Inktober 2015, Part 1

A sketch of a ladybug in flight

A sketch of a ladybug in flight

Many folks I know go out of their way to be unplugged from time to time, and consider it an accomplishment. For me, it just happens periodically when life gets busy or I’m particularly preoccupied, and often it’s a bummer, because I miss cool stuff. Like Inktober!

Inktober is a month-long challenge to artists to create some kind of ink drawing every day — “31 days, 31 drawings” is the tag line artist Jake Parker uses to describe the event he created back in 2009. It’s grown into a huge phenomenon across social media since then. At the moment, if you search Instagram using the hashtag #inktober (go ahead, take a look) you’ll get over a million posts. Search using #inktober2015 and you’ll get over 300,000 and counting. Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ are similarly overflowing with artistic abundance.

I’m a little late to this party, showing up halfway through the month. And I’m shy about showing up at all — ink and paper scare the hell out of me! It’s so…permanent. Unlike working digitally, there’s no “undo” button, and no moving or adjusting things once they’re drawn. Ink requires commitment. Once it’s there, it’s there, and you’ve just got to work with it.

Well, never let it be said I backed down from a challenge. I learn by doing, and I learn a lot by doing new things. So I pedaled over to the Allegheny Art Company in Jenkintown and picked up some supplies to get me started: two Tombow brush pens (one black and one medium grey), three black Micron pens in a range of sizes, one mechanical pencil, and a really nice mixed-media sketchbook by Canson, filled with paper meant to withstand a lot of wet ink without bleeding through the page.

A photo of inking supplies

Day 1 for me (and Day 16 for everyone else) was Friday evening. I decided my new journal-of-sketches for this little adventure should have a title page. I was going to do an illustration of the words “Yay! Art!”, but I only got as far as the “Yay!” before bed. Still, it was a nice cheerful start.

A sketch of the word

I woke up on Day 2 thinking of all the ways in which my “Yay!” sketch failed to exemplify the meaning of the word. Grey, muted, haphazard, and half-assed. Not very yay-like.

Setting those thoughts aside in favor of more positive ones — new toys to play with! — I grabbed my sketchbook and got going. This is what I’ve done since.

A park ranger with a shovel — I like his expression and the feel of the lines, but it’s a little aimless. I added a cute squirrel to distract from that. When in doubt, make it cuter?

A sketch of a park ranger with a shovel, being watched by a squirrel.

Next, I tried a monster and a perplexed bird. Fun, but rough. It looks like something a kid would do with a cheap magic marker.

A sketch of a monster making a face while a perplexed bird watches.

Feeling like I needed a little direction regarding the use of brush pens, I searched YouTube for tutorials and found one on inking a rose. I found a good photo to use as a reference for my own drawing, and tried to apply what I’d learned.

A black and white sketch of a rose.

Much better! I started to feel like I was getting somewhere. I googled “flowers”, looking for something simple with a lot of light and shadow, and found a nice hibiscus. What I learned from drawing this is that simpler shapes are actually harder to shade well, because there’s less to dig into, and fewer details to hide behind. But after an hour or so and a lot of hard work, the result was what you see below, and I’m pretty pleased! I went to bed feeling accomplished, having managed three drawings for Day 2.

A black, grey and white sketch of a hibiscus blossom and leaf.

A black and white sketch of a ladybug with the reference photo on screen in the background.On Day 3, I remembered an image of a ladybug I’d referenced for a cartoon sketch a week or two ago, and thought I’d have a go at it again in careful inky detail.

This makes me wonder, though — how did anyone ever manage to draw stuff like this before we had search engines and a wealth of readily available photographs?

Also, what was I thinking, drawing a ladybug with no red ink? That gave me an excuse to go back to the art supply store and buy more pens. So the next day I came home with these to play with:

A rainbow of brush pens, along with a white and a gold pen.

Having chosen a rainbow of brilliant fall colors, plus a white pen for highlights and a metallic gold pen just because, I decided to dive in and found that blending colors with brush pens is a blast. Remember how when you were little and you played with your Crayola markers, you had to be careful not to ruin the yellow one by using it over any other color? Yeah. With Tombow brush pens, that’s not a problem. The colors blend beautifully on the page, and the markers themselves remain unsullied. Actually, it’s better than that – the lighter color brush pen will pick up a little of the darker color, allowing you to create shading with the in-between colors for the next few strokes before the effect wears off. It’s surprisingly like painting. This discovery presents all sorts of possibilities for color blending that I wouldn’t have imagined, and I’ll have to find more ways to explore that. But I got started with this little sketch of cats playing with falling leaves for Day 4.

Two kittens leap and pounce on colorful falling leaves.

Tuesday was Day 5, and I found myself warily watching a spider crawl overhead while I stretched on the floor. That gave me my next idea, and I decided to explore a sort-of anime-like style for it.  That was weirdly uncomfortable for me. My sketches are frequently rough or awkward, but they’re still recognizably my sketches, at least to me. Trying on someone else’s style felt a lot like borrowing someone else’s clothes — fun to do, but not quite the right fit. That said, I’ve also found that trying something different sometimes is uncomfortable, but it’s still a learning experience, and that’s usually worth a little uneasiness along the way.

A woman in Lotus Position watches with one eye open as a spider dangles over her.

