You can’t use (50) shades of grey, but you have to simulate them by thinking in terms of crosshatching.
If you are a traditional painter using acrylic paint, try some digital art with a graphics tablet (the Wacom Intuos Pro M has kind of become the industry standard – I use it, too).
It opens up a completely different world for you:
You have to look at the computer screen while drawing, instead of looking at your artwork.
You can pick and choose colors instantaneously without an arduous mixing process that dirties your fingers. And you can enjoy the comfort of „CTRL + Z“.
If you like colored pencils, try normal pencils.
It’s similar enough that you don’t have to relearn the mechanics, but it’s a novel challenge because you have to think in terms of values instead of colors.
2. Paint Something Large (Or Small)
The size of your artwork is another
aspect you can experiment with. Changing it will rock your world and
confront you with a new challenge.
For example, I normally only create artworks in A4 size (8,27 by 11,69 inches), but last year I challenged myself and did this street painting that is even bigger than my body (which is unbelievably big).
It was quite intimidating at first, but I got the hang of it sooner or later.
With a big picture like that you have to work with your whole arm and even your whole body instead of just using your wrist and fingers.
And you constantly have to take a step back to get an overview of the whole picture.
This year I did an even bigger street
painting, a collaboration with a fellow (tattoo) artist of my
She is used to working on these big pieces and said that she finds it
more difficult to create something small.
So it goes the other way, too. The idea is to challenge yourself with a size that is way bigger (or smaller) than what you are used to and learn from it.
3. Paint In Black And White
Painting in black and white is a great challenge. I love using black and white (check my gallery to see for yourself)!
This is a great way to try something new, especially if you are used to creating colored artwork. Like I said above, you have to think in terms of crosshatching instead of gradients.
You can take this one step further and make it really interesting by just using black shapes and no outlines at all.
A great example of this is Frank Miller’s art style in Sin City.
Most of the time he doesn’t use any outlines whatsoever.
Doing this makes you have to think about how you use black and white:
You have to balance describing silhouettes, form shadows and cast shadows all by just using black and white shapes.
So simple and yet so hard!
Doing it wrong can quickly lead to an unreadable mess of a picture, but doing it right can make for a maybe simple, but really amazing piece of work!
4. Create An Artwork In Greyscale
This is similar to drawing and painting idea #3.
Drawing or painting in greyscale forces you to learn how to use values effectively. In this style of artwork, you have to use values to describe local colors. This can be a little challenge at first.
You will see what I mean, if you convert an image to greyscale in Photoshop (or any other graphics program):
An image might look great in color, but it somehow doesn’t work in grey tones.
Let’s say you have an image of yourself
with the sky in the background. It might look alright, but as soon as
you convert it to greyscale, it looks like the sky and your face
become one object. You lose the hard edge.
That’s because the sky and your face
have the same value, but different colors. The colors enable you to
differentiate between them, but take them away and you are left with
a grey mess.
That’s a problem you have to overcome with artwork in grayscale:
Instead of thinking „What color am I going to paint this?“ you have to think „How bright am I going to paint this grey value?“.
It can be hard at first, but it’s also liberating because it simplifies things: You don’t constantly have to think about color theory and harmony all the time. You get back to the basics!
5. Make A Painting With A Time Limit
How much time do you usually need for a
As for me, I happen to need around 10 hours for one of my finished A4 sized pieces.
That’s partly due to the media I like to use:
Pencils, colored pencils, fineliners and brush pens. These materials have small tips and thus take a long time to cover a lot of space on the canvas or paper.
A friend of mine I mentioned above
usually only takes 2 to 5 hours for a finished (big) painting.
However long YOU need, you can try to set a time limit. Doing this forces you to think and act faster and keeps you from drawing too many details.
Depending on how far you want to push this game you can even do something like the „Drawing X in 1 hour / 10 minutes / 1 minute“-challenges that are popular on YouTube. Like this:
6. Do An Art Challenge To Push Yourself
Drawing and painting idea #5 was all about time and a way to push yourself by limiting it.
You can take this one step further and do some crazy art challenges to really test your mettle!
Try something like this and see, if it
doesn’t get your creativity back:
I hadn’t until last year and this year
I’ve already done my second one.
If you’re like me, you’ve basically always been drawing and painting for yourself and probably inside the house most of the time.
I have been, too, until I got the chance to do a live painting in the middle of my hometown.
You can watch the video of it here:
It’s an interesting experience to have an audience while practicing your craft.
In a way it’s like public speaking:
You might be anxious beforehand, but the nervousness goes away more and more while you are doing it.
It’s a great way to push yourself to do something new (and exciting and challenging) and learn something on the way.
It takes the private and recreational element of creating art away and transforms it into a public „event“.
In my case it was a combination of this and idea #1 and #2 because I hadn’t really painted anything that big before, let alone with brushes!
Sometimes you have to jump in at the deep end and just do it. Good things will happen once you do that, trust me.
13. Collaborate With Other Artists
Art tends to be a lonely hobby sometimes because you’re so focused on yourself and your progress.
It doesn’t have to be!
This year I was contacted by a fellow artist from my hometown. She painted a beautiful picture next to my Joker picture of my first live painting that I mentioned above and asked if I wanted to collaborate with her on a big painting.
It ended up being another live painting (see drawing and painting idea #12). One thing can lead to another.
This is what it looks like:
Collaborations can open you up to whole new worlds because you might be able to see things in a different light than you have before.
Every artist has his unique style and history and will by himself be able to inspire you and point you in new directions you probably hadn’t even thought of before.
Reach out to people around you!
Try to find like-minded artists in your hometown or use social media. The possibilities are endless!
14. Take An Online (Or Offline) Art Class
Sometimes being a lone wolf like Wolverine can be what holds you back.
Like I said in idea #13, sometimes the viewpoint and input of another person can be what sparks your creativity again.
Instead of directly collaborating with other artists you should consider taking an art class.
A good teacher is probably able to see if you make typical mistakes all his students make and can set you on the right path to improvement.
It might also be motivating if he is an amazing artist himself and shares his work and progress with you.
But even if that’s too old-fashioned for you, there are a ton of online art classes nowadays.
Even on YouTube there are many amazing channels with videos teaching art. A lot of those offer premium courses, if you want to dive deeper, like Stan Prokopenko.