Breaking the Rules

What Is MerMay?

There are an infinite number of themed art challenges online. MerMay is a popular one, with a different mermaid-related prompt for every day of the month of May. I talked before about how this art challenge has already gotten me to learn better scheduling/time management. Now it’s over & I’ve had a week to reflect. I completed all 31 days of MerMay on theme, & it almost broke me.

What Happened?

I decided to add some extra rules for this art challenge. The goal was to push myself to expand my skills. The rules were:

  1. Finish all 31 days.
  2. On schedule.
  3. Follow the official prompts instead of just doing something vaguely “mermaid”ish.
  4. No more than 25% (8 of the 31) prompts can be done in watercolors.
  5. Use more pink & yellow, limit green & black.
  6. Stick to form- & environment-purist mermaids..

The month started out great! I made some silly pictures I am quite fond of, like this one UpsideDownMerMay As well as a Mermaid R2-D2 wearing Slave Leia’s bikini which I still categorically refuse to apologize for. I was limiting my watercolors & trying to incorporate something new when I did use them, such as salt water or drawing textures with my left hand. Things went well, until they didn’t. In the second week I had to force myself to sit down & draw. It was a fully-fledged burn out. I have experienced burn out before; working in early childhood education in the US is an endless series of burn outs. Artistic burn out was brand new. I hated it! Following the 3 steps in my problem-solving strategy helped me find the solutions I needed.

What I Learned

There were too many rules! If someone else had tried to impose 6 arbitrary rules on me during a fun art challenge, I would have told them to go pound sand. Somehow when they were my own rules with all my own justifications behind them I didn’t realize how they piled up. If I had picked 2 or 3 from the beginning it would have been fine, but all 6 combined were too much. They disrupted my workflow, lessened my enjoyment & increased the amount of time each piece took to complete.

What I Changed

I got rid of half the rules!

4. No more than 25% (8 of the 31) can be watercolors

I love watercolors. Trying to go most of the month without them was less of a challenge & more of a drag.

5. Use more pink & yellow, limit green & black.

I should experiment with more colors, but I will focus on that instead of shoving it into a larger challenge.

6. Stick to form- & environment-purist mermaids.

This forced me to practice drawing humans, which I dislike but want to get better at. Unfortunately it would have forced me to practice humans for 31 days straight, which would have been tedious at best.

Did It Work?

Getting rid of rules #4-6 allowed me to enjoy the rest of the month much more. All of my favorite MerMay submission were created after, like this Submarine Striped Marlin Submarine Or this Friday the 13th parody poster that came out pretty much exactly as I wanted it to. Consistently assessing my limitations & being open to change paid off! All the rules pushed me to try new things initially, but once they became unsustainable they needed to be discarded.

The month started off erratically but it has certainly turned around. I’ve come out of MerMay energized & ready. For now I’m sticking to more fun art goals. For example: the last time I painted Usagi Yojimbo was probably 2 months ago. That needs to be remedied. Friendly Neighborhood Karin's Friendly Neighborhood Edit: I remedied it!

See you next week!

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See all the Art Challenges I do over on Mastodon.Art

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