Inktober, Part 2: Well, that was fast!

A kestrel descends from the sky. Behind him are grasses from the ground and the leaves of a tree. Across two scrolled banners is an Ani DiFranco quote: "Everything bows to beauty when it is fierce".

A kestrel descends from the sky. Behind him are grasses from the ground and the leaves of a tree. Across two scrolled banners is an Ani DiFranco quote:

Like a lot of things this year, Inktober came and went with lightning speed! Fortunately I was able to grab on and draw madly while it was here. I covered the first 16 sketches in a previous post; here’s what I did the rest of the month.

For starters, my comics collaborator and friend Patch Campbell, who’s really good at pushing me in new directions, started leaning on me to try inking with paintbrushes instead of brushpens. Here’s my first attempt:

A mermaid in black and gold ink. A bird flies out of her swirling hair towards the swirling ocean as she reaches out to touch the swirling sun.

I really enjoyed doing this one! I kinda have a thing for swirls and curlicues, and this sketch was pretty much stream-of-consciousness, just going with whatever fell out of the brush and building on it. Plus I had gold ink to play with. I have a thing for that too.

The next day I tried again with the paintbrush, but it felt clumsy to me, so I switched back to my beloved Pentel pocket brush pen for the finer details of this illustration. It was inspired by a line from “Lag Time” by Ani DiFranco: “Survivors are part turtle, we are part potato bug”. That one line stuck in my head, and the mental image was so improbable and funny to me that I had to draw it. So here’s my little survivor — bold and sturdy as a tank, forging her way forward, with friends to help her find her way.

A creature that is part turtle and part potato bug strides forth with another bug perched on her back pointing the way. Neither of them see the tiny startled bug in their path.

I have to say, I really like this one. And…(does a happy dance and high-fives the universe)…someone bought it and my creature will be going to a wonderful home soon!

The next day I was at a loss for what to draw, so I searched #drawme on Instagram, and found an adorable selfie of @le0paz with his son on his shoulders. I didn’t do him justice, but I had a lot of fun trying. Like the others, this one was straight to ink, which is really, really tough for portraits.

An illustration from the collar up of a smiling man carrying his son on his shoulders.

I wanted more practice drawing people in motion, so I poked around on the internet looking at photos of dancers, and did my best to capture a sense of movement.

A black and white illustration of a shirtless man in a black jacket and hat dancing.

For this one, I wanted to experiment with simple lines and a lot of contrast.

A black and white illustration from the collarbone up of a woman's face. She has dark shoulder-length hair and a serene expression.

Looking at dancers again, I loved the images I found of women in long swirling skirts, and the motion of fabric flowing through the air.

A woman in a long ruffled skirt dances while the skirt flares out into the air to her right.

That weekend I headed up to Ithaca, NY to visit a friend, and spent the three-hour drive drinking in all the vivid fall colors. They poured out again through my pens into this bird.

A brightly-colored bird with a golden beak stands with one foot raised. The illustration is bordered with leaves.

My friend had a copy of Rainforest, by Thomas Marent. It’s filled with gorgeous photos of plants and animals that live in rainforests around the world. Lots of great photo references there!

An illustration of a nymphalid butterfly, a passionflower, and a treefrog on a leaf.

The illustrations I love most usually capture a sense of movement and immediacy, so I went back to motion images, this time focusing on cats. I found a photo I really loved and reinterpreted it for the drawing below.

A cat is awkwardly upside-down on one shoulder, legs every which way, tail straight up in the air. The caption reads,

My mouse and dragon characters from earlier in the month seem to have taken root in my imagination. I’m not sure what their story is yet, but this illustration is another glimpse into their friendship.

A dragon lies curled around a crying mouse. The mouse has his hands clasped around his knees, and the dragon has one arm wrapped around the mouse. In front of them their tails are intertwined, and they share the moment with eyes closed.This one sold also! I feel so honored when someone buys my work. That something I’ve created means enough to someone to hang on their wall, where it will keep them company day by day — that feels really, really special.

I went on a bird kick and spent a few days drawing kingfishers. Here’s a common kingfisher with dinner:A common kingfisher stands on a mossy branch with one foot lifted and a fish speared on his beak.

I spent a lot of time fussing over tiny little details for the one above. And oddly, I’m more proud of the mossy stuff on the branch than I am of the bird. For the next common kingfisher I wanted more movement, more flow, so I worked really fast and loose:

A black and white illustration of a common kingfisher in flight.

The third, a belted kingfisher, strikes a good balance between detail and looseness I think. All three of these were done straight to ink with no pencil underdrawing.

A black and white illustration of a belted kingfisher perched on a branch.

I don’t spend enough time focusing on environments and landscapes, so a day spent kayaking with a friend seemed like a good way to find inspiration. Giving Pond in Bucks County, PA is a really beautiful place, full of life and teeny tiny islets. This drawing was done with a superfine water-soluble ink pen and an Aquash water brushpen, with black watercolor added later to deepen the shadows.

Smaller rocks sit stacked atop a larger rock, which sits surrounded by reeds on a tiny island in Giving Pond. The island isn't much bigger than the largest rock.

For the last day, I went back to birds and Ani DiFranco, with a line from “Fierce Flawless”: “Everything bows to beauty, when it is fierce…and when it is flawless”. For myself, I think the beauty is often found in the flaws. But beauty that is fierce is an unstoppable force of nature. Kind-of like a bird of prey. Kind-of like a kestrel.

A kestrel descends from the sky. Behind him are grasses from the ground and the leaves of a tree. Across two scrolled banners is an Ani DiFranco quote:

I think it’s a pretty strong finish to the month.

I did it. I did it! An ink drawing every single day for the entire month, sometimes several. And the vast majority of them done with no pencil sketching first. Drawing straight to ink was a huge leap of faith for me. It meant I had to get it right the first time, or get it wrong and find a way to work with it anyway. And either way, it was an act of fully committing to what I was doing, and to believing I could do it with no practice run and little or no planning. That was a huge confidence-builder.

The reason it took me so long to post my drawings from the second half of Inktober is because I’m also busily working on a webcomic called Pika’s Peak! I’m crazy-excited to start sharing it — more news of that soon. Meanwhile, you can follow the progress of the comic as we create it on the Pika’s Peak Facebook page. Come join the fun, and follow the adventure as it unfolds!

I did manage to find time to go back and color two of the kingfishers. The whole spectacle of a common kingfisher is uncommonly bright plumage, so that needed to be done.

A common kingfisher stands on a mossy branch with one foot raised, and a fish speared on his beak. The bird's plumage is a rainbow of orange, green, and blue.

One of my goals going forward is to make ink drawing a more regular part of my routine. I feel like one of the things that has happened in the year since Inktober 2015 is that I’m finding more consistency in my work across both digital and traditional media. Both have their lessons to teach, and both have their unique flavors and challenges. Onward into another year of learning!

A common kingfisher in flight. The bird's plumage is a rainbow of orange, blue, and green.

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Most of these illustrations are available for sale, and they make great holiday gifts. Send me a message through the Contact page if you’re interested. If you want to see whatever I’m working on at the moment, you can find me on Instagram, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. 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. And don’t forget to check out Pika’s Peak!