Friday, December 29, 2017

Challenge Yourself in 2018

Here are different writing and art events you can use to challenge yourself this year!
Challenges are Writers (W), Artists (A.), or both (B.) Start planning out your year now.

Did I miss any great challenges? Let me know in the comments below! I believe all these challenges are still running.


W. Storystorm by Tara Lazar starts (previously PiBoIdMo). Get 30 book ideas in 30 days. Sign up late December - early January).

A. #kidlitart on Twitter starts it's PB Dummy Challenge. Challenge lasts 6 months. Last year they mixed things up and did the Build a Portfolio Challenge instead (#BAPC) and also did an Kidlitart Art Challenge (#kidlitart28). Join #kidart on Twitter Thursday nights at 9pm EST for more information!

B. Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 sign up starts and runs through February. Finish 12 picture books in 12 months. Lots of great webinars, prizes and support. Gold members can submit their work directly to editors and agents.


A. Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 starts. Normally this challenge runs in January. This year it runs February 1st - March 2nd. 


W. Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha) runs this month. Hosted by Becky Fyfe. Finish your chapter book in 30 days.

W. Janice Hardy's Revise Your Novel in 30 Days  Get your novel edited in 30 days.

B. Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) Sign up starts February 15th. Read books to improve your own writing!

W. 50 Precious Words Runs March 2nd - 6th. Hosted by Vivian Kirkfield. Write a 50 word story with a beginning, middle and end.


W. Angie Karchers Rhyme Revolution For the month of April Angie posts a different writing challenge every day. Challenges must be completed daily and posts commented on to win prizes.


W. National Picture Book Writing Week: Write seven picture book manuscripts in one week. Hosted by Paula Yoo.


A. Daisy Yellow Index Card A Day Challenge. In this two month challenge your create one piece of
artwork every day for 61 days.


A. World Watercolor Month  Create 31 Watercolor Paintings in 31 Days. Hosted by the World Watercolor Group founded by Charlie O'Shields.


I couldn't find a challenge that's still running for this month!


A. Smart Dummies starts! Create a Picture Book Dummy in 30 days. Sign up in August 15th through the first week of September. Hosted by yours truly (Dani Duck).

A. Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 catch this one if you missed it in February!


A. Inktober starts (#inktober on Instagram and Twitter). Create 30 inked drawings in 30 days! Created by Jake Parker


W. National Novel Writing Month. Get your Novel written in 30 days!


A. December Watercolor Challenge Hosted by the World Watercolor Group founded by Charlie O'Shields.

Other Challenges

A. Doodle Day This is the challenge that never ends! Started in May 2013 this was meant to be a month long daily drawing challenge. Alison K. Hertz started this not knowing what it was. Now she'll continue hosting this forever just because!

A. Illustration Friday A weekly art challenge. No official sign up needed.

A. Draw This! A monthly challenge (due on the 20th of every month). Hosted by the SCBWI. Participants must be current SCBWI members to win.

B. Sub Six A challenge to submit 6 picture books in a year. Most people submit far more, so it's mostly a support group. Need permission from Alayne Kay Christian, Stacy Stenberg Jensen, or Debbie Bernstein LaCroix to join the Facebook group.

A. 52-Week Illustration Challenge by Nicky Johnston. Create 1 illustration a week for 52 weeks. Participants post their current week's illustrations in the facebook group.

W. Inky Girl's Daily Words Debbie Ridpath Ohi hosts. This is to help writers short on time come up with a regular regiment for writing. There are great badges you can put on your blog for writing as little as 100 or for 15 minutes a day. There is no formal sign up. 

A. Color Collective A weekly art challenge on Twitter based on color.

Want a reading or blogging challenge? Feed Your Fiction Addiction has a huge list of reading challenges as does I'm sure several of the challenges repeat on these, so if you can't find what you are looking for on one the other likely has it!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Right Tools

I was getting my haircut the other day and my hairdresser (Diane) and I got into a discussion about the tools we use.  I was fascinated by her insight on this, because what we do is so different. Fundamentally hairdressing and art is the same in many ways. You need to have better tools for better results.

These are a few of my favorite brushes!
I generally just use the tallest one (angled)
and the big round brush on the left.
Buying Higher Quality Tools Can Cost Less Overall. This seems counter intuitive. How can I possibly justify spending $100 over $25 on the exact same colors of watercolor paint and paper? The paint tubes may have less in them, and the paper may be the exact same size, but they are not the same! Quality matters over quantity.

1. The Frustration Factor

In my conversation with Diane, I said it might be okay to buy cheaper supplies when starting out. Diane corrected me right there. She said that it doesn't make sense to start out with cheap supplies because if you become frustrated with the limitations of the tools then you won't continue creating art. I know that this is 100% true.

I had some older acrylics that I was attempting to paint with, but unfortunately I was just becoming frustrated with them because they were old and the binder had separated from the colors. I could not get the paints to move across the canvas like I knew they should. It wasn't until I bought new paints that I felt like I could paint. With the frustration gone I was able to create work faster and better.

2. Better Paints Paint Better
One of my paintings that I had trouble with. The darker colors just wouldn't stay on the paper. 

When I first started using Daniel Smith watercolors I just bought one tube of red paint. I didn't have the money to be messing around. What I found was not only did the color flow across the page better, but I was using less of it to cover the page. Since I'm using less paint I'm actually paying less to paint!

3. Substrate is Everything

Okay you get these fancy colors, but you are actually wasting money if you are putting them on cheap paper. I bought a brand that I thought was going to give me good results. I think there was a problem with the sizing on the paper, and this could have been a factory problem, so I'm not going to name the particular brand I used. The problem was the paper got to the point where the paint wasn't soaking into the paper anymore. I wasn't able to add any more color to certain areas! The company I bought it from was able to replace the paper (I paid for the upgrade), but this doesn't make up for the amount of work that went into paintings that aren't usable anymore!

4. Acid Free Isn't Archival

One thing that you might not think about when you're illustrating is how long is your work going to last. You may just want to make work that you create and you don't care what happens after that. If you are buying acid free, know that that it is likely a limited time deal. I've made the decision to use archival for most of my illustrations now because I want them to last a long time after I'm gone. Also the paper I'm going to use most often, because it works so well (Arches), is archival.
My favorite pens!

5. Time is Money

One thing that you need to remember is your time matters. When you are creating something to sell this is so important to consider. Say you paid $10 for your supplies, so selling your work at $20 may seem like a fair price. Well, what if that item took you five hours to create? You are making $2 an hour when you sell your item. I don't know about you, but my time is worth more than $2. Working retail at $7-12 an hour seems like a better deal to me. If your supplies cause you to spend 2-3 times the amount of time on a project than you should spend, then those cheap supplies could be costing you money!


I'm hoping this is something you will consider when buying art supplies! Buying more expensive supplies may just not work for you and that's okay. This is something I want people to consider because it will end up saving you money in the end.

I will make a post about where you can cut on expenses. There is so much in this post already I feel like I've got a lot in this one post. Please ask me questions and remember to enjoy making your art!