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mermay 2021

MerMay diaries: My first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge

Happy May everyone! I don’t know if you have noticed, but the art part of Instagram is full of mermaids. Why? Because it’s Mermay! Mermay is an online art challenge in which you have to upload a mermaid for the entire month of May. I decided to document my journey through the first week. Or better said: I decided to write about my first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge. Let’s see how it went!

Mermay day 1: Tranquillity

Mermay day 1

So, a few days ago I started with some sketches for the first prompt: tranquillity. Immediately I noticed I didn’t know what the heck I was doing anatomy wise, so I decided to look up the proportions of the human body. Having this in mind I really did not want my characters to look stiff. I defied the laws of gravity and made my merm a bit bendier. In the end, I think she came out cute!

MerMay day 2: Soldier

Mermay day 2

When sketching some ideas for this mermaid, the first word that came to mind was ”tough”. I wanted her tail to be pointy which makes her seem intimidating. I also wanted her to have some sort of weapon. I played around with a few ideas such as something called a morning star but made from sea urchins. I also thought of using a trident. I didn’t want to go for the obvious choice so I decided against the trident.

Ultimately I went with fish hooks, with the fishing line wrapped around her arms. I feel like I could design this concept better if I had more time. I like it, so I definitely would like to revisit this one in the future.

Also note the pouty face. I loved drawing this expression.

Click here to see the promp list I used!

Mermay day 3: Besties

Mermay day 3

This one was by far the easiest and the quickest one I’ve done so far. I wanted to make a kid with a sea creature as a bestie. I’ve never drawn a kid before now I think of it. I had so much fun with posing her and making all three of them look cute.

Looking back I would definitely make her less textured. Right now she looks pretty crusty.

Mermay day 4: Sassy

MerMay diaries: My first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge

I spent a lot of hours on this one. I couldn’t come up with a sassy pose. I think the combination of me being clueless on how to draw bodies and the lack of experience drawing anatomy below the neck caused this one to be so hard. I looked for reference but most of the sassy poses were leaning on an object or wall. Which in the ocean is… hard.

All of my mermaids look simple but each one took a few hours. I tried to work non-destructively. This means I had at least 60 layers for each one of them!

Trouble in paradise

So here’s where the trouble began. I was still on schedule after 4 days. I finished 4/4 mermaids plus I had 1 mermaid extra prepared, as a buffer in case there was a day I couldn’t draw. This extra mermaid was for the ”student” prompt, which was day 6. So now I had to work on day 5: Hooked. I did what I did the days before: some different concepts, sketch, outline, colour. But when I almost finished her she looked…. awful. I don’t know why. Let’s just say she had a face only a mother could love.

The idea was for her to make a silly face because she was being pulled by a fish hook in her mouth (not drawn here)

Redraw or retract?

After working on this ugly merm I really started to dislike the style I was drawing in. It’s hard to push through when you’re not satisfied with the way it’s headed. So I had a choice: I could redo this one or upload it.

After all, it’s a challenge, right? But uploading the ugly mermaid meant I was about to ”taint” my feed with an illustration I really disliked. Since my Instagram also functions as a portfolio I chose to redraw it.

I spent the following day drawing a new illustration with the same prompt. This meant I lost the buffer of being 1 mermaid ahead causing me to stress out even more! I spent the ENTIRE day making this. I even skipped dinner :’)

The idea was to draw a fish hook laying in front of her. She’s ”hooked” on the idea of interacting with it. Can you tell I’m running out of ideas? Lol

Looking back I’m glad I didn’t go through with the original ugly mermaid. Upon finishing the new mermaid I still didn’t like it… so I decided to skip this day. All those hours of redrawing this prompt were for nothing. *slaps forehead*

Mermay day 6: Student

MerMay diaries: My first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge

Okay here’s where it gets a little confusing. I uploaded my 6th prompt (student) on the 8th day of May. This was my 5th finished mermaid (excluding the two ugly ones). I focused on movement and S-lines. This is where I realised illustrations do not have to be realistic. Her arms are too short to be realistic and it bends in unnatural forms. However, this illustration reads well because it has a nice flow. So it’s easy on the eyes!

Mermay day 9: Mother

MerMay diaries: My first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge

So again I skipped a few merms because I was tired. I didn’t have a buffer anymore and I decided quality over quantity. I drew this Mermaid holding her baby bump. This is my favourite one so far. I wanted to make her left arm a bit lower but it took so much time to figure out – I just left it the way it was.

My first week of suffering through the Mermay2021 challenge

Mermay definitely highlighted the perfectionist in me. It’s only day 10 as I’m writing this but I’m already behind (oops!). To me, this challenge had 3 factors:

  • Overcoming my perfectionism
  • Increase posts to gain a bit more exposure
  • Finding my illustrative art style

I do think I posted some things I wouldn’t have posted in the past. I noticed a slight increase in exposure but not too much. I’ve heard you can expect a slight increase in likes and followers after 30 days.

So far I found out that my current style isn’t really what I like. Right now it feels too flat for me. A bit too cartoony for my liking. I’m debating if I should change my style right now or continue so that everything matches. See, it’s that dang perfectionism again!


I won’t do the entire 31 days. Maybe I’ll do 15 days so I can finish my gradient. You can see that each illustration has a fixed background. If you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll see that a pastel gradient is starting to appear.

Anyway, I hope that my first week of struggling through Mermay gave you the feeling of camaraderie, or at least made you laugh a bit.

Until next time,

♡ Laura

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