5 Things

Daily Challenges

Written by & Illustrated by Alicia van Zyl

Hi! I’m Nicholas Nesbitt, a Johannesburg based creative specialising in Illustration, Digital Design and Sound Design. I am happy to bring you a new article on daily graphic challenges, written and illustrated by Alicia van Zyl. These daily social media challenges can be really helpful in developing a great work ethic but they also have some negative effects.

Alicia van Zyl is a graphic designer, illustrator and typographer. Yes, in alphabetical order, because she’s also a little OCD. To her, concept is King and deadline his Queen.

“Aaaaaaand DED.”

Those were literally the first two words on the final post of my 36 Days of Type Instagram challenge.

I’m notorious for starting these daily #36daysoftype, #mermay and #inktober Instagram challenges, falling off the wagon almost immediately and then deleting those posts because of SHAME. So actually completing one feels pretty incredible. Kinda.

Real talk. As much as I loooooved exploring new tools, styles and techniques over 36 consecutive days, doing a challenge on top of all my other work was tough. Here are some things I learned from the challenge:

#1 Quickmaff

I got an iPad Pro around the letter L (day 12). I’d played with them before, but you know when you have nothing in mind to draw and don’t really know how to use the software, you’re just ending up with this useless page of different colored scribbles. A daily challenge was a really quick way to get to know Procreate and while I’m definitely not saying you have to go out and drop a bomb on new tech, the principle remains (whether you’re trying a new printing technique or new software): when you want to learn new creative skills, a daily challenge like this will force you to do it. Quickly.

#2 Don’t spend more than an hour on each piece

Apart from the fact that you have work to do and a life to live, putting a time limit on yourself forces you to just create spontaneously with the time you have available instead of methodically planning, stifling that creative flow and ultimately ending up with an overworked piece that lacks your unique voice.

#3 One man’s “meh” is another man’s “awe yeah”

Post what you did even if you don’t like it. Why? Your taste is very different to those around you. Because I was exploring new techniques and styles every three days, I sometimes finished things and thought “meh 🤷🏻‍♀️” just to wake up to an insane amount of likes (for me, guys. I don’t have thousands of followers. Perspective). The opposite also happened. Pieces that I adored weren’t as popular. So even though I’ve always created what’s fun for me regardless of opinion, it’s refreshing to actually learn some of those opinions. Will it change the way I do things and stop me from creating things for me? Nope. You’ll never please everyone, so don’t make yourself miserable trying.

#4 Yeah pump the jam

When you have spare time and you’re in that amazing zone of just creating, pump out as many of these as time and the zone will let you. Mostly I created one every day, but maaaaan when I got that iPad I was in a serious zone of exploring and I think I made more than a week’s worth in one go. That kinda paid off when I was traveling later that week because I didn’t have to stop my life and worry about creating something every day, I had them all ready to roll

I’d like to add a note to those of you saying: “but it’s sposed to be a drawing a day! That’s cheating!” It’s not cheating, mah dude. The point of the challenge is to get you to create, why would you stop after just one when you’re really feeling it?

#5 Don’t look down

Or around you too much. In the beginning it was really nice to scroll through a feed flooded by incredible pieces every day. I was hella inspired and started following a whole bunch of new-to-me artists. But the honeymoon always ends and suddenly your feed isn’t flooded with inspiration but rather drowning you in self-doubt. Don’t worry, there’s a solution to that too. Just like you timed yourself when you created your art, you have to time yourself when you’re absorbing the art others are making. Try only spend an hour a day trolling your feed for other pieces and hashtags relating to your challenge. Enough to get inspired, but not so much that you start hearing your good pal Imposter Syndrome telling you you’re not good enough.


Don’t beat yourself if you’re never completing these challenges.

We’re all humans and burnout is a real thing.

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