library.

Download your free style guide template

•If you don't have work to evaluate:

Having a project like this, will help you create consistently through a certain amount of time, which should give you enough material to evaluate at the end of the challenge. If you'd like to jump straight into working on a style, I'd also suggest you also create the style guideline with how you envision your work and practice sticking with it. Remember that your style can change, and that is perfectly fine. Go through what's working and what isn't, and update your guideline as you grow.

In either case, during a challenge, you might be faced with drawing something you had never thought of drawing before, and getting out of your comfort zone can bring some awesome surprises along the way.

2-Spreading the word can help you commit

The biggest motivator for me to commit to a month-long challenge was the fact that I said it out loud. I mentioned it on social media, on Skillshare, to my family and friends... I might've even mentioned it to my dog, Iggy! Once the idea was out of my head and into the world, I felt I had to follow through. Like I had to keep my word, you know? I said I would do it, and so I did. After all, how could I let Iggy down? 😉

3- Letting go of perfectionism

One of the nicest surprises I found during the challenge was being able to put this into practice. I committed to a daily challenge, and I had a deadline. Also, I couldn't spend all day solely focusing on this. Some days, I had more time to work on it, others less. And that was OK. I accepted that done was better than perfect and gave myself credit for showing up everyday.

4- DIFY- Do it FOR yourself

The first time I ever considered hosting an art challenge, I thought: "But what if nobody joins?". That fear kept me still and made me give up on even trying.

I started this challenge with a different mindset. The goal here was to keep a consistent art practice, improve my lettering skills, be more consistent with my social media posts, and have fun! And I did achieve all of those goals! Of course, I would've loved it if hundreds of people had joined in (I even had a giveaway to encourage participation)... BUT that would've been a nice plus. The fact that it didn't happen didn't ruin it for me, because it wasn't part of the goals I set. I try to set goals that I have at least SOME control over, and this is something I can't. So I focused on the things that I could- the stuff that depend only on me.

5- Schedule breaks - what I'll do differently next time

I have to admit I could have planned this challenge better. But sometimes, I have to grab an idea and run with it. Otherwise, I tend to overthink and get stuck on things I shouldn't (like "What if nobody joins?"). So I just made a list of holidays, announced it, and got started.

Next time, I'll probably keep it Monday through Friday only, as I try to reserve Saturdays and Sundays for family time - something I didn't think about during the planning stage.

On the bright side, this set up helped me realize that I do love drawing every day throughout the week and prefer daily over weekly prompts. I think it's because I could incorporate into my daily routine, while the weekly prompts are easier to leave for the last minute and kind of catch me by surprise every time.

6- Set goals and be mindful of your time

This is a bit of a mix of both # 4 and # 5, but I think it's very useful and deserved a spot on the list. Think of something you'd like to achieve, but keep your own schedule in mind. It doesn't have to be overwhelming and stressful - this will only make you hate it! If you are super busy, keep it simple. Plan it around something that won't take you hours to create.

Here are some ideas:

•If you want to improve your lettering: Try doing a single word challenge. Make a list of words you'd like to illustrate and pick one for each day.

•If you want to improve your observational drawing: Do a 5-minute challenge. Set a timer and draw an object that's right in front of you

•If you want to practice showing up everyday: Try a zentangle challenge. This would be a way to relax at the end of the day and still create something.

•If you enjoy making art that's more time consuming, but still want to work on a daily challenge: break it up into steps and share your progress daily as part of the challenge. This could work well for a weekly prompt, split into parts. Like, Monday you would share the sketch, Tuesday the base colors, and so on, to have the finished piece on Friday.

Remember, if you're not having a good time, it will feel like one more chore- and I believe most of us have enough already, right? I tried to set myself up for something that was a step above my comfort zone, but still manageable.

Were there days that I actually didn't want to do it? Heck, yes! But to be quite honest, it happened less than I expected, and most were right in the beginning of the challenge. That's when I focused on # 3 and gave myself a pat in the back (quite literally) for pushing through.

Overall, I think it was a great experience and I will definitely host another Instagram art challenge soon. I've heard that some people plan ahead and sketch out all the prompts so all they have to do is finish the illustrations once the challenge is on. I tried this for a few days, and thought it was helpful for thinking of the concept, but most of the times, I just re-did the whole thing every day. Like this National Chocolate Milk Day example. The workflow that I enjoyed the most was loosely sketching the art on the night before (I love drawing in bed before I go to sleep) and then working on it the next day.

Right as I got started, I took a Skillshare class by Claire Makes Things that was SUPER helpful and got me really excited about puns: Drawing Puns in Procreate: Short & Sweet Lettering (Claire is a master at illustrating puns!). Coming up with puns isn't something that's easy for me, so I did plan ahead for lines I could use based on the holidays. Some made it to finished illustrations, others didn't.

And on a final note: Don't forget to sign your work! This is SO important and I'll go into more detail on a future post, but you want to make sure people can find you if your work gets shared without credits. So sign your name (making sure is legible) and/or write your social media handle. However you prefer to do it, just don't discredit yourself for your work. (During the challenge, I came across a really good kids book related to this, by Peter H. Reynolds called "The Dot". Check out my entry for National Dot Day here).

By the way, some of the work from my Instagram art challenge made their way to my Etsy shop as printable greeting cards and art prints! Check it out here 💝

Coffee Ice Cream digital greeting card art

Make Your Bed digital greeting card art

 Love is Cheesy digital greeting card art

I hope this encourages you to try hosting your own challenge. Please tag me @ByThaisQ if you do, I would love to check it out and cheer you on!


bottom of page