I painted 50 works of art within 10 weeks, as we traveled from Croatia to Greece with our tiny home on wheels. Travel along, find out how the challenge went and find tips for your own creative challenge
Last fall, we packed our campervan again and headed south. Soon we were used to the almost daily drives and adventures wove through the newly established routines of our van-household.
My creative process had to find new forms too, physically - a place in the van, but also in time and flow. I was in a computery, not-so-much-painting phase, which was easy to combine with a lot of driving. But: if I create little art for a period, my head seems all the more preoccupied with it. Paintings are (over) analyzed, visions are refined, new styles are explored, 'thought paintings' are painted and my mind finds many things that could improve. An important part of my process for sure, but one that needs to be treated with caution – because it can turn into a kind of paralyzing judgment, an erratic threshold that makes creating for the sake of creating terrifying.
So it was time to dive head first into the creative process again. And how better than with a challenge: a challenge to make a lot in a relatively short time. Not paintstakingly force out one masterpiece, but to just make something every day. The focus on the process, making a habit of creating.
I started on November 1st. We were in Croatia at the time and I had spent the previous days preparing paper, picking out reference photos and setting up some sketches. Several artists and creators had announced via Instagram that they would also participate - I was looking forward to it!
The first week I painted the sea and the mountains, the bright colors we had encountered in the Dolomites. Often, I would start the day with painting and after lunch we would go explore. The preparations helped immensely and soon I'd found flow again. I enjoyed the space I felt to make whatever I felt like that day and found it special to browse through the growing pile of painted memories.
But as the days, weeks, went by, it also got tougher. We traveled considerable distances - wandered from Croatia through Bosnia-Herzegovina to Montenegro and saw the cultures become less and less European on the way to Albania. Daily life was full of spontaneous outings, meetings and unexpected bumps in the road and with the days getting shorter and shorter it became a daily struggle to get anything done. I enjoyed myself less, my flow became thick syrup.
Around Christmas I took 10 days off, from other projects, but also from the challenge. That was great! Not only because I could fully enjoy the travel, but also because my fingers itched again after 10 days and there was more space in my thinking and feeling.
I got back in on artwork 37, and now in Greece. Those last 13 days are perhaps my favorites, the pressure had decreased a bit, I was mainly painting with acrylics - which works and dries quickly. In addition, we also slowed down a bit in our travels. The brushes lay looser in my hand, my brush strokes became more playful and therefore freer, and I was happier with the results.
It might be one of the biggest lessons of these 10 weeks, however logical it may be: I paint better when I am relaxed, when I don't set the bar too high. When I create what is on my heart. Good self-care, rest, enough space and time all contribute to a better making process.
More takeaways from these 10 weeks
Acrylics are awesome! I started about 7 years ago with this medium, but soon put it aside for watercolor, oil paints and later gouache. I take my disapproval back completely: how wonderful to be able to work fast, to keep all the paint strokes visible and to build up textures!
Making something (almost) every day lowers the threshold for making something. Just getting the stuff ready seems like less work if you do it every day. Your brain links actions to making and starting something becomes less and less daunting. There's not a whole lot of pressure for a piece to be perfect either: tomorrow is another day.
By experimenting a lot - in my use of colors, paint strokes, medium - I got to know my own form language a little better.
You store memories differently when you paint them! This is méga cool and interesting: for many paintings I remember exactly where we were when I made them, often even which podcast episode or playlist I was listening to. It's such a good and pleasant way of giving memories a place.
The cooperation between hands and brain can be trained. I soon noticed that setting up a painting started to become an automatic process. More and more proportions went right on intuition and I noticed that I was better able to deal with 'mistakes'. 'I've done this so many times before, so today I'll be able to fix it too' became a mantra, a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.
And of course a lot of new inspiration! It always surprises me, but the more I make, the more inspiration comes to me. Also something you train maybe. Each painting has something I want to explore further - several ideas for new, large collections have arisen during the making process!
Here's how to turn your creative challenge into a success
Set your own rules. Even if you're participating in an existing challenge - take the liberty of tweaking the rules so that they feel achievable. Rather make it slightly too 'easy', than making it too big a of challenge to finish.
Give yourself the space to work ahead, really. It may feel like cheating, but again: you set the rules. There are going to be days when you just can't do it and that's okay. Give yourself the grace of a little buffer. For example, in the form of a finished work, prepared canvases/paper, a folder of reference photos, prompts, guidelines, sketches, a nice playlist, etc.
Consider scheduling a break from your challenge.
Share your challenge! This will give you that extra push and support you need. You can do this on social media, but you could also co-create with a friend or family member. It's fun if you can do it together!
Don't be like me and don't do challenges in the middle of winter 😉 (Unless of course you have no problem making/photographing in artificial light) - what a battle against the clock it was every day!
Have fun. It will be difficult at times and that's okay (those are also moments you can learn a lot from) but don't create yourself a burnout! In general, the idea is just to have a moment for yourself and your making process every day <3
And now? It's just a matter adjusting to a new sort of flow again. We are currently in Turkey and finally bought some larger canvases: that collection of larger work is coming! I am very much looking forward to starting it soon and until then I am working on some commissions. For now, I'm enjoying taking it easy, chewing on ideas a bit more - we'll see when the circle starts from the beginning again.