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Inktober and the Importance of a Live Project

Inktober has gripped the the world and is steadily producing more ink illustrations than any other artistic campaign. Here's my take on the importance of such a challenge.

Inktober, as most artists know, is a 30 day ink challenge created by concept artist Jake Parker in 2009 to stimulate creativity and improve your skills using ink for the duration of October. The challenge has taken exploded over the social media accounts of hundreds of thousands of artists all over the world and has, in many cases, boosted their artistic careers or allowed them to move from hobbyists to professional artists.

So why is this?

Inktober in my experience, can help visual artists to find traction online as the nature of the challenge prompts you to create a body of at least 30 pieces of work. The cohesive nature of the event at the very least leaves you with a vast collection to add to your portfolio but more often than not it pushed you to level up your skills and, as I will explore here, can be the first step in creating a full artist project, product or a gallery ready body of work.

If you are not yet sold on the importance of taking part in the craze there is also cause to consider arguable the most valuable element of the Inktober challenge. That is; development of art habits. By taking part every day most artists require carving out an hour or two of their day to dedicate to drawing and for many students and hobbyists it develops into a daily habit. Daily drawing, is after all, the quickest way to improve as a creator and maker of things.

How to get started with Inktober:

Pick a theme and an end product.

To prepare for the challenge I would highly recommend picking a narrow theme with a potential product at the end. (This could be a 30 page zine, a collection for a gallery, a set of playing cards etc. ) The narrow theme element ensures that you are not overwhelmed by what to draw when you go to sit down. For example if you decide to use only the official Inktober prompts you may get flooded with ideas or perhaps none at all whereas if you narrow the theme further -ie the official prompts plus cats- it ensures that you have a body of cohesive work and the ideas will come easily as you have something to focus on.

Similarly, the product on the horizon ensures that your work has something to aim for, a tangible end result that you can show to people. This also ensures that you bring a level of professionalism and polish to what you are creating. You will learn other skills that will improve your practice. (eg if you’re putting together a comic you will learn about graphic design, type, composition, using indesign etc.)

Get to know your media.

Although using ink seems pretty self explanatory there are actually hundreds of ways you could take the challenge. Some people choose to use only biro pen to create their illustrations, some use traditional dip pens and Indian ink, I have even seen impressive examples of people using ink brushes on photoshop to complete their drawings fully digitally and although I really like and am in favour of this technique it is highly debated if it should be ‘against the rules’.

Whatever you decide to opt for, ensure that you know how to use your chosen materials well. Do studies focusing on line, tone and shape language. Draw things you are comfortable with or things that you have drawn a hundred times in order to learn about it before you start. Many artists would insist that the challenge starts on October 1st and you that you should learn as you do, but if you intend to have a professional product or output at the end you should learn how to use your tools.

Keeping things simple and Design restrictions.

If it is the first year you are taking part I would highly recommend keeping the challenge as simple as possible. Tell yourself that you will use only A6 postcard sized pieces of paper or insist upon design restraints such as “The image must include no more than 100 strokes”. If you are lacking motivation to work on a drawing these elements might make or break your challenge.

Art by Jake Parker

Post online.

This is the one I am terrible for. As a perfectionist I will not post a drawing online unless I am thrilled with it, and drawing for 30 days, there are bound to be some rubbish ones in there. Although I normally would not encourage people to post week work on their platform, this challenge provides a different perspective. You can see your work progress over the 30 days and often in a body of similar work a drawing that is not your best can still have a large impact.

If you are not a visual artist is there a 30 day challenge you could incorporate into your October? Perhaps if you are a songwriter you could write 3 lines every day in October with the intention of writing a powerful song. How about 30 granny squares crocheted over the month to create a blanket in time for winter? Regardless of what you do the magic combination of an end goal, a strict restrained and online documentation will surely advance your creative work.

For More information on the Inktober Challenge visit

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