18 Days of 10-Minute Challenges

Silhouette of London, challenge painting #1

If you follow me on Instagram (@rachel.woo86) you might have seen that, back in the middle of the month, somewhat randomly, I decided to challenge myself to painting a new sketch every day, which I’d give myself 10 minutes to complete. (It wasn’t completely at random; I read an article in Artist’s Magazine about a woman who found her way back to painting by setting aside just 10 minutes every day.) I thought it would be a good way to get myself painting regularly in the new year, and 10 minutes seemed like an easy, low bar. Well, today marks the final day of the challenge; so, how did I do?

Basically, it depends on how you want to measure success. I did not paint every day, so in that regard, it was a bit of a fail: I tended to batch paint them in pairs every couple of days. I also didn’t time myself precisely to make sure I was painting for 10 minutes exactly, though I tried to stay within that range for most of them (I usually didn’t count the initial pencil sketch in that 10-minute total, if I did one).

Bridge in Lexington, KY — challenge painting #2. For this one, I just started painting, without sketching in pencil first.

I should have had 18 completed sketches by today. This was also a fail (though the day isn’t over yet!). As of this morning, I have 13 completed, plus three more that are waiting for paint.

So, what were my biggest obstacles in this challenge? Here they are, in order of impact:

  1. FIGURING OUT WHAT TO PAINT. Yes, the blank canvas (or sheet of paper, in this case) is the hardest part. I’d say most days it took me 10 minutes or more just to decide what I wanted to paint that day. Some days I only actually had about 10-15 minutes to dedicate to the whole endeavor, and I didn’t do it because I couldn’t think of where to start.
  2. SCREEN TIME. My next personal challenge should be a “screen free” challenge. There’s really no excuse, other than I fall down the rabbit hole on both my phone and my computer. Part of the trouble of course is that most of my source material is in Google Photos. Once that browser or app opens, it’s anyone’s guess as to how focused I’ll stay.
  3. UNEXPECTED DISTRACTIONS. AND EXPECTED DISTRACTIONS. My mom visited me a few days into the challenge for a long weekend. My birthday was in there (on which I actually did paint, to my credit). Friends wanted to hang out (I don’t have many good ones here in Illinois yet, so this is a big deal to me). Everyday tasks (cleaning, cooking, etc.) took longer than expected. I’ve never been good at setting aside time at the same time every day to do a task (even my shower time changes dramatically day to day), and my work schedule (at my real job) is varied. Also, I hate getting up early when I don’t have to.

You might be thinking, but Rachel, these are lame excuses (yeah, I know), or, but Rachel, at least you have 13+ new paintings that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t tried the challenge, which is also true. But I think the bigger takeaway here for me is this: it’s great to have goals and to challenge yourself, but without any planning, it’s a lot harder to accomplish those goals or challenges. I didn’t make a plan, other than, “paint every day,” and I didn’t prepare in any way to help myself be successful with this goal. Thus, I didn’t accomplish it.

Not going to lie, this one took more than 10 minutes, though I still count it as part of the challenge.

This has kind of been my method thus far with Fairy Tree Studios — paint stuff, show people, hope it sells. Sometimes it works. More often I get distracted by something else and painting or marketing or maintaining my shop gets pushed to the side. So for 2020, I’m planning ahead for some more specific projects and goals, and making myself lists of tasks to help me reach those goals (because I do love making lists). That’s starting this weekend, today, with a designated “art weekend,” in which I have four days (Friday-Monday) dedicated just to art/FTS. I created — ahead of time! — lists of items for each day that I want to accomplish. That way, at 3pm this afternoon, I’m not looking at the rest of the weekend going, “well, now what should I do?” and feeling the growing anxiety of wasted time as it gets later and later. I’m committing now to a post on Monday evening to let you all know how that goes. (This blog post was on my list of things to do, so I’m already starting off strong!)

In the meantime, here are a few more of my 10-minute(-ish) sketches:

One silver lining of the challenge is that, thanks to these sketches, I have ideas for bigger, more detailed future paintings — I really want to try this technique again.
Another piece that I’d like to do in more detail.

I’ll be creating a “10-Minute Sketch Challenge” page in my gallery with all of the pieces I painted this month, so if you want to see more, check back soon!

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