There are days where I have no idea what to make, and others where I have so many I’m not quite sure where to start. But as I walk foreword into this career change I have learned a few things. One of which is that consistency is key. You need to be able to show that you can produce multiple pieces that all have the same look and feel. This shows potential clients that you can deliver what they are expecting. That great piece in your portfolio isn’t just a fluke.
One way to do this is work in a series. October is coming and it is the month of Inktober – one of the most popular series challenges out there. I’m going to level with you here, I don’t always love the Inktober prompts. Or I need something else to inspire me. So I’ve collected thirty series, personal projects and challenges to inspire you to make something.
1. Paint Vintage Tin Cans – Inspired by artist Miriam Bos who did a whole month of vintage-inspired tin cans. According to her website, she started with painting actual cans and then decided to make up her own.
2. Paint a Series of Recipes – Food is a huge business. Just think about the number of publications that publish recipes every month. There are also a number of companies who license art that put illustrated recipes on everything from prints to tea towels. So Try illustrating your favorite recipes.
3. Draw 30 – Pick anything and draw 30 of them. 30 desserts, 30 birds, 30 cocktails, 30 flowers, 30 insects, 30 butterflies. Not only is this a series and can help you be known as the person who paints birds, but it will help you learn your own personal visual vocabulary for this object. You will get faster at creating images with this object because of the repetition.
4. Book Covers – Pick your favorite book covers and redesign them in your style. You could do something like classic kids books, or design covers for a series. Redesign the covers for Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, Wizard of Oz (which is actually a series). Or do some updated covers for stories that are slightly older like Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys.
5. Movie Posters – same as with the book covers, take movies whether they are new or classics, and make a poster for them. This and the book covers are actually great projects because you have to understand the essence of what this story is about and design an image that will both catch attention and make someone want to read the back cover or see the movie.
6. Illustrate a series of Nursery Rhymes – If you are into lettering and typography you could include the text of the nursery rhyme in the image, but if type isn’t your strong suit leave it out. Either leave a space where text would go, or ignore the text altogether and just do a spot illustration.
7. Draw an Alphabet of… Draw an alphabet of animals, or, drinks, food, bugs. Basically anything else you can make an alphabetical list of. A is for Apple.
8. Things that all start with the same letter – How many things can you think of that start with D? Duck, dog, dragon, dinosaur,
9. Draw a counting illustration– draw a series of illustrations for counting, like you might find in a board book. 10 butterflies, 9 caterpillars….
10. Illustrate a saying from WTF Should I Letter – a great website with random sayings for you to letter.
11. Participate in Hourly Comics Day – on Feb 1 every year comic artists rise to the challenge of keeping an illustrated hourly journal once an hour for every hour they are awake.
12. Illustrate the definition of a word.
13. Animal Mad Libs – Pick an animal then add a subject, verb, and/or adjective. Cute Camels at a Cookout, Daring Dog Scientists, Angry Hippo Dance.
14. Something Kids Like – Vague I know. But this one comes from Tara Lazar’s list of 500+ Things Kids Like
15. Something Kids Hate – Another List from Tara Lazar. 100+ Things Kids Don’t Like
16. Draw a holiday card – Especially since it’s 2020 and we are all supposed to be social distancing, draw a card and send it to someone you love. You know, happy mail.
17. Draw This In Your Style – this is a great hashtag on Instagram where artists post their own art and invite other artists to recreate the drawing in their own style
18. MerMay – An instagram art challenge started by @Tombancroft1 to draw a different mermaid for every day in May. #MerMay
19. Potter Week Prompts – Started by @TarynDraws for Harry Potter Fans. A week of prompts that ends with Harry’s birthday on July 31.
20. Doodle a Day – a monthly list of prompts started by @ellolovely
21. #52Letters – design one letter of the alphabet per week.
22. 1 Letter 16 Ways – a challenge created by @IanBarnard to draw one letter 16 different ways
23 Folktale Week – A week of prompts to celebrate folktales that runs the second or third week in November. Checkout @folktaleweek on Instagram.
24. Erin Barker’s Character Design Roulette – Erin created a great download of random character traits and she has you draw a squiggly line to figure out which combo to use. I think you could also number each option and throw a dice to get your challenge. Or use a random number generator.
25. SVS Learn Portfolio Perfection – I Love SVS Learn. Love it. The guys run a podcast called 3 Point Perspective. And in this episode, they share a list from their portfolio class about what things should go into a great children’s illustration portfolio. Scroll to the bottom of the page to check out the list. And of course, listen to the episode.
27. Illustrate a newspaper or magazine article – This is particularly great if you want to break into editorial illustration. You have to read the article and try to capture the essence in an illustration.
28. Redesign a Game – Redraw the art for a classic game like Chutes and Ladders, or CandyLand. You could also redesign card games like Old Maid, or just redesign a classic deck of cards.
29. Go For A Walk – Don’t listen to your music, don’t bring a friend to chat with. Just walk. Walk your neighborhood, walk a park. There is research that says we need to provide our brains down time to be creative. The fact that our phones allow us to never be bored because we can check, swipe, tweet or whatever with every waking minute can be stopping us. So go for a walk. Try to be present in the moment and draw something you saw when you get back.
30. Danny Gregory’s Every Day Matters Prompt List – a list of 300+ things to draw from Artist Danny Gregory
Just Keep Drawing.
I will be updating this list with other challenges I find. Did I miss any that you like? Comment below so we can all get in on the inspiration.