This year I did my first try at the Inktober challenge created by artist and illustrator Jake Parker. The challenge is simple enough, every October you do a drawing a day with a prompt list either from the official site or of your own making. The challenge is intended for traditional medium artists with a focus on inking but over the years that part of the challenge has become optional. This was my first real attempt at an art challenge and I learned some stuff over the past month. If you’re considering taking on a challenge or are just curious about my time with it then read on.
1 ) Plan everything out well ahead of day one
If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Take some time before the actual challenge begins to get everything you need in order from materials to time management. Nothing is worse than struggling from the word go so get everything in order. Get your materials and sketchbooks well ahead of time. Get your prompt list and tape it onto the first page. Thumbnail some ideas or write them down for later.
In short, get your shit together before you commit to a month long challenge.
2 ) Set your own goals and aims. This is a challenge, not a circle jerk
If you start a challenge and just stick to what you know and what you’re comfortable with then you’re not really getting the point of the word challenge. Try out a new medium, a new technique, work on things you’re not familiar with. I’ve seen artists use inktober to work on the weaker elements of their work like doing nothing but hands or figures or landscapes for a solid month. Take the challenge and use it to grow as an artist. Don’t trap yourself in familiarity.
3 ) Connect with other artists and build your own circle
For the whole month folk will be sharing their work and using the same hashtags as you. It’s the perfect time to look about online and find folk who interest you or inspire you. It doesn’t take much to connect with someone online either. You like their post, comment and follow them and then you just drop them a message saying hi and how you like their stuff. Boom. Done. Connect with folk, make friends and get some engagement with your work.
4 ) It’s cool to take breaks when you need it.
I struggled with burnout towards the end of this challenge. An accumulation of work, personal stuff and time keeping troubles made it a grind at times. The best thing to do when this happens is to stop. Take a break. Don’t force yourself. Nothing that makes you stress or burnout is worth doing that badly. Just chill for a bit and catch up when you can. No one’s judging you.
5 )Share your work and talk about it
The whole point of the challenge is to grow and get into the habit of regularly producing work. It’s all wasted if you just draw in a sketchbook and then dump it in a drawer somewhere at the end of the challenge. Share your work. Be open about the process. Ask for feedback. You’ll get more out of the challenge than if you don’t.
6 ) Don’t compare yourself to others, everybody’s doing their own shit
This month is about you. It’s about you getting better at your art or at a medium or at a particular technique. It’s not about scrolling through twitter and Instagram and whatever else people are sharing their art on and saying to yourself that you’ll never be that good. Focus on you. Don’t get discouraged when someone makes an amazing piece of work on a day you struggled. They were in your shoes once upon a time.
7 ) Go a little crazy
Doing a piece a day can take its toll on anyone. The best way to stop burnout and slumps is to go a little crazy now and then. Experiment. Do things you’d not normally do. Mix it up. Use your non dominant hand to ink or close your eyes every other stroke. Try and time yourself. Try to do the whole thing in one stroke. Do whatever you think will bring a little more fun into the whole thing.
8 ) Don’t forget to work on the fundamentals
Mind how I just said to go crazy? Yeah nah I mean when you’re feeling like shit go crazy. For the most part though work on the fundamentals as much as you can. If you’re making a piece a day then you should really work the fundamentals with each piece. Try to work in a wee lesson or revision work into your art. Use the prompts given to you to focus on the core concepts of art such as composition, texture, shape, tone, contrast, perspective and all that other good shit.
9 ) When all else fails keep your work simple and honest
Don’t spend this month trying to be someone you’re not. Don’t imitate or try to do stuff you’re not really into cus you think it’ll get likes or it’ll go viral. If you’re doing this then keep your pieces simple and true to you. Make something and make it work for you. Don’t make it for other folk to judge. That’s not what this challenge is for.
That’s everything I can think of but I’m sure there’s more I’m not writing down. Inktober was a fun experience for me and I’m certain I’m going to give it another shot next year too. I’m always open to doing other challenges too so if you read this and know of any decent challenges let me know so I can put myself through this suffering all over again.