Wednesday…well, it’s late October and Wednesday was 75 degrees and sunny. I weighed the importance of giving this project my all against the dwindling likelihood of summery days for the next 6 months, and the weather won. So my project for Day 6 was just to take the prequel pencil sketch for Day 5’s drawing, and ink it in. I added the lettering this morning, and can’t decide if that’s an improvement or not — but it’s ink, so there’s no taking it back.

A woman with a ponytail peeks with one eye open at the words

What I’ve learned so far is this: drawing with ink is an interesting dance of careful planning and figuring out how to work with your mistakes. It’s like time — we can’t undo what we’ve already done. We can only look at the results and decide what to do next. Just a few days into this, it boggles my mind that buying a pencil for underdrawings was an afterthought. What was I thinking?

I don’t know. What I was feeling was eager enthusiasm, and apprehension that in trying something new, I’d discover I suck at it. Now? I have a lot to learn; who doesn’t? But I think: Yeah. Let’s do this.

*      *      *

If you want to join me in the day-to-day unfolding of this, you can find me on Instagram, Google+, and Facebook. I haven’t been doing much with Pinterest, but I’ll get around to it eventually. I currently use Twitter mostly for less artsy stuff. You can also have future blog posts delivered straight to your inbox if you’d like — enter your email address and hit the “FOLLOW” button below.

15 thoughts on “Inktober 2015, Part 1

  1. Great pieces, I’m really glad you ended up getting on board with Inktober! I think I like your park ranger the most, however, the flowers are all very beautiful too. The finality of inking is what draws me to it over digital art; I enjoy the greater risk and how it pushes me to work with what I have done, even if I don’t initially like it.

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    1. Thanks so much – I’m really glad I did too! That’s interesting – of all of the sketches here, the park ranger is the most “me”, for all that I feel like that drawing doesn’t know what it’s about. I haven’t really ever used ink before, though, aside from long-ago notebook doodles, so I’ve found myself exploring styles, approaches, and ways of “seeing” what I’m drawing that are also new to me. I feel like I’m really learning a lot from this.

      Your art is fabulous! I just followed your blog – I’m really looking forward to exploring it in more depth, and seeing what comes next!

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    1. Thanks so much! I hope you do – your work is wonderful and I’d love to see what you do with this. Also – it’s not too late – you could still dive in for the last week, if you’re inclined.

      I love the Goethe quote you posted recently, and it seems relevant here: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back – concerning all acts of…creation, there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” I feel like being committed to a drawing makes all the difference in whether or not it really comes together. (For anyone else who’s reading this, you can find the post at https://certainline.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/goethe-and-the-fishing-man/ )

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  2. I really like what the Inktober project brings out in your art — especially the immediacy of the ladybird beetle, the richness of the hibiscus, and the humor of the monster with the perplexed bird (which might, in fact, actually be my favorite!).

    I’ll have to add this to my calendar of things and try to remember to participate next year. Like NaNoWriMo, it seems like a really good way to kickstart the creative process … and unlike NaNoWriMo, it doesn’t seem very daunting 😀

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    1. Thanks so much! That’s really funny that the monster and bird one is your favorite. In a lot of ways, it’s the most “me” of these – I’m that kind of goofy. 😀 The others are less the sort of thing I would normally draw, and more experiments in style and technique. I should have Part 2 up soon – hopefully tomorrow – and those drawings are a little more reflective of the things and ideas that interest me (and not just because there are bunnies involved).

      I can’t recommend trying Inktober (or any similar activity) highly enough – it really is a great exercise (more about that in Part 2). I think I’m gushing a bit these days when I talk about it. But it was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And now there’s this whole other dimension of my art that I can explore – prior to this I only worked digitally. It was *very* daunting to me, because of this – and also because I put a lot of effort into almost every drawing – not a lot of off-the-cuff doodles. That translated into a lot of time, too. But it was definitely time well spent.

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      1. Given that my entire blog is basically devoted to gushing about ballet, I think I should say, “Gush on!”

        I can’t wait to see part 2! It’s neat to hear how Inktober has expanded your artistic horizons!

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        1. I love reading what you write about ballet. Because you are passionate about it – and I totally get that. I think you and I are both people who tend to be intensely focused on and passionate about *something*, even if that something shifts over time (which it sometimes does for me; and sometimes it’s several somethings). Not everyone gets that. But you clearly do, and I really appreciate seeing that in your writing. 🙂

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  3. Wow! You really got into it! Well done. I used it mainly as a means to try out new work for surface pattern ideas and art for prints. I tend to draw everyday as a means to relax and put together new ideas. I love the way my mind wanders when I just play. Great posts!

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    1. Thanks so much – that means a lot coming from an artist like yourself! I really tried to give it my best. I think I expected to just knock out some doodles…but I found myself mesmerized by the experience, and really digging in, and pushing myself into techniques and styles I hadn’t previously explored. I try to draw every day, whether it’s digital or not; Inktober really underlined how much happier I am when I do. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I think I’ll try harder to make it so in the future.

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    1. I totally understand how that goes. Time is finite, and we always have to make choices about how to spend it. I think I got lucky, in a sense, that this just happened to come around at the right time for me. I’m thankful for that! It doesn’t always work out that way.

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