Photo by author.
The 28-day challenge is a set of prompts created by Brooklyn Art Library to encourage people to do art more daily. It was not my first time doing art prompts from Brooklyn Art Library as I have participated in 2020. I had a pleasant experience doing the last year’s 28 day challenge, hence I donated to Brooklyn Art Library to receive this year’s prompts at the end of August.
What I enjoyed about these prompts
I enjoy participating in doing art challenges, whether it is Brooklyn Art Library or any other accounts is because it challenges me from my comfort zone. I can do my own prompts, but they will fall into things that I am comfortable doing. A challenge from a different country pushes me to think beyond my comfort zone. Moreover, an (almost) daily practice creates consistency in creating something new, though we have days we do not produce our best work.
Likewise, art and writing share the same discipline of constant practice. When I was doing my masters, I spend every alternate day practising writing and slowly combined them into a thesis. I took this writing discipline and adapted this discipline into my sketches and art.
My favourite prompts are as below:
Based on my favourite posts, I noticed that I like them for two reasons. The first reason is the use of mixed media, which I mixed collage and painting. I mix the media because some imageries are non-existent in the old magazines. Hence, I have to draw/paint to complete the sketch. The second reason is the monochrome sketches. As I only have one day to squeeze in 1-2 sketches, doing it in monochrome is faster. Instead of the extra step of thinking of colours, I focus more on the details and the shadows to add more depth.
What I dislike about these prompts
There is a lack of cultural awareness in these prompts. For a Sketchbook Library that claimed to be a global institution, the prompts miss the mark of being global. For example, Day 23 prompt, which is “A dragon auditioning for Gone with the Wind.”
I found this prompt problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the dragon has powerful symbolism in mythologies and folktales of many cultures. In some cultures, some dragons are “regarded as evil or beneficent.” For an understanding of dragons, I suggest two animations that describe the nature of dragons, which is How to Train a Dragon, which is based on Norse mythology, and Raya and the Last Dragon, which is based on the dragons in South East Asia. Secondly, Gone with the Wind is a 1939 blockbuster in America. The film was temporarily removed from HBO Max in 2020 for its racist and stereotypical depictions of the Other. According to HBO Max, they mentioned that it will return with “a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.” After all, if one watches Gone with the Wind, one should also supplement with other media from other ethnicities in 1939 for wider perspectives.
Figure 7: The prompt that I did not want to draw at all, so I wrote my opinion in one word.
Reducing a dragon to a 1939 film that depicts racism in the past is very insular. In the era of globalisation, there has been a mix of cultures that come up with surprising outcomes. However, combining different influences without understanding the cultural and racial sensitivities is very insular. To mix something different, one has to understand the background and history to see its suitability. I want to compare it to cooking, but it is a complex topic that I will write about next time once I sufficiently process it.
I also dislike this year prompts because there are too many prompts involving animals. For example, there is one prompt about a pig in cowboy boots (Figure 4).
In my country, some people are sensitive to pigs due to religious reasons. Worse still, the ignorant used the translated word of a pig to cyberbully people from different countries (read here and here). Personally, I do not have an issue with pigs but I have an issue with people not understanding that there are many languages in the world. Some words may sound bad to you, but in other countries, it sounds alright. Considering my knowledge, I worked this prompt differently by drawing a person wearing a low-poly face mask (Figure 4).
Day 6 and 18 involves tentacles. I was repulsed after researching tentacles. By the time it reached Day 18, I interpret this prompt differently. The prompt was “An octopus that recently got a desk job,” and I imagined the octopus being summoned by its boss to run some errands.
Figure 8: I drew an out of office sign to avoid drawing more tentacles.
Inspired by music videos
Despite not liking this year prompts, I have discovered that I am inspired by music videos. Here are some music videos that inspired some of my sketches for this challenge.
Lions in Cages
As mentioned previously about a pig in boots (Figure 4), I took inspiration from Lions in Cages by Wolf Gang. In this music video, most of the characters were wearing animal costumes or animal masks and I thought, “I could use the idea for the pig in cowboy boots ideas!”
