Join My 30-Day Sketching Challenge

All creatives doubt their abilities from time to time. But could completing one sketch a day help us to stave off those insecurities? I’ve challenged myself to give it a go, and I’d love you to join me.

I’m a massive fan of brilliant, uplifting guru, illustrator and designer Stefan Bucher. And this video of Bucher at work has inspired me to go back to basics: To sketch. To find my first truth. To create something from nothing, purely because it makes me proud of myself. Here’s why:

Reason #1: Design has become a conveyor belt

The Design trade has developed a Fast Food mentality. To stay afloat in this competitive industry, we’ve become caught up in a race to churn out artwork quickly and cheaply. Creatives, clients and audiences alike are now conditioned to receiving immediate gratification.

Grab and go. Faster is better. Logos for a fiver.

We’ve forgotten how to connect with our designs.

When I studied design at university, we had to hand-sketch everything – our typography, illustrations, logos, packaging – all from scratch. Blimey, we even did pin-hole photography!

We were taught to simplify, simplify, simplify. We sketched the same thing over and over and took away the unnecessary, layer by layer. It was a long process of creativity, self-examination and planning that followed on from the mid-20th-century, when design became obsessed with the “less is more” process of elimination. Well, thanks Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – no one can say you haven’t shaped the course of design for a whole century!

But today, it seems like there’s no time for that kind of thing. And I miss it.

Reason #2: We’ve lost feeling for our work

Of course, there are times when spending hours on designs seems to hold little purpose; when hours of careful labour are met with a client exclaiming:  “That’s perfect, just like that! Can you add a photo of my dog on the right?”

You want to reply: Erm… woah there, Tintin, I have spent hours trying to simplify this thing of beauty and you want to add what?!

But of course, you can’t. So instead you simply shelve your dismay and resolve never to add that design to your portfolio. To wash your hands and move on to the next thing – which has just come in at 4:30pm for 10:30am the next day.

You go straight to the computer. This time, you save yourself the heartache by completing it quickly, without much thought or feeling. Sigh.

Reason #3: We’ve all lost our sketchbooks. On purpose.

Imagine this moment: sitting in front of your superfast Mac and designer desk in an agency, about to get started on a project. Where to start? Do you take out your sketchbook?

You anticipate the whispering all around you: Are you that office freak? The one who carries that little yellow sketchbook? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

You put the pad back in your bag.

I’ve definitely been here. In fact, developing that habit of going straight to the computer has killed my ability to draw freely; to sketch what my brain envisions without hesitation, or any need to consider the limitations of software. Which brings me to my next point…

Reason #4: Technology has made design predictable

We’re supposed to do what we love. For me, that’s all in the process, not the end product. I love it when a drawing starts as one thing and ends up being another.

But technology traps us. Powerful software programmes offer us functions that auto-trace photographs and manipulate complex shapes, and ready-colored brushes to create marks that look like watercolour strokes. It just feels like they can do so much more than we can with our pencil and our sketchpad.

But do not underestimate the connection of your brain to your hand; the sound your pen makes on the paper, the way the ink glides across its texture. These tools can provide you with unpredictable surprises. Perfect imperfections.

The challenge

I want to reconnect my imagination to my work. And I’m challenging you all – from stickman stalwarts to illustrators extraordinaire – to join me.

You don’t have to be a ‘creative’. The only requirement is that you want to draw.

My own aim is to get rid of those inner voices that say: I can’t draw this, I’m not good at drawing, I’ve forgotten how, and to replace those thoughts with other, more curious ones, such as Where will this lead me?

I will post one sketch a day for 30 days. Each one may be terrible; it may be good. But I’m in it to see how my skills improve as my brain rewires itself to using my hands.


I really hope that, once I start drawing again, I’ll never stop, like my good friend Kim Taylor.

I would love you all to share in this adventure. Post your own sketches and tag me in, or paste them into the comments on my posts.

Let’s throw caution to the wind and learn to experiment again. Who’s with me?

Remember to use #30daysketching in all your posts!

Aline Nienaber
Hill and Sky design consultants

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Edited by: Rachel Stroud, Fox Jumps Dog