Marta Plizga on how a year-long portrait challenge sharpened her drawing skills

Last year, Bedfordshire-based artist Marta Plizga struggled with her creative practice. So, to get herself out of her rut, she embarked on an ambitious challenge: where she would draw a portrait every single day for twelve months. Here, she explains how it improved her art and lifted her confidence.

Marta Plizga has always dreamed of being an artist. Her creative spirit has burned inside her ever since she was a child, but it wasn’t until she turned 29 that she decided to pursue her dreams. After graduating with a degree in illustration, she became a freelance illustrator, and since then, she has gone on to produce everything from logos to murals for various clients.

Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse, David Hockney, and Egon Schiele are among her biggest influences, with their common dynamic use of colour and form having a huge impact on Marta. “My biggest artistic inspirations come from abstract art, Fauvism, Cubism, and Primitivism,” she tells Creative Boom. “When I was developing my style, I noticed that everything bold, quirky and abstract brings me lots of satisfaction, and this is my artistic language.”

Indeed, in an increasingly digital world, Marta’s work makes a point of remaining tactile and handmade. “When I tried to use digital media, I always felt like I was missing something compared to using traditional media,” she reveals. “For me, using ink, crayons, paint, and paper gives me a sense of control and helps me feel more connected to my creativity. It’s always nice to have that hands-on experience.”

Artistic journeys rarely run smoothly, though. Even if an artist knows their strengths, it’s all too common for doubt to creep in. This is exactly what happened to Marta in 2023, but rather than wallowing in defeat, she decided to take a proactive approach and combat her feelings head-on by embarking on a daily portrait challenge.

“I felt that my style lacked definition, and I decided to push myself by committing to drawing daily,” she explains. “My goal was to experiment with different techniques and add more structure to my daily routine.”

As a result, Marta created a dizzying number of portraits, predominantly of fashionable mature women. All of these images helped her to understand both her artistic voice and where it comes from. “I have noticed significant progress in my drawing skills when comparing my current works to those from a year ago,” she says. “This has helped me to gain more confidence in my abilities and helped me to identify my likes and dislikes, as well as my weaknesses and strengths.

“Through this challenge, I have learned the habit of drawing every day, even if it is just a simple doodle or sketch. This consistency has been crucial in helping me identify areas where I need to improve and has helped me keep my skills sharp.”

As for why she chooses to capture portraits of mature women, Marta says this came naturally to her as a big fashion enthusiast living in the UK. “Seeing bold, mature women wearing fantastic outfits is a huge inspiration for me,” she reveals. “Isn’t it awesome to see how confident and beautiful women feel in their outfits? It’s amazing to witness their comfort and freedom! Also, I am passionate about experimenting with colours and textures, and I find it thrilling to capture these elements on paper.”

And while her portrait challenge is now over, this doesn’t mean Marta will be leaving what she’s learnt in 2023. On the contrary, she says she is determined to keep pushing herself out of her comfort zone in 2024 by creating an unforgettable live event.

“I have been contemplating the idea of starting a project that I call Portrait Hub,” she teases. “The main objective of this project would be to create a platform to capture the essence of people’s lives with quick and quirky portraits. I envision a space where individuals can express themselves in their natural form and be immortalised through my lens.”

Ultimately, Marta’s goal will be to capture the life experiences of each subject in “a captivating and meaningful way.” On top of this, she also wants to organise a solo exhibition later in the year, featuring a selection of her portraits and the stories of the people behind them. “I am excited to see where this journey takes me!”

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