Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No More Dirty Dishes (End of the Sketch Challenge)


Minutes into May and the end of the April sketchbook challenge between Jeremy and myself.  I'm stuffing my face with canned beans and feeling bummed that I came this close to completing the challenge, but just fell short.

Rather than blame myself, I'm blaming the structure of the challenge.  Hear me out.

When I have previously set out to draw more, I'd set a single, numerical, daily goal that was easily tracked.  Ex. draw three sketchbook pages a day for 30 days.  Whether progress was being made was reduced to a yes/no question.  Did I draw three pages today?  Y/N?  After a few weeks, I could see patterns of when I did and did not meet the goal and work to make improvements.  Drawing habits were formed and my work got better.

Our April challenge, in contrast, had a laundry list of requirements to be completed.  Once the time was up and the sketchbooks were filled, there was too much room for debate.  As an example, one requirement was 10 pages of creatures.  The page number was an easy benchmark to meet, and could alternately be thought of as 1/8th of the sketchbook or 4 days of the month.  The debate, however, was on what could be considered a creature.  As well, if our creature sketches overlapped with another requirement, such as drawing in marker, did the drawings satisfy both requirements?  Chaos ensued.

So, everyone lost.  Hopefully, we've learned something.


Still prepping for an upcoming poster, I studied Daytona Bitch some more.  She must be my muse.

In preparation for a June event, I did oodles of drawings from burlesque videos.  

For caricaturing, I referenced Mugshot of the Day, which is up there with People of Wal-Mart as my new favourite awful corner of the internet.

I did some people watching at one of Toronto Batman's comedy gigs.  One dude was a lawyer who moonlit as a stand-up.  

And of course, I drew at Toons On Tap. 

From Toons On Tap - Session 27: Venom.  Modelled by Jeff Sim.

Lesson Learned

In my previous post about the challenge, I wanted to learn more about how good habits are formed.  The best tool I came across was Charles Duhigg's flowchart that breaks down habits into a three simple parts.  Rather than as an isolated behaviour, habits should be considered as a process.  With the flowchart as a guide, I thought back to my earlier example: why is it easier for me to do the dishes than draw in my sketchbook?

I am cued to dishes whenever I am in my kitchen to do other things.  If I am boiling water, getting a snack, making a meal, putting away groceries -anything, I will probably do dishes as well.  The cue is clearly based on location.  But why?

Last summer, I decided I was sick of my filthy sink and that I would be militant about cleaning it.  My family would wage wars over doing the dishes, so I would have to fight 18 years of bad behaviour.  On a scrap of paper, I wrote 'NO MORE DIRTY DISHES' and placed it above the sink.

The cue
Then, every time I was in the kitchen it was there, too.  3 A.M. and I can't sleep?  Too bad - no more dirty dishes.  After months of being cued by the paper, I stopped noticing it was there altogether and would go through with the behaviour anyways.  Later, I started keeping rags and all purpose cleaner beside the sink to wipe off the counters after the dishes were done.  The 'routine' part of the three step process has been extended; by developing one good habit, I could piggyback on another.  Lastly, I suspect the 'reward' is the nice, fruity smell of my clean sink.  I think this good behaviour would instantly fall apart if I switched to unscented detergent.  Seriously.

Reflecting on this, I don't really want sketchbook keeping to be a challenge.  I want it to be on AUTO-PILOT.  


  1. You really did some great pics even on the dreaded red paper Laurie, both you and Jeremy really created some interesting imagery over the course of the challenge.

    1. Thanks, Craig! The red paper made me MISERABLE, but I pushed through. I appreciate all the kind words and hope to do more challenges soon. :)