This year I finally joined in with Inktober. The challenge is to get artists to illustrate in ink and post it online for each day of October. The initiative started in 2009 with Jake Parker, who planned to use October to hone his ink drawing skills and challenge himself to push his boundaries.
I've seen the #Inktober hashtags pop up each year, but didn't completely know what was going on. Even for the last few, after I'd read up on the challenge, I always ended up missing the first few weeks. But not this year!
If you're familiar with my work you'll know that I often illustrate using ink line and take that skeleton into Photoshop for colouring. I started my career as a painter, working with gouache to create vast painterly scenes and characters; but as the years have rolled by and my commissions (and deadlines) heated up, I've been swept further and further into using digital media. I've talked about this a lot in the past, and I by no means think it's a bad thing, I love illustrating with my Wacom tablet, but sometimes I do miss the simplicity of brush on paper.
This month has been one of those promotion-heavy months, with the release of my new book 'The Lavender Blue Dress', a ramp up of products and that gasp of air between a few projects finishing, and another few getting started. So it's been great to dedicate some time to be purely creative.
One of the main hooks of Inktober is sharing your work with the Inktober hashtag. I love the sense of connection with that, and it's amazing to find so many other artists through browsing the lists; but there is always that little nag of pressure to create something you'd actually like to share. The process of creating an ink piece each day is definitely challenging, if only for putting aside the time for it. There were a few days when I was painting right up until the clock struck twelve, and I felt like a pretty rubbish Cinderella. I had weekends away from home, bad drawing-hand injuries and days with rush-work on other projects, so at some points it felt like a chore to think of and execute a shareable drawing, but looking back over it I'm so proud that I stuck with it.
A lot of people have asked me if I struggled finding inspiration every day, but to be honest that element wasn't as hard for me as the time-issue I mentioned before. Really, the only days I struggled with inspiration were the ones where I had to rush the piece. Those were mostly a case of "ARGH! I need to go to a meeting in ten minutes! What can I draw?! Cat?! Flower!? Girl Face?!" and I could see myself reverting to 'default' in drawing the things that I find I draw naturally.
Inktober has been brilliant for me from an introspective point of view. It's a great way to take a harsh look at the sort of things you draw and any patterns that crop up. Early on I realised that I do tend to draw a lot of characters on their own, and so for a few of the days I consciously chose to draw characters interacting. Similarly, I realised that I don't often paint loose, inky landscapes so you can see that these pop up later on in the month. I would definitely recommend taking part in Inktober next year, or even just set yourself a similar personal challenge. It's important to give yourself that refreshed eye to look over your portfolio and identify what you might need to work on. We all need to work on something.
You can see my full collection of Inktober drawings on my Pinterest board here (these blog pictures are just a few of my favourites!) and definitely take the time to have a browse on twitter with the #Inktober hashtag, there's so many talented artists who have taken part. I'll hopefully be using some of my Inktober drawings to spark projects in the future, and I've even started writing a graphic novel based on ideas from one of the drawings, so you'll be seeing more from this work soon!
Today, give yourself those five minutes for unrestrained sketching, you never know how useful it might be. Without action, an idea will always be just an idea.