100 People in One Week and Life Lessons for Artists
When I read about the One Week 100 People challenge, I felt the excitement of a real challenge and of drawing people (one of my favorite subjects to sketch). I decided to join, brushing aside the uncertainty whether I will be able to accomplish this huge feat or not.
The Process Behind the Challenge
Sunday (Monday): That weekend came and there was a Chinese New Year parade. I knew there’s plenty of opportunities to sketch some people.
I was a bit uncomfortable sketching among crowds. They peeked over my shoulder, curious about my way of capturing the event. I smiled. They smiled back.
Finally I had to continue my sketch at an eatery. I was hungry and exhausted!
Tuesday: It was a busy day. I grabbed a pen and sketched these portraits inspired by Humans of New York.
Using the pen enabled me to express the lines, shapes and volumes in a spontaneous way.
There’s no time to fuss about mistakes but instead I turn it into something else.
My brain was tired from too much seeing and observing. It was good brain exercise though.
Wednesday: I decided to use the leftover paints from my students’ palette and painted these portraits inspired by Julia Kay Portrait Party.
I started with the face and neck, then the clothes, hair and finally the facial expressions.
The details were the time consuming parts. But it added so much life to the portraits!
Thursday: I was inspired by the lovely clothes worn by this lovely family of Life with Beans.
I use a brush pen (with ink inside) to sketch the portraits. But when the ink run out, I opened the chinese ink bottle, dip the brush inside and resumed. It was a slow manual process but still does the work wonderfully.
Friday: Cassie Stephens‘ uniquely design clothes captures my interest. I used a pen to sketch her using alternative blind contour where I look at the subject more than the paper.
Not only was I able to sketch fairly quickly but I also began to build muscle memory on sketching people.
I use watercolor to paint selected areas of interest.
I appreciate the fluidity of watercolor, the way it mixes on paper and literally paints itself… (thanks water!)
For sure I cannot be as brave as Cassie who can wear these awesome dresses to work. I cannot stand the attention! But she carried herself well and the styles suit her personality.
What I learned during the 100 People in 1 Week challenge
- Life is about priority. Challenging myself to sketch 20 people per day means I need to make the best use of time (i.e. wake up earlier; no distractions). I need to prioritize what’s important, one of which is my art practice.
- Practice is the secret to success. As I show up to my work daily– observing different kinds of people from life and from photos, sketching and painting what I see– I am building muscle memory to retain information that I can recall whenever I need to sketch a character from imagination. The secret to success is not free from pain, hard work, sweat, and tears. It’s all about taking the first step, working, experimenting…and even failing. Daily deliberate practice is what separate successful people from the rest.
- It’s better to do something and fail. Sketching using pen, ink and watercolor is a risky endeavor. I’ve encountered mistakes like out of proportion body parts. But instead of starting again or feeling discourage, I turn that mistake into something wonderful or leave it as is. It adds a certain interest to the artwork. Failure is worth celebrating not because of the result but because of the learning it brings. It is only by failing that we will discover something profound about what we’re about to embark. So, what have you failed today?
- Intentionally prepare what is needed for each task. It’s easy to say I will embark on this 100 people in 1 week challenge. But in reality it’s hard when I’m unprepared. Breaking down each broad task into simple doable tasks is essential. For example, I wrote down a list of the kind of portraits that I wanted to do per day. Then I go to a crowded place or prepare images that capture my interest. Doing this ignites an excitement in me to follow through on what I’ve committed to do. I also find that preparing the tasks or things the night before help me not to wander or rush in the morning.
- Enjoy the process. I learn to focus on the process of creating art rather than the outcome, focus on glorifying God with my art and inspiring others rather than how many recognition I will get from others; focus on the learning rather than perfection. Why? At the end of the day, if I enjoy what I do, I will keep going, I will be patient, I will never give up.