28 Days Challenge by Brooklyn Art Library (2020 edition)

I wrote this post after completing the 2021 prompts. For the 28 days challenge (2021 Edition), please click here.

I regretted not documenting this challenge as soon as I completed it early this year. I was still reeling from the anguish of my master’s dissertation. I could not be myself and often thought what if I do not explain enough in my writings.

However, I told myself to just be myself and write. Maybe these posts may not help anyone yet, but at least I have documented it. As much as documentation can be tedious, but I realised that documenting processes and struggles help me to reduce mistakes in the future.

Hence, this post is a personal documentation of creating 28 artworks from Brooklyn Art Library prompts. I followed Brooklyn Art Library on Instagram and have always been amazed by the variety of sketches. I always wanted to join that sketchbook project but I was not able to afford their notebooks and delivery between the US and my country. When Brooklyn Art Library came up with daily prompts, I donated the minimum amount to participate. Why did I pay for prompts, when I can do it for free? I wanted to do prompts from a different country, as the ones from my country were generic such as OOTD, food, flowers and sceneries.

I decided to join the challenge in 2020 because I was waiting for feedback from my external examiners. It was also the beginning of the pandemic and lockdowns in which I had a lot of time to spare. Since the pandemic messed up certain deadlines, I might as well use my time to join the challenge. Joining daily challenges are not new to me as I have joined some of the challenges from local art shops. Furthermore, many designers in the past also created their own 365 challenges to create something new every day. Writing, drawing and sketching every day helps in observation skills and giving a personal voice to our works, which is explained by Core77. While I paid for these prompts in 2020, my feedback from my external examiners came back in the middle of the year. I had to fix my thesis for the final submission for six months. Therefore, I delayed doing the 2020 prompts and finally worked on the prompts after my final submission in 2021.

What I enjoyed about these prompts

The prompts were a breath of fresh air from the other prompts, which focus on food, flowers, and OOTDs. The creators of these prompts put a lot of thought into curating the prompts. The 28 prompts were segmented into four weeks. Week 1 focused on drawing, with the hashtag #BAL_Draw. Week 2 focused on #BAL_Activity, and #BAL_Advice. Week 3 was about #BAL_Make, which is are mostly creating with collage and found objects. Finally, Week 4 is about #BAL_Response, which was responding to their images, playlist or sketchbooks. Out of the four weeks, my favourite was Week 4 because I explored many things. I found these prompts reflective — I dug deep within my experiences to respond to these prompts. While a few of the prompts are too American, but I was able to contextualise them, unlike 2021 prompts.

#BAL_Respond from Week 4

As mentioned in the previous paragraph that I like the prompts from #BAL_Response from Week 4, I will elaborate further.

I was feeling a lot of sadness, anger, and disappointment when I was doing my masters. During that time, I felt a lot of angst because a few people claimed that they care and love me, but they were sarcastic. My feelings resonated with this particular scene from BTS’ Fake Love music video at the timestamp 2:44. Hence, this drawing was based on one of the scenes in Fake Love, in which Suga threw the guitar in this room. However, I did not draw Suga throwing guitar across the room as I am bad at drawing figures.

One of the prompts that I found hard to contextualise was responding to a playlist on Day 22. It was hard to find gems within 44 songs to respond as it sounded too American after a while. Don’t get me wrong, I do listen to a lot of American pop and indie music but it began to sound too similar after listening to it for an hour. Also, it takes more time and thought to execute a proper response as I have the knowledge of music. Should I respond through my emotions, my formal knowledge in music, or my love for songwriting and lyrics? As I was struggling with the music merging into one sound, I chose one song that caught my attention, which is The Bus Song by Jay Som. The lyrics reflected my state of mind during the lockdown, which was missing road trips and having the time to figure it out.

A year later (22 October 2021), I listened to this playlist again and found there were a few gems. Perhaps, a better way to respond to the playlist is to only play 5 songs in one list to have a better focus. After all, it is a daily sketch prompt and not a big art project. I wrote in my caption that I will redo this post in the future, and I am excited respond again after listening to the playlist again.