Paradise by Coldplay
As I was doing researching Lions in Cages, Youtube suggested Paradise by Coldplay, which is day 14 which was “What does paradise look to you?”
Similar to Lions in Cages, Paradise by Coldplay had its band members wearing elephant costumes. Since I did not want to think too much, I used the music video to inspired my sketch.
Figure 9: My favourite elephant from the music video.
Hot N Cold by Katy Perry (Sesame Street Version)
There was a prompt about a cartoon man in extreme cold and heat, which I was inspired by Katy Perry’s version of Hot n Cold from Sesame Street, where she was running through the desert and Antarctica.
Figure 10: Since I did not have a cartoon man, I did a ‘collage man’ instead.
Rum Hee by Shugo Tokumaru
For Day 8, the prompt was about a Mad Scientist. I was inspired by Shugo Tokumaru old image of him looking like a mad scientist (Figure 3). He is not a typical Mad Scientist, but I considered him as a mad scientist in music as he used many toy instruments to create music. Initially, I hesitated to draw him. However, the intro of this music video of him is very sketchy, and I told myself to just finish the sketch for the day.
Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
Figure 11: Ingredients of a Piña Colada.
Day 17 post was about the ingredients of the tiki cocktail.
I did my research of I found out that Piña Colada is a type of tiki cocktail. I was deciding between a Piña Colada or Singapore Sling but ended up with Piña Colada because these lyrics kept playing in my head.
“If you like piña coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain…”
Therefore, my interest in music videos gives me quick and alternatives ideas whenever I do not want to be confined to the literal meanings of the prompts.
Processing past criticisms and emotions
I know that I am not the best artist, designer or writer. There are many successful people, but there is one thing successful people don’t tell or show enough. They do not show that great work comes from many years of bad work. However, successful people always show their best work to win, and will not show the bad work because we are all playing with judgement and perception. Hence it is very too easy to feel useless when we are not good.
When I was younger, I received many positive and negative criticisms of my work. Unfortunately, both positive and negative criticisms affected me so much that I never improved. This is exacerbated by not processing my emotions when I receive those criticisms. Whenever I received criticism, I was not honest with myself and told myself I am too sensitive and my anger is wrong. I did not want to acknowledge my anger. Furthermore, people were so harsh and sometimes I am assigned to jobs for efficiency sake. Efficiency is important, but some of the efficiency methods do not match my personality and strengths. Instead of working better, I suffered.
I have accepted that daily work will not look great, and will post regardless of whether it looks good or not. I have stopped telling people on Instagram that it would have been better if I have more time to fix it. Of course, it will look better when we are given more time to work on art, but the reality is that we have commitments.
Furthermore, I learnt from Gen Z and the pandemic is authenticity. Just post your content, whether it looks nice or not. After all, there are so many unaesthetic TikTok together with aesthetics TikTok. I learnt that as long we are authentic and the message gets through. There are some posts that do not look nice in the commercial sense, but people like them because they are authentic and relatable.
Documenting processes are tedious, but I remind myself that it is important. I believe that the processes are as important as the final outcome, and if it helps others, then great. Doing these prompt together with this blog post helped me to acknowledge my emotions. Very cathartic.
Creator of the prompts
As the artworks reflect the artist, the prompts reflect the creator. I have been trying to understand the profile of the creator because there were two tentacles prompts, a pig prompt, and the Gone with the wind prompt. I do not know how many people created these prompts, but based on the prompts, I suspect that they have a romanticised view of Asian culture. I might be wrong in my assessment as I do not have enough information.
As I was halfway through the challenge, I went back to the page where I donated for these prompts, and the description was “using found objects to illustrating new characters in wacky costumes.” In that case, I have answered the essence of those prompts. However, I still prefer 2020 prompts as it was more reflective and more challenging as it encourages one to use different mediums from coffee ink, collages and found objects.
As it will be October next month, I would recommend any artist to join Inktober or prompts from Domestika. They have better prompts that are more general and may not offend others sensitivities. The best thing is the October prompts are free. For now, I will take a break and spend more time practising my art with more details. Will I continue doing prompts? Yes, but this round, I will choose the prompts from other places.
This is my first time documenting my process, and I hope to improve my writing as time goes by.