I can’t believe it’s almost October. And I realized that the start of October means Inktober is here again!
If this is the first time you have heard the term Inktober, here’s a quick overview:
Inktober is an annual drawing challenge that was started many years ago by an artist named Jake Parker. The point of the challenge, for him, was to force himself to ink his drawings, which he felt made them feel more finished. Pencil sketches felt like more preliminary, rough drawings where inked drawings felt like committing an idea to paper and seeing it all the way through.
The rules, as Jake created it are:
- Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
- Post it*
- Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2022
Since the original inception, Inktober has taken many forms and mutations. Each year, Jake publishes his list of work prompts. Many other groups and people create their own list of prompts. YOU can create your own list of prompts.
(*For the full details, check out the rules and prompts)
Now about those rules….
I create my own set of prompts each year for topics/ideas I want to draw and make a list. This is YOUR challenge and you want to create a project that is actually going to be inspiring for you and achievable.
In the past, I’ve done these by making an ABC list for a topic: office supplies, my favorite things, or knitting terms (A is for Alpaca, etc). You can make any kind of list you want. Flowers of North America, All the Dogs in my Neighborhood, Famous Authors, etc. Your prompts don’t have to be October, Halloween or spooky-themed if that’s not your bag.
You can also use the provided prompts and keep the ones that inspire you and swap out others for something that you might prefer to draw. Bouquet sounds fun… booger? Not so much.
I remember someone making a list of fairytales she wanted to illustrate and chose a scene from the stories for each day in October. The goal is to know, at the start of the month, what you plan on drawing for each day so you spend your time drawing not thinking about what to draw.
Knowing what you want to draw can also help if you need to find a reference image. Say you want to draw your version of the Alice in Wonderland caterpillar sitting on the mushroom. Rather than searching the internet for the original drawing done for the book, search for an image of a caterpillar, a mushroom, etc. Then either bookmark the images so you have your reference or print them out. They don’t have to printed in color or on a nice copier, you just need the shape and a rough idea of what they look like to compose them into your drawing.
Any pre-plan work you can do will make doing your drawings frictionless. You look at your list, grab your reference pics and start drawing. You don’t spend 45 minutes looking for a picture or coming up with an idea before you get to the drawing part.
The online creative video learning site CreativeBug has many 31 day sketchbook challenges that will walk you through prompts and drawings including 31 Things to Draw with Lisa Congdon. There are many other Daily Drawing/Creative classes available on the site in the Art & Design Daily Practice section. The site is a paid subscription service but many local libraries have free subscriptions available. Check with your library web site to see if they offer CreativeBug as part of their services. Kansas City does!
About those rules… Part 2:
Yes, the original idea of Inktober was to get artists and illustrators inspired to push their drawings along but as the challenge has expanded to inspire first-time creators to try, the part about “post your drawing” can make a lot of people panic. Guess what? It’s your challenge. If you don’t feel comfortable posting your drawings, don’t. The purpose of this project is to draw for 31 days (or 30 days or 26 days or whatever…). You are making a commitment to yourself and your own creative journey. Social media is for accolades and showing off. If you make one drawing all month that you want to hang on the world wide refrigerator door, great! If you make 3 or 4, super. If you feel awkward and uncomfortable showing people the crooked lines you drew trying to draw the barrel of a pencil or pen (see below), then don’t post them. Let the fact that you actually tried be your bragging. And then keep drawing until you do want to show one off. It will happen, I promise.
All you need is a notebook and a pen. Maybe a pencil and eraser too for your under drawing.
I like to SERIOUSLY limit my tools when doing Inktober. I choose which pen will be my Inktober pen and which notebook. I will put my prompt list, taped, into the front of my book so I don’t have to scramble to find it. The minute you fire up your phone to look for the prompt list, time can be lost to reading that email or text and then, next thing you know, the time you’ve set aside for Inktober has been usurped by the internet.
At the beginning of each Inktober, I pack a small case with the tools I’m going to use. After doing the challenge about four times now, I have my “kit” pretty locked down. I use:
- light colored erasable pencil (usually non-repro blue)
- an eraser
- Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink
- Small set of watercolors
- Small #6 or smaller round brush or water pen
- collapsible cup for water (but anything will work or I use the waterbrush)
- a rag for wiping my brush
That’s it. In the past, I’ve tried a small, limited palette of alcohol markers and one year I used one waterbrush filled with grey/black ink for washes. Choose tools that work for you and just use those for the whole month. Part of the challenge is to get to know your tools and what they can and cannot do.
Be sure to test your chosen tools before you start Inktober to be sure they work together on the paper you have selected. Pick a couple pages in the back of your sketchbook for testing, color combos or tool combos so that you have a safe place to see if the brush pen and markers work together or if they bleed into a nasty mess before you start using them on your finished sketch. I once accidentally put plain Platinum Black ink in my Desk Pen and discovered it is not waterproof on my drawing. I had to start all over! Let me be your cautionary tale.
Some artists will actually just cut a square from the back of their sketchbook so they can have it in front of them while they are working to test their tools, make sure they have ink in a pen, etc.
What if I Miss a Day?
Don’t panic. And please don’t throw in the towel. Every year I’ve done the Inktober challenge, I’ve missed a day or two here or there because life happens. Here are some of my methods for catching up:
- Do two drawings the next day
- Just skip that day altogether (if you feel like going back to it, do it on November 1)
- Just do it the next day and your Inktober challenge will bleed into November by a day or two. No big deal.
- If you know you won’t be able to draw one day, try to do the drawing ahead of schedule. (This is your challenge and the challenge is to JUST KEEP DRAWING.)
Some years, I’ve combined all these techniques to complete my challenge.
Is This Your Year?
I look forward to seeing or hearing from anyone who decides to tackle the Inktober challenge this year. What theme or prompts will you be doing? Have you gotten all your supplies picked out and ready to go? What is keeping you from trying it?
6 comments / Add your comment below
Best “Advice Column” of 2022!
Awesome drawing of the knitting! I haven’t knit in quite a while and you’re making me miss it. I’ve been sewing instead. Now, though, we just moved, and I can’t do either for a while because it’s all still lost in boxes. Gotta keep on unpacking! Watch out; you’re getting me motivated! I’m a lousy sketcher, but if I can find my colored pencils and inks…I might just give it a shot. You’ve at least given me some great ideas of simple, everyday things I can draw. Looks like fun!
Thanks for all the ideas. This year, Jake wrote, “you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week.” I like that.
Most years I do post every day. I use the month to work only in inks on tan toned paper.
BTW….anyone know what happened with the controversy of a couple years ago over the book? I saw one site with a judgement dismissing the suit by the plaintiff.
Excellent tips and advice! I’ve been doing Inktober annually since 2015. Instead of choosing a subject theme, though, my approach is to choose a technique (hatching? blind contours?) or a material (Bic pen? sumi?). Occasionally I make an interesting breakthrough, but usually it’s just fun to join the community by following the hashtag and see what everyone else is doing.
This year will be my 3rd attempt and I really want to finish this time… But I also have to accept that I might not! Life’s really busy, but I’ve been making time to draw daily anyway, so I feel like I can do it.
Awesome post, thanks!!
These are such good tips and advice, thanks for sharing them.
This year is my first year actually doing inktober, I usually just follow other peoples progress, but I want to improve my drawing skills so I’m throwing myself in at the deep end. I found a prompt list that I’m excited about and I think that might help to motivate me.