One of my favourite prompt as I got to explore the digital sketchbooks.

I went to sketchbookproject.com/library > jump from Jinah Hayko’s sketchbook. Her sketches were drawn in black ink, and it was filled with moving humans and overlapped faces. Based on my observation of her sketches, the outlines of her humans appeared squiggly and rough at the edges. The moving figure did not have facial features drawn on them, which further emphasize the dynamic movements of the humans.

With these observations in mind, I decided to respond by sketching a dancer. As I did not want to mess up my sketch, my version was less squiggly and I focused more on the texture of the dress and her free-flowing hair.

Influences from Indonesian music

During the period of doing these challenges, I am heavily inspired by Indonesian Music. Day 4 prompt was about my favourite song, and I chose Rehat (translated as ‘rest’) by Kunto Aji. This song was released in 2018 in his album titled Mantra Mantra and it highlights Kunto Aji’s experiences and mental health. Interestingly, one part of the song had a frequency of 396Hz, which was believed to alleviate negative thinking. I resonate with the song a lot as I struggled with my undiagnosed mental health. I always felt that I am not alone whenever I listen to this song as mental health issues are common.

I asked my husband for advice for this post and he told me to “Bertenang (Keep Calm).”

He shared a song with me titled Aku Tenang by Fourtwnty, an Indonesian band. I quickly wrote out the lyrics for this prompt and realised that the lyrics express the advice with music.

The prompt for Day 14 was about a calming playlist. The most calming playlist I have on Spotify is filled with Indonesian Indie music. Their music is calming yet emotive. These songs do touch the core of my emotions and yet gives the calming feeling that I am not alone.

Other prompts

As this prompt was about writing, I decided to practise my rusty brush calligraphy skills. This prompt coincides with the date of Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Amanda Gorman’s powerful delivery of her poem titled The Hill We Climb. One of the sentences that caught my attention was:

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of just is, isn’t always justice.

Growing up, I am told not to be a troublemaker, but not voicing out means evil will triumph. Hence, being quiet is not equal to peace.

Discoveries

I also made a mistake using low-quality paper for my drawings, which makes the scanning to Instagram bad (Figure 8–10). While I tried saving money by using cheaper paper, but the outcomes of some of my artworks came out bad as most of my paper has shrunk with the use of water-based markers and watercolours.

I love that the prompts were experimental. For example, prompt 15 was about using coffee and tea to make a sunset scene.

This prompt is difficult and frustrating because it was the first time using coffee as ink. Coffee ink was hard to layer, unlike watercolours. I felt out of control doing this piece. Nevertheless, it was good to try something new and may attempt another coffee art another time as it requires me to approach this medium differently from watercolours.

I discovered that creating collages was an easy way out if I did not feel like drawing. Sometimes I do not feel like observing references, and all I wanted to do is to combine different imageries just like Photoshop. Also, I had too many catalogues around and always wanted to use them up instead of throwing them out immediately.

Conclusion

While doing daily prompts is not new to me, but I always have the fear that my art is not good enough. I decided that I was not going to do it because I want to be an artist, but because I wanted to express myself. If I was going on the thought of being an artist, I will feel that I am not good enough. Also, posting an artwork a day on Instagram reminds me of the Core77 article. In the article, Steve Portigal wrote that there is something personal about what we see and observe. Putting our observations into a published format forces us to retell a story to an audience. I learnt so much from this article years ago. Therefore, I tried my best to create an artwork a day with a caption on Instagram to explain my thoughts and rationale for these artworks. If the artwork is not up to my expectation, then I will explain why and mention how can I improve the process next time.

I did not know it at that time, but doing daily art forces me to have a routine, whether it is writing or creating art. For those who have not started a habit of writing or drawing, I would recommend doing any daily challenges. You may not improve immediately, but at least you have started with the first step.

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Elle L

Elle L

I create art to find personal meaning, and I write to understand diverse meanings. This is a place to document my life and its processes.