By now you're probably asking yourself what the heck is “mermay”?
The short answer is no, it’s not a typo. Essentially, it’s a month-long tribute to the art drawn by real-life mermaids...Duh!
Ok all kidding aside, MerMay is an online art challenge started by animator Tom Bancroft where you draw or paint a different mermaid piece for every day of May.
So at the end of the month, you will have 31 mermaids -- hopefully. This challenge embraces the values of creativity, community and above all else ...MERMAIDS!
Why Did I Do This Month-Long Challenge?
I did this challenge back in May 2018 because a friend asked me to do the “Inktober” challenge with her one year and I really enjoyed it! I love mermaids, so this challenge was a perfect match for me. I enjoy the old stories of mermaids and sirens luring unsuspecting sailors on the open seas, and the unbelievable beauty they represent.
Truthfully, I would probably choose to be a mermaid over being a human on any given day since I love the beach and swimming so much -- I mean, who wouldn’t right?
If you are thinking of trying a month-long art challenge, this is definitely a fun one if you like (or love) mermaids. You end up with a solid sketchbook of at least 31 pieces, you can post on your Instagram (#mermay) and there’s a whole community of people doing this challenge every year, so finding support is easy.
Generally set aside a scheduled time in each day to draw a mermaid -- even if it’s just 15 minutes, the point is to develop a good habit to help you stay on track.
Don’t stress too much if you miss a day, just have a way to “catch up” if this happens. You could double up your next session or set aside a day specifically for if you fall behind.
In my case, I drew my mermaids out every day, then painted them all on Sundays. Sundays were also my day to catch up for any that I missed during the week. This system worked well for me because I worked full-time and was also a full time student!
It’s also handy to have a collection of images for reference and inspiration. Personally, I saved a bunch of mermaid images online, and pictures of various fishes for color combinations and ideas for mermaid tails.
Picking The Right Medium To Work With
For starters, you will need at least a sketchbook, and a basic #2 pencil, everything else is completely optional. I chose watercolor paints as well because it's a medium I really enjoy working it, and well, we’re painting mermaids...with watercolor -- get it?
Since I wanted to use watercolor to paint my sketches, I paired it with a basic multi-purpose sketchbook that I picked up from a local Blick Art Materials* store. You can also snag a similar one to mine on their website here*.
(*As mentioned earlier, if you choose to shop by using our referral links, MiM earns a small affiliate commission on items purchased within 24 hours. Our affiliate disclosure page can be found here. Thanks for your support!)
I used a simple watercolor paint set* with 12 colors from Utrecht Art Supplies (owned by Blick). A pigment liner is definitely optional, but I’ve found they work great for detailing and I already had one from previous projects.
Making Self Rules ...or Guidelines
The goal here is to have a mermaid drawn for each day of May. I made these rules for myself (more like guidelines) to stay focused and motivated!
I will take at least 15 mins every day to draw. If I happen to have extra time that day, I will add more detail to that drawing.
On Sundays, I will paint all my drawings for the week and catch up on any that I missed that week because let’s face it, life happens.
I must have 31 completed watercolor paintings by May 31st,11:59 pm
DO NOT LET MYSELF GET DISCOURAGED, STAY MOTIVATED. The point of this challenge is to have fun while pushing yourself a little bit artistically.
What To Do If You Get Stuck?
Let’s face it, drawing 31 sketches on the same subject may leave you staring at a wall for inspiration at some point. Instead, try looking at that collection of reference photos I mentioned earlier.
I looked at pictures of other mermaids and especially images of fish. This helped me a lot because I wanted each mermaid to be unique and different, and there are millions of different types of fish with unique attributes to draw inspiration from.
I also did this challenge with some friends, so we encouraged each other by sharing the daily pictures of our work. Having this small community for support and inspiration helped me get through this challenge with ease.
You can find more info on this challenge at the official MerMay website or searching #mermay on Instagram. The website also has daily “prompts” to follow along if you find yourself needing an extra nudge.
I’m proud to say that I completed the challenge that year, and plan to continue doing this event yearly. I did all 31 mermaids within the month of May to meet my goal.
In the end, I had 30 watercolor paintings and one drawing in pigment liner. Check out the MiM Gallery where you can see my all my challenge pieces.
Truthfully, I was very happy with myself and being able to do this challenge amidst a very busy schedule. I will be sharing my progress on the MiM Blog Instagram and Pinterest accounts to help inspire you!
Feel free to connect and share your progress with us if you plan on taking on this awesome art challenge!
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