For the last few years, my husband has participated in Inktober. This year I decided to join him.
Inktober is an annual drawing event which was started in 2009 by an artist, Jake Parker, as an exercise to improve his inking skills. The rules are simple: for the month of October you draw something, in ink, every day. You can do pencil sketches and under-drawings, you can do your own ideas or use one of the many prompt lists. You can do a picture every day, or just as often as fits yoir schedule. Everyone is encouraged to share their drawings on social media, using the #inktober and #inktober[year] hashtags, and to look at those that others have done. Millions of people, of a wide range of abilities, participate.
Ryan, my husband, is an artist/illustrator (www.ryangreen.co.nz – go check out some of his work), so inktober is usually just a bit of fun and an opportunity to flex his creativity muscles on a range of concepts. He usually adds yo the fun and challenge by doing his drawings on a live webcast video, which have been quite popular.
I, on the other hand, am not especially confident with a pencil or other drawing tools. So, to continue this journey of creative self discovery and growth, I thought I’d give it a go.
I dug out my sketch books and different art paper stashes, found the nice drawing pens that my professional comic book artist friend gave me, stole a few bottles of ink from Ryan’s pencil desk, downloaded the official prompt list and off I went!
Inktober with ME
I was a little concerned about committing to 31 consecutive days of anything, with ME, since I just don’t know how the activity will affect me or whether I will have the energy on any given day. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to do any of it, so if I only managed 2 small drawings all month, that was still a win.
I needn’t have worried. While October has special challenges for me and Ryan, with our involvement in a local music festival, I didn’t have a problem finding enough energy to draw. I struggled with time on a couple of occasions, but I always managed to find the energy and focus.
I got quite good and holding the cat back from the cup of inky water balanced on the lap tray while ‘painting’ in bed. I also found ways to use the art as a “mindfulness” meditation type exercise in high stimulus environments that might have otherwise drained me. I also inadvertently showed my 3 year old friend where I keep my fountain pen inks (luckily she’s not interested in using them, she just wanted to bring me more colours).
What is did for me
Doing inktober was beneficial in a number of ways, artistically and personally.
Firstly, I learned to draw faces! I have never really drawn a face before, so drawing a head in profile on day 2 (“mindless”) was scary and exciting. I applied to rules and tips Ryan had taught me (and his other students) at a drawing workshop he did at the local library a few months ago and it worked! By the end of the month I was drawing faces without reference (if I needed it to look like someone specific, I still used reference).
I also learnt a bit about different papers and art media and how they interact. Ink is a very unforgiving medium, unlike watercolour, and it does not play well with watercolour paper. Interestingly, I find marker paper, which is better for ink, quite nice for painting on.
I developed my observation skills a little more. I still need to work on these, but I am getting better at really seeing the object I’m drawing, as shapes and shadows, and textures, and angles.
I learned a few new techniques for drawing and painting. There are a few things I couldn’t execute with the tools and medium I was using (e.g. watercolour would have worked better for my idea, or a thicker brush pen would have allowed me to try a technique that I thought would suit). In some cases, my fear of ruining a good pencil sketch meant I didn’t push myself to try something new… maybe next year.
I discovered that focusing on a detailed and fiddly drawing, sketching it and carefully inking it, is soothing and meditative. I will have to use this in the future as a tool for recharging.
Over all, I found a lot of confidence in my artistic abilities. I drew and painted in a lot of different styles, and used a lot of different techniques. Some worked, some failed horribly, but I learned from the failures… sometimes I learned to fear that technique, or just to think carefully about whether I am adding something valuable or overworking the piece.
I’ve never been very happy with my artistic abilities, so this was really helpful to give me some confidence. I pushed myself into a lot of new areas and tried drawing a lot of things that I would usually avoid, and generally, I was pretty happy with the results.
It felt really good to be able to finish something that epic. My life can be such a series of dropped projects at times that having something that I can say “I did that thing, and I even finished it” is immensely satisfying. It was only a small thing each day, but to have done it felt like a win to me.
I don’t know if I can say I got better over the month, because I definitely got more tired, more rushed, and less focussed after day 22 or so, maybe a little earlier. I feel more confident with faces, bodies, and shading, but beyond that I don’t know. What do you think?