This year was my first time participating in Inktober and my first foray into urban sketching. For those of you who don't already know - Inktober is a 31 day drawing challenge created by Jake Parker focused on your improving inking abilities. People have interpreted the challenge to mean many different things from watercolors with some pen outlines, to just using brush pens, to not using pens at all, but at it's core Inktober is about committing to a daily habit of drawing.
Before I get in to my tips for completing a drawing challenge, here's a little backstory on my history with art. Growing up I played soccer and would never have considered myself a creative person. I didn’t take art classes and spent all of my extracurricular energy on sports or volunteering. After college I ended up living in New York City, working a corporate job in tech sales. It wasn't until I was 26, living in Berlin with Lou, that I realized that I enjoyed drawing and painting. And it would still take me a little while to figure out that this was a true passion and something I wanted to devote myself to as much as possible. Cut to January 2018 and “committing to art” was at the top of my New Years Resolution List - part of my plan to achieve that goal was to complete my first Inktober…
And now here I am 30 days into the challenge! With Lou's constant support and his superhuman editing skills, we were somehow able to transform the entire month's illustrations into 15 videos on our Youtube channel, making October 2018 the most prolific month of our channel so far.
Top 5 Tips for Inktober
1. Define your supplies.
It is very helpful when embarking on any sort of challenge to make the parameters as narrow as possible. This way every day you don’t have to waste energy making multiple decisions, which wears down your will power. Should I use ink and a paint brush today? Or maybe colored copic markers? Or I saw this person post on Instagram with a really cool ballpoint pen drawing. There are SO many options when it comes to how to participate in Inktober that I found it very helpful to know that I would only be using what was in my pencil case - 1 ballpoint pen and my 6 Staedtler pigment liners.
I started each drawing with my .8 Staedtler pigment liner to write the date at the top of the page and create a boxed outline. Next I did a simple pre-sketch with a ballpoint Bic pen. Ballpoints are great for getting light lines down on the page to help map out the perspective. Then for the final illustration I used my Staedtler Pens* that my younger brother David gave me as a gift. Each drawing took me on average 1 hour with some of them going way way longer and others only taking 20 minutes. I did all my drawings in a Moleskin sketchbook also gifted to me by David.
2. Pick a theme.
Like my first tip, choosing a theme helps narrow the decisions you have to make everyday. For me instead of using the official prompt list, I chose the theme of Van Life. I really wanted to make art that wouldn't have me constantly searching for reference images and spending time in front of a screen, so urban sketching seemed like the perfect fit. I hadn't done anything like it before launching our Sketchbook Stories series this past summer - but those videos definitely helped build my confidence going into October. Even with this theme of Van Life there were still days where the question "What should I draw?" would come up. But what is great about drawing from life is anything can serve as inspiration from dirty dishes in the sink to laundry in the washing machine. We filmed a lot of urban sketching in cities and majestic locations, but there were also many days not filmed hanging out drawing in the van which was the perfect balance for me.
Some theme ideas that I think I might pursue in future drawing challenges are botanicals, hands, strangers, Lou, and animals... There really are endless ways to take the question of what to draw out of the mix so you have no reason not to just jump in and start making art!
3. Let go of perfectionism and stop comparing!
This one is a tough one and especially as someone who is just starting out with drawing I totally understand how perfectionism can feel completely paralyzing. In the past, I found myself scrolling through photos of illustrations by talented artists I admire and feel like there was no way I could live up to what already existed in the world. Over time, I found the best way to get out of this negative mindset is to focus on enjoying the process and let go of all my expectations. Why should I focus on the fact that what I can make at this point in my journey isn't worth hanging in a museum if the time I spent drawing brought me joy and fulfillment? It can be very hard to internalize this especially if you're sharing your Inktober on social media. I totally understand the need to be proud of each image that you share with the world, but at the same time daily drawings just aren't meant to be perfect. So let loose, enjoy yourself, and remember that showing up each day for yourself is the only goal, not what you actually draw. On top of that it will become much easier to be consistent without this mental road block which means progress will happen so much quicker!
4. Connect with people who support you.
Before I go into this tip I know how fortunate I am to have such a supportive partner in my life. Not only did Lou cheer me on as I did this challenge, he also devoted himself to share my entire journey with the world making videos at a speed faster than he's ever made them before. I didn't think we could get any closer, but Inktober has done just that and it is all because I was brave enough to pursue a new passion and Lou was game to support me every inch of the way. The thing is though you obviously don't need to have a fantastic husband to complete Inktober or make videos about the whole process! You could find a friend or a family member who might want to do the challenge with you. Along the way you could do daily check ins via text or snapchat to share photos of your drawings. Even setting up drawing dates at a nearby coffee shop, so you can enjoy creating together in person. Or if you feel like there's no one in your life that has any interest in drawing, I would totally recommend sharing your drawings via social media. The instagram art community is huge! Just use hashtags like #Inktober2018 or #drawingchallenge or #penandink and you'll be shocked to find thousands of people out there in the world with similar interests to you.
5. Make your goals realistic
Everyone's schedule is different. You might be a busy student or work long hours and still want to commit to your art. Maybe you have a flexible schedule which leaves you with a ton of time on certain days of the week and not much on the others. No matter what your life looks like carving out time for yourself is critical for mental health and happiness. This is all to say you know how much time you have and if that means you have 10 minutes to dedicate to Inktober a day or 2 hours make sure that your goals reflect the time you have to commit. If you only have a short amount of time I would suggest doing just pen drawings and making them small. Also go into the month with very specific drawings concepts planned out for each day so that when you show up for your "Inktober time" you know exactly what you'll be drawing. That might mean getting reference photos organized for each day of the month before the challenge even begins or creating a morning routine that starts 10 minutes earlier than normal so you can squeeze it in before your hectic day begins. And please again don't compare your Inktober to anyone else’s. They may responding hours on each drawing when you might only have moments on your commute to work.
Those are my 5 tips for completing Inktober! And I will definitely be keeping them handy as my drawing challenge has not ended. I had no idea how daily drawing would turn out and I am happy to report that it was a total success. So much so that I’ve decided to keep going with the daily drawings for an entire year. My birthday is October 1st, which means I will be drawing every day of my 28th year :) Thank you so much for all the support this past month. It has been such an incredible experience to share my drawings with you in our videos every other day and I can’t wait to turn them all into a zine for you soon!
All my love,
* The link to the pens I used includes Amazon affiliate links. Lou and I are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.