Every year when October comes around it sparks excitement into us for a few reasons. The weather cools down, the leaves begin to fall, and everything pumpkin-spiced is coming at you full force; but for artist and illustrators it marks the beginning of INKTOBER!
Inktober is a world wide social-media driven artist challenge. The goal is to enforce good drawing habits and improve your pen and ink skills. Started by Jake Parker in 2009, it has grown to be a drawing event that thousands of artist all over the world look forward to every October. There is an official prompt list that gives a word to inspire each image everyday but it is not mandatory to follow. Actually a lot of artist will set their own parameters or make their own prompt list (I did a combination of the two). All you have to do is complete an ink drawing and post it to Instagram with #inktober to join the thousands of entries for that day! It really is an awesome way to join the online artist community and to connect with people you wouldn't have other wise.
Though I have known about Inktober since 2011, this year was my first time participating. What was holding me back, you ask? Everything! There's the commitment, time management, being compared to others, and the biggest culprit, MYSELF! Like a lot of you, I am my own worst critic.
Mentally it was hard for me to join this drawing challenge because I am very aware that 31 drawings in 31 days is a really tall order. I was scared that all 31 drawings wouldn't be masterpieces and therefor wouldn't be worth my time to attempt. I know that sounds ridiculous but that really was my mindset and has been for a very long time.
I told myself that this year would be different! This year I would stop holding myself back! I was going to say yes to the things that scare me. I've learned that in order to grow within your craft, you must try. I was tired of sitting back and watching my peers experience success and growth in their businesses, while I am stagnant, stuck, and failing! It is a tough pill to swallow and the reality check that I desperately needed. I was tired of asking myself:
"Why not me?"
"Why don't I get tons of commissions?"
"Why don't I have a large following?"
"Why aren't my originals selling like crazy?"
I knew why. I had to be honest with myself to realize I was just standing in my own damn way!
Accepting the Inktober challenge was me shoving my old self out of the way and bursting through saying, "LOOK AT ME! I'M A CREATIVE AND I'M READY TO WORK!"
Now, 31 drawings in 31 days is a huge commitment for me, but I had a new found passion to finish to motivate me! I also knew that if I was going to dedicate my time and energy to this, I wanted to learn as much as I could and make something worth sharing with people!
For my Inktober challenge I decided to stick to the theme of Natural Sciences. It is a subject that I am very passionate about and it is a large component of what I received my degree in, Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration, from VCU.
Within that theme, I still used the official prompt list (found here) to inspire my drawing each day being mindful that the subject matter would revolve around plants, animals, and naturally occurring objects. Once i got started, I had a BLAST! Each day I would look at the prompt word, spend a little time thinking and researching, compile my stock reference images, turn on a podcast, and crank out my drawing for the day.
My materials were simple:
a 9"x12" sketch pad
a couple Micron pens in various sizes
HB pencil and a kneaded eraser.
It felt so good to finish each days prompt with a huge smile on my face. With each day I felt more and more in tune with my creative side, which had been lacking for a while, and I gave myself permission to just have fun with it! Realistically though, I do have other obligations and October was a very busy month for me. I think I lasted about two weeks with the daily drawings until it all started to pile up on me. Between work, my social life, commissions, and just trying staying healthy, I started to fall behind. What started as three days behind very quickly snowballed into five days, then eight days, then a whopping ten days behind! It would've been very easy to throw in the towel at that moment, but I was not going to quit!
Somehow within the last week of the month I cranked out about 14 drawings! I never planned ahead, and I kept it fast and loose, never spending more than three hours on a piece. Being able to close my book on the 31st drawing was a really memorable moment for me. I know it may not seem that monumental but if you are a chronic "never-finisher" like myself, this was a BIG DEAL! I put my reservations aside and I created a small body of work that I am actually very proud of. Each drawing was made with care and intention. And though I have my favorites I believe each one is awesome on its own, and for that I am pleased.
The Inktober challenge was just the "say yes" moment I needed to push myself into the creative head-space I wanted to be in. It forced me to make time each day for my drawing and it made my online presence more consistent. Overall, it was a personal success!
If you are a creative and find yourself to be uninspired, in a lull, unmotivated, or just unimpressed with yourself, I urge you to accept a challenge. Accept a creative challenge that you feel is just a step outside of your box. Move out of your own way, and do something new and different in order to re-spark your passions. Even if the task seems bigger than what you can handle, go for it anyway. The learning experience you gain from experimentation and the journey itself, is extremely valuable. Its also okay to fail, because you'll learn something from that too.
If you decide to find a creative challenge that already exist online, or you want to make one up on your own, make sure it is a subject you are passionate about. Be realistic with yourself and HAVE FUN! It is better to say that you tried something new than to say you didn't try at all. (I know. So cliche, but so true